I have now had the pleasure of playing pickleball on two different continents—North America and Europe. This past week, I played with two different pickleball clubs in the Midlands of England, and what I learned from this past week is that no matter where you play, (1) the game is the same, and (2) the people on the pickleball court are brilliant!
The first pickleball club that I had the pleasure of playing with is located in Rugby, England. The club is run by Sam Basford, who started the pickleball club in his school, the Lawrence Sheriff School. The club is different than most, as it is designed for pickleball players under 21 years of age—YES, UNDER 21! Given that the average pickleball player is over the age of 55, the concept of a younger club still intrigues me. Sam’s club has about 20 pickleball players, many of which are current or former classmates and some of which are Sam’s family, including his cousin, Peter, and younger brother, Jaime (who are all pictured above, from left to right, Peter, Jaime and Sam). These young talented players were beyond gracious and allowed me and my cousins—who were both beginners ages 9 and 11—to join and learn the game. By the time we were done playing, my cousins were begging to come back and play with Sam and his club again.
Sam and his cousin, Peter, are planning a trip to bring their pickleball talents to North America to play in the Lake Odessa Picklebowl Open and the 2018 Pickleball Canada National Tournament. If you see Sam or Peter in Michigan or Canada, be sure to stop, say hi and cheer them on. They will one of few representing Great Britain! Good luck, Sam and Peter!
The second pickleball club that I had the pleasure of playing with is located outside of Solihull, England at Bentley Heath Park. Sue Wharam is the ring leader of this amazing group of people, who originally learned the sport of pickleball in Arizona while traveling in an RV in the western half of the United States. Sue, who is a converted badminton player, brought the sport of pickleball back to England and created a local club to share pickleball with others. Sue was kind enough to give me advice on where and when to play during my time in England, including suggesting Sam’s club in Rugby. She even tried coordinating transportation for me with some other fellow pickleball players in the area to make sure I made it to the courts to play!
The Hockley Heath Pickleball Club has a regular game set up one-day per week indoors and one-day per week outdoors. Not many pickleball clubs have outdoor venues in England, as many Picklers play on converted indoor badminton courts (to note, I have learned that badminton courts have the same outline as pickleball courts). Nevertheless, the Hockley Heath Pickleball Club has two converted tennis courts to play on, and the club members had me smiling and laughing on these converted courts the entire morning. They were even gracious enough to help me teach a friend pickleball for the first time. And, not only are the Hockley Heath Pickleball Club members fun, but they are quite tough as they play pickleball outside in all seasons (including winter) in England—which, from my perspective as a Florida girl, is impressive!
Sam and Sue exemplify what the sport of pickleball is truly about, which includes spreading the sport and growing the pickleball community. Sam and Sue, and their respective club members, went out of their way to make a foreigner (and my friends and family who wanted to learn) feel completely welcome on the pickleball courts. I am beyond grateful for their hospitality, and I am so excited to see the sport of pickleball continue to grow, while keeping the same great culture everywhere we go. Like I said above, no matter where you play pickleball, (1) the game is the same, and (2) the people on the pickleball court are brilliant!
Have you played pickleball in England? Share your experience with us, or give a shout out to Sam or Sue, in the comments below!