George Anistf may be only a few years away from his 100th birthday, but he is still active on the court. He’s not playing tennis or badminton. His game of choice is pickleball, and in five year’s time, the lifelong handball player still plans on bringing his A game.
With many other Montrealers getting into the racket sport, Anistf has plenty of company.
As the Canadian National Pickleball League prepares to kick off its inaugural season on July 29 with the Montreal Lions facing off against Toronto United, pickleball — hailed as the fastest growing sport in North America — continues to win players over in Quebec.
To meet the growing demand from Côte Saint-Luc residents, the city inaugurated five new courts in its Confederation Annex sports facility today, and players wasted no time getting into the action.
“It just apparently grew over the pandemic because it’s an open air sport,” said municipal councillor Andee Shuster. “We have seniors, we have teenagers and everything in between.”
The open-air courts are rolled out like a carpet in the summer and rolled back up in the winter when the space becomes a hockey, a first of its kind in Canada, said Shuster.
Serafino and Lois Pendenza live close by to the court, and they are hooked.
“I played racket sports all my life, and I really enjoy it. It’s a good way to stay fit,” said Serafino.
He says the game, often described as a combination of tennis and ping pong, is easy to pick up and encouraging because players can improve quickly compared to some other sports.
“The beautiful thing is that my wife just picked it up four, five months ago, and she’s really improving. She’s playing now four or five times a week.“
For the Pendenzas, the game is a family affair, introduced to the couple by their son.
“I had difficulty with tennis because of tennis elbow,” said Lois. “As soon as I tried it, I loved it.”
But players maintain the game is ultimately not just about the exercise. They say it’s also about who you are meeting on the court.
“It’s very social, ” said Anistf. “At 95 if I continue to meet people, I’m very happy about that.”
LISTEN | Pickleball professional league starts up:
The Afternoon Edition – Sask9:49Pickleball’s growth is bouncing higher and higher, all the way to a professional league.