In St. Albert, we believe that we have Canada’s Best Pickleball Club. The St. Albert Pickleball Club (SAPC) is one of the largest pickleball clubs in all of Alberta, second only to Calgary, despite St. Albert being a relatively small community (population approximately 70,000). The membership of SAPC has roughly doubled in just the last two years and has risen to a staggering 840 members at the last count.
History of St. Albert Pickleball Club
In the summer of 2014, a small group who had learned the sport of pickleball during the winter months in the U.S. approached the City of St. Albert asking about plans for growing pickleball in the city. On advice from the city, the group formed a non-profit society, with Bill McDonald having the honour of filing the application to register the group as the St. Albert Pickleball Club. Twenty-six pickleballers held the first club meeting on October 7, 2014 at the Larose Courts rink shack in the Lacombe Park neighborhood. Bill McDonald, Wayne Richardson, Ron Korotash, Miki Melnyk and Stella Rafuse were selected as interim directors.
Needing indoor venues for the winter months, the club found gym space for indoor play at Red Willow Community Church and then found more indoor space at local schools for evening play. The outdoor Larose Courts were refurbished in 2016 and additional courts were added.
Given rapid membership growth, it wasn’t long before the club was petitioning the City for more outdoor courts. Meetings with the Recreation and Parks department resulted in a proposal to refurbish the tennis courts in the Alpine neighbourhood into twelve tournament-quality pickleball courts and make it the permanent home of the St. Albert Pickleball Club. St. Albert city council approved the proposal and budgeted $276,900 to refurbish the courts with completion in August, 2018.
Tournaments at SAPC
SAPC hosts three tournaments each season, two member-only tournaments that have just over 200 participants and a sanctioned tournament with over 300 players. These events have been hugely successful due to a great group of volunteers who plan for and manage these tournaments and all related activities.
We have 12 trained referees, with 8 Level 2's and 4 Level 1's in our club who not only referee in our tournaments but travel to other club’s tournaments as well.
Our club offers free year-round introductory lessons once a week for 8 players. These sessions are so popular that there is a waiting list to register for the training.
We also do mentoring each week throughout the season, rotating through each rating level on a weekly basis. All our trainers are club volunteers.
We started a 4.0 plus league this season with 6 teams of 15 people and a substitute list of over 20 people. This is set up similar to MLP format with teams playing another team each night with 16 men’s, 16 mixed, 8 ladies and 3 singles games each match and playoffs at end of season.
This has been an extremely popular form of play with great camaraderie for all those involved. Several teams even had team uniforms made up to show off their colours each Thursday night.
We run a 3.5 plus ladies ladder each week with 50 ladies registered. This weekly event has resulted in lots of fun play and good competition amongst all participants.
Our Club welcomes any junior (aka youth) member 12 to 17 years of age who takes one of SAPC’s beginner lessons, and who is always accompanied at SAPC events by a responsible adult. Youth memberships are offered at a discounted rate.
- We support and promote youth membership for several reasons including: Many of us want to play with our kids, our grandchildren and our nieces and nephews
- We have a vision of helping to create a healthy community through pickleball play, recognizing pickleball as a wholesome way to meet and interact with people of all ages and backgrounds
- We want to continue to build a club that we can leave as a legacy to future generations, and we know that building that legacy starts with the engagement and participation of our youth
Fun Night Barbecues
Throughout the outdoor season, we schedule 3 or 4 “fun nights” with various formats and games. For example, we have players playing with their non-dominant hand for one game, playing with a ping pong paddle instead of pickleball paddle, etc.
Once the games are completed, participants are invited to socialize and enjoy a barbecue. As you might expect, these nights are filled with smiles and laughter.
Partnership with Special Olympics
The St Albert Pickleball Club (SAPC) partnered with St Albert Special Olympics this summer to create their first-ever Pickleball program.
From mid May to mid August, 15 club members volunteered to coach 25 Special Olympic (SO) athletes to learn and
enjoy this amazing game. The response from SAPC members was so overwhelming we had more than filled our need for coaches less than 2 hours after issuing the request for support.
Every coach completed a vulnerable sector check and a 1.5 hours online Safe Sport training module. The SAPC board approved the use of 6 pickleball courts dedicated to the program along with balls and paddles.
The program has been so successful that many parents and players are raving about the great job the SAPC did in providing the program and that it was the most fun and best run program in the entire SO schedule! Our local community newspaper, The St. Albert Gazette, featured an article on the program as it has been such a source of pride for the community.
Athletes and coaches did drills and played games every Tuesday for 1.5 hours. The wrap up celebration on August 15 th , 2023 included athlete family members invited to play as well as enjoy a barbeque feast. Eileen McClean, our SAPC President, and the St. Albert Deputy Major, Shelley Biermanski (both volunteer coaches) presented
medals to athletes.
The smiles and cheers of the athletes, family members and SAPC coaches that night, and every night, will be a very fond memory for all those involved.
Implementation of DUPR Rating System
Given the struggles that all pickleball clubs have in rating members to allow for coordinated play amongst players with similar skill levels, SAPC is proud to have implemented a new player rating system in the spring of 2023. The Club Board established a rating committee to oversee the process of selecting, adopting and implementing a new rating regime for our club.
Based upon extensive investigation and research, SAPC adopted the Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating(DUPR) system (which uses player’s game results only to establish ratings) to deal with concerns about the lack of availability of certified pickleball raters and concerns (unfounded in the Club’s opinion) about the objectivity of those ratings.
Once DUPR was chosen as the system to use, the Club arranged for DUPR play sessions to allow unrated members to become rated by playing seeded DUPR players, and for others to improve their rating by participating in such sessions
whether organized by the Club or not. In just the last few months, many SAPC members have been rated for the first time or improved their rating as a result of this rollout. Members who were already rated had their rating level grandfathered
and did not need to be re-evaluated as part of this process.