Pickleball is a Big Thing in our Small Town!
In our small community of Saugeen Shores, along the beautiful shore of Lake Huron, pickleball is a big thing!
Eleven years ago, a couple of passionate pickleball players were looking for a place to play. Maryann and John Dahmer had played pickleball during their winter down south and wanted to play here at home in the summer months. They soon found a location in Port Elgin. Lakeshore Recreation, a locally-owned fitness, event and racquet club, took a chance on a little-known sport and offered space for courts. The venue has now grown to eight dedicated pickleball courts and Lakeshore is officially “The Home of Saugeen Shores Pickleball Club”.
We love playing at Lakeshore, not just because it’s a great facility, but because we have the same mindset.
When We Play
The Saugeen Shores Pickleball Club plays six mornings a week from May through October, and on any given morning, there are 60+ members playing. It sounds chaotic, but we do have a system for rotating on and off the courts so there is never too long a wait.
Two volunteer ambassadors organize and run the day-to-day activities as well as the tournaments and special events. In 2018, Angela Hupalo, who has been an ambassador since the beginning, was nominated for, and won, Pickleball Ontario’s first ever “Ambassador Award”, a recognition program to acknowledge and thank the many volunteers who have helped to grow the sport of pickleball locally and across the province. The role of an SSPC Ambassador has now grown into ‘six mornings a week/six months of the year’, and that’s just during the outdoor season!
Like everywhere else, our community was hit hard by COVID. Although the main facility at Lakeshore Recreation remained closed, Lakeshore opened the courts as soon as Ontario’s “Roadmap to Reopen” lifted restrictions. Lakeshore wanted to make sure people had a place to go and an activity to be involved in, that helped them take care of their physical and mental well-being. That year the pickleball club did not collect memberships or provide organized play.
As pickleball becomes more popular everywhere, our local club also continues to grow and new members are joining daily. As I am writing this article, we have 266 members. That’s an increase of over 66% from last year!
We Play Indoors and Outdoors.
Our outdoor season begins in May but of course, everything depends on mother nature. Beginner Clinics are offered early in the season for people who are brand new to the sport and then, once they’re hooked, there are weekly lessons in June to practise skills and learn basic doubles positioning and strategy. Taylored Pickleball Academy, a local company, offers clinics in July, August and September to help players progress to the next level. When you try pickleball for the first few times, SSPC will lend you a paddle and the Club provides the balls all season long.
Organized play and the daily schedule begin in June. The morning play changes each day, so all levels of players are accommodated. The weekly schedule includes Women’s Play, Open Play, and Skilled Play where players sort themselves into foursomes of like-ability and have a competitive game. New to the schedule this year is “Pick & Play” where members can choose either Women’s, Men’s or Mixed Doubles, Open Play, Advanced, Intermediate, and Novice levels, or they can “Drill for 10”. The Club also runs weekly Members’ Round-Robins, with up to 60 members playing each week, as well as an annual “Summer Slam” Tournament, and an end-of-season event called “Rally at The Pines”.
The Saugeen Shores Pickleball Club also plays in the winter and you can find us indoors for Open Play at one of the local churches a few mornings and afternoons a week.
SSPC’s Facebook page keeps members up to date with photos and results of the weekly round robins, information about local tournaments and clinics, as well as with instructional videos, links and information about the pros. You’ll know you’re on the correct page if the cover photo reads, “Sorry, I wasn’t listening. I was thinking about pickleball”!
The History of the Saugeen Shores Pickleball Club
- Met with Lakeshore Recreation to see if we could play pickleball at their facility. Lakeshore agreed to let us use the all-purpose court at $2 per session/per person.
- June 5 – the first official day of play; 2 courts marked out with chalk and 2 more in the works; net posts were made from empty nail pails filled with cement and a conduit stuck in the middle; nets were bright pink replacement badminton nets; play was Tuesdays and Thursdays, morning and evening; no membership fee; players provided their own balls
- June 17 – We officially became the Saugeen Shores Pickleball Club.
- Twenty people signed up for our first Beginners’ Clinic.
- received a $2,500 grant from True Sport; used to purchase regulation nets
- with help from some of the pickleball players, Lakeshore Recreation painted lines for 4 courts on the all-purpose court
- SSPC created its first membership list and finished the season with 58 members; it cost $5 to become a member
- held our first in-house tournament with 22 players
- players had the option of purchasing a seasonal court membership or ‘pay-as you-play’; SSPC membership fee was $10
- June 10 – the first day of play on the newly resurfaced courts (previously a tennis court), we now had 4 dedicated pickleball courts plus 4 courts with painted lines on the all-purpose court
- received $2,350 from the Power Workers Union to purchase a ball machine;
- 4 pickleball courts on the asphalt all-purpose court were resurfaced
- permanent nets installed on 4 courts
- Lakeshore was able to re-open courts after COVID
- 4 courts resurfaced and turned north – south
- SSPC donates four paddles and balls to the library for loan to its members
We’ve come a long way from temporary nets set in concrete in nail pails! Stop by the courts any morning Monday through Saturday and check us out. Drop-in players are always welcome!
We’ll see you on the courts!
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