Sue Staffen, centre, taps the pickleball over the net during a pickleball match at Yukon Pickleball Association’s first ever tournament on Aug. 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon Pickleball Association hosts first-ever tournament

“If you’ve ever played racket sports, I highly encourage you to come out and try it”

The Yukon Pickleball Association (YPA) hosted its first ever tournament on Aug. 25 at the Mount McIntyre outdoor courts in Whitehorse.

Pickleball, a racket sport that combines elements of tennis, table tennis and badminton, has been gaining popularity in recent years and players in the Yukon organized the association late last year.

“We’ve been in place since December 2018,” said YPA president Colleen Parker. “We’re just very, very new. … Now that we’re in place, we wanted to start offering tournaments and a number of other things that a sport governing body does.”

A total of 20 people took part in the tournament, which used a round robin format. Athletes competed in mixed doubles, men’s doubles and women’s doubles.

Given the format the tournament didn’t produce outright winners, but participants did get to play a lot of pickleball in a short time.

“Sometimes scheduling small numbers can be challenging,” said Parker. “But it was a great turn out for us and people really, really enjoyed it because they got to play a lot of games.”

The event was originally scheduled for Aug. 24, but organizers realized the day before that the rain was going to continue and made the decision to move the tournament from Saturday to Sunday.

“We were a little worried about the weather but the weather was on our side,” said Parker. “We knew we were probably going to get rained out so we made a decision.”

Colleen Parker, left, watches as teammate Bryan Craven, second from left, scoops up a return during a pickleball tournament Mount McIntyre outdoor courts on Aug. 25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

The outdoor pickleball season is drawing to a close as most players are shifting their sights to the indoor winter season and the scheduled times at the Canada Games Centre.

The CGC even offers an introduction to pickleball led by one of the YPA’s founding members.

“If you’ve ever played racket sports, I highly encourage you to come out and try it,” said Parker. “I used to play tennis, badminton and squash at various times in my life, but I haven’t played for decades and I’m so glad that I tried it.”

“It’s a game of strategy, it’s a smaller court (than tennis,) it’s a racket sport with a hard paddle and a hard ball,” she said. “I think that’s the best way I can describe it.”

Traditionally associated with older demographics, Parker said one of the YPA’s objectives is to spread the sport to both younger players and the communities.

Parker also added that there are levels of competition for just about everyone.

“People need to remember there are a lot of people that are playing pickleball for recreation, and then there are others that want to be more competitive,” said Parker. “So it’s a great sport and we have both of those opportunities.”

Although there are no dates set, the plan is to hold the inaugural Yukon championships sometime in early 2020, with the hopes of getting players some more coaching and having some local officials trained in time.

Joanne Love swings for the ball during Yukon Pickleball Association’s first ever tournament on Aug.25. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

“To get us there we’re going to be offering some coaching. We’re trying to work on getting a certified teacher here that can teach people coaching,” said Parker. “We’ve also provided two opportunities for lessons with a certified teacher.”

Although 20 people may not seem like a large number, Parker said in the context of the Yukon summer and a less-competitive round robin, organizers were happy.

“We thought we might get more, but … Yukoners are busy in the summer,” said Parker. “We will have different tournaments where it is going to be a little bit more competitive and where it won’t be a round robin.”

Most importantly, the inaugural event was a move in the right direction.

“I think it’s just the beginning of good things to come as our organization continues to grow.”

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshil@yukon-news.com

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