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Oakville swept up in pickleball craze

What does the future hold for this age-inclusive sport?
The Women
The Women's 3.0 Division Saturday final - Tanya Maddalena returns a ball as Monica Shewchuk looks on. | Pierce Lang

Pickleball has been on the cusp of the public discourse for some time now, since bubbling its way up into the zeitgeist over the last decade. 

Once considered a game for seniors, it has grown to mass appeal with much attention being drawn during a Covid-19 lockdown bubbled NBA season, where the game shot to a newer audience. Gen-Z and millennials. 

Women's 3.5+ Division Winners: Judy Kovacs and Nadine Hughes | Pierce Lang

In recent times heavy hitters in the sporting community have been getting their piece of the pie like NFL legend Tom Brady; even legendary tennis hothead John McEnroe has caught the fever, recently participating in a big match with Andre Agassi against Andy Roddick and Michael Chang. 

You would call those guys "bangers," slang for a converted tennis player. From what Oakville Pickleball Association President Sandy Gerylo explains, "the kitchen" is a "no-volley zone." When you're in the kitchen, you would rather be a "dinker" than a "banger," but there's plenty of lingo the cool kids are using, so let's digress. 

Last month, the Canadian National Pickleball League was launched. One team is owned by three members of the Toronto Maple Leafs and another by a consortium, including curling champions Glenn Howard and Jennifer Jones. There are still opportunities for would-be owners to enter a team into the competition. 

"The McNamaras" - Ryan McNamara smashes a ball back over the net in the Mixed 3.5+ Saturday Final. | Pierce Lang
"The McNamaras" - Ryan McNamara smashes a ball back over the net in the Mixed 3.5+ Saturday Final. | Pierce Lang

The Oakville Pickleball Association (OPA) currently boasts a membership of over 200 participants, and new "pickleballers" are continuously streaming in. "We're probably picking up ten new people a week." according to Gerylo. 

You could be forgiven for not having seen this wave building over the last several years. Derelict and disused tennis courts have found new life in neighbourhoods across the continent, and certainly here in our very own hometown. 

Pressure continues to mount for Oakville's town council as interested citizens reach out to their respective representatives demanding remediation and often a complete replacement of existing tennis facilities.

Mixed 3.0 Champs | Patrick Côté and Alana Rocca | Pierce Lang
Mixed 3.0 Champs | Patrick Côté and Alana Rocca | Pierce Lang

As recently as this past summer, previous Oakville Ward 1 Councillor Beth Robertson requested that council re-examine the number of pickleball courts being built as part of the new North Park revitalization project.

It should be mentioned that many local tennis courts are in shambles and dangerous to play on as it stands. Some park facilities could be re-evaluated if not completely overhauled. 

Men's 3.5+ Saturday Winners - Tomasz Furgal and Thilo Wiegmann | Pierce Lang

The OPA has reached out to their local representatives on Town Council, "We met with Sean (O'Meara) yesterday, and he gave us some good advice, so the masterplan is coming up; the real next steps will be for the town to reach out to us to help inform them of what the future will look like for pickleball."

As it stands, the OPA is planning on hosting a summer league for the first time this year. The waitlist for the town's programs has grown, the demand has outgrown the town's capacity, and people are left wondering where to go. 

Oakville Trafalgar Community Centre – March 24 – Pickleball Tournament

Men's 3.5+ Division Winners - Anthony & Luca D'Amico

Mixed 3.0 Division Winners - Jason Hum & Tanya Maddalena

Mixed 3.5+ Division Winners - Marc Petruccelli & Nancy Corcoran

Women's 3.0 Division Winners - Vicky Choy & Nancy Hubbs

Women's 3.5+ Division Winners - Carol Bertuzzi-Luciani & Rita Mainville

Queen Elizabeth Park Community & Cultural Centre – March 25 – Pickleball Tournament

Men’s 3.5+ Division Winners - Thilo Wiegmann & Tomasz Furgal

Mixed 3.0 Division Winners - Patrick Cote & Alana Rocca

Mixed 3.5+ Division Winners - Leslie & Ryan McNamara

Women's 3.0 Division Winners - Tanya Maddalena & Monica Shewchuk

Women's 3.5+ Division Winners - Judi Kovacs & Nadine Hughes