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Arisaig Pickleball Club

Antigonish, NS

The sky is the limit

When it comes to the growth of pickleball, Ian MacDonald says “the sky is the limit.”

The popularity of the paddle sport is skyrocketing in North America and in many other parts of the world. Ian, the president of the Arisaig Pickleball Club, has played a key role in growing the game in Nova Scotia, particularly in the Highland Region.

The sport, which combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis is open to all ages and abilities, good for physical health and very social. Ian says new pickleball players are typically ready to engage in games after less than an hour of instruction. Paddles, a ball, a net and space are all you need.

“It’s a very simple sport to pick up,” Ian says. “It’s a smaller court. It’s much closer than tennis, where in tennis you generally hardly speak to each other until you are finished. During a pickleball game, you’re communicating all the time and you’re laughing and just having fun.”

Ian discovered pickleball while visiting Florida where he played tennis in the mornings. He took note of the pickleballers who followed on the court. Soon, he was playing both.

“I quickly grew to enjoy it because of the people,” he says.

Back home, Ian and his sister, Theresa MacDonald-Thompson, launched the Arisaig club in Antigonish County in January 2018. On the first day, there were six members. Now, there are more than 70 members in Arisaig alone who play daily using the outdoor complex in the warmer weather and moving indoors at the community hall in the winter.

“That’s a big deal in a small community where you can be, in the wintertime, isolated if you’re half an hour from town,” says Theresa, a retired teacher who serves as the club’s vice president. “You have to work at socialization sometimes. This provided that.”

After establishing pickleball in their hometown of Arisaig, the siblings made it a mission to help introduce the sport to other nearby towns and villages. Because equipment was needed to make the sport accessible to interested players, they secured funding through Nova Scotia Gaming’s Support4Sport program, and pickleball was soon being showcased in other communities.

The Highland Region now boasts more than 230 players registered with Pickleball Nova Scotia, which has a total of 600 members. This growth would not be possible without funding, says Ian.

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