POP! POP! What is that noise coming from Keswick Park?

POP! POP! POP! The sound echoed through the park, followed by laughter and banter. I was curious, had to approach, and had to ask, “What the heck is that sound, and what’s so funny?” That’s how I stumbled upon the beginner’s Pickleball nights at Keswick Park, and little did I know it would change my life!

Despite being covered in sweat after a blazing trail ride on my mountain bike, I was welcomed with open arms by the seasoned pickleball players. Within sixty minutes, I was given a paddle ( wooden but fun), shown the ropes and I was hooked on the game.  All from several players that couldn’t speak English!  What struck me the most was the diversity of the players, new Canadians from all over the world,  and the encouragement they showed each other.

Keswick Park is a small community green space in Burnaby, BC, with one of the fastest-growing groups of Pickleball enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest, held together by a WhatsApp group and a passion to grow the game. Players actively recruit anyone who walks by and stops to watch, especially unsuspecting tennis players who show up during designated PB hours and find the courts packed with laughter and the sound of Pickleballs getting whacked back and forth across the net.

My personal story and connection to PB began in the summer of 2022 when I was riding my bike around Keswick Park. I was struggling with mental health issues and had been feeling lonely and depressed due to the pandemic. In fact, a recent study by the Frontiers of Psychology concluded that ”  pickleball is displayed as an inclusive sport that does not need adaptations, resulting in great interest to be worked in different populations with mental problems.”

What’s remarkable about the Keswick PB community is that there’s no real leadership just volunteers, and a loose organizational structure, guided by our local Burnaby Pickleball Association, that provides paddles and other equipment to help the group mentor new players. Our group continues to grow and attract new players. Ming, a player who focuses on teaching new players the rules of Pickleball in broken English, is a shining example of the inclusivity and kindness that defines this community.

I believe that Pickleball can make a big difference in the lives of anyone willing to try. It certainly made a difference in mine. That’s why I want to share this feeling and experience with as many people as possible and open up IPOPs across Canada.

Keswick Park is a special place with a vibrant and diverse Pickleball community that welcomes all who want to play. It’s a place where laughter and encouragement abound, and where a game with a strange-sounding name can change the lives of us all for the better. Playing PB with the group at Keswick was a big part of my recovery, providing great low-impact exercise and a network of new neural pathways that lifted my mood. I will talk about this in later Blogs, but this is only one of the reasons that I knew I needed to start the Inclusive Place of Pickleball and model it after the experience I have had at Keswick. Pickleball is not just a game…it’s about connection and community.

For this, I will always be eternally grateful…