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Pickleball’s Growing Popularity in Canistota

Pickleball’s Growing Popularity: Pickleball fever has taken over Canistota, S.D., a town of fewer than 700 residents, reflecting the sport’s rapid growth nationwide. The passion for pickleball here began with three longtime friends and former high school athletes, Cathee Bruinsma, Holly Hebberecht Henning, and Shelly Allen Lozono, reconnecting through the game. Bruinsma, the driving force, started the town’s pickleball club seven years ago, transforming the local tennis courts into a vibrant pickleball scene. Today, the community’s commitment is evident with dedicated facilities, upgraded courts, and a bustling schedule of matches and social events, uniting residents of all ages.

The rhythmic match of paddles resonated through Stalting Park as early as 8:30 a.m. on a Monday. By 9 a.m., the park buzzed with the fervor of a community enthralled, resembling popcorn bursting in a microwave. Canistota, a town of fewer than 700 residents, has wholeheartedly embraced pickleball, reflecting the sport’s meteoric rise across America. Unique to Canistota is its size; it’s the smallest town in the state boasting such a robust pickleball scene.

The Birth of a Passion

The roots of Canistota’s pickleball craze can be traced to the reunion of three old friends: local Cathee Bruinsma, and Brandon residents Holly Hebberecht Henning and Shelly Allen Lozono. These former high school athletes sought a way to reconnect, battling their busy schedules. Lozono, deeply involved in pickleball tournaments and practice sessions, introduced her friends to the game.

“The only time Shelly could find time to meet up for lunch was in between her pickleball tournaments, so we went and watched her play instead,” Bruinsma Mentioned. “I was hooked after watching her play.” Bruinsma’s initial hesitation quickly turned into a fervor, propelling her to spearhead the town’s pickleball club seven years ago on its tennis courts. Today, the club thrives with 17 active members.

Transforming Canistota’s Landscape

The town’s journey mirrors many small communities across the nation. Initially, pickleball enthusiasts adapted existing tennis courts by painting lines for the new sport. Pickleball’s similarities to tennis facilitated this transition, blending elements of tennis, table tennis, and badminton into a versatile, engaging game. As interest surged, Bruinsma and her fellow players proposed dedicated pickleball courts. Mayor Justin Lee Engbarth embraced the idea, transforming an unused lot into a pickleball park, complete with two courts, a clubhouse, and a shuffleboard court. Funded by city resources, grants, and donations, the park symbolizes Canistota’s commitment to its residents’ newfound passion.

“We had this empty lot for years that we didn’t do anything with,” said mayor Justin Lee Engbarth. “When they asked about pickleball courts, we just decided to finally do something with the lot. Seemed like a good way to finally make use of the lot.”

Enhancing the Experience

Last year, city officials upgraded the court surfaces with interlocking drainage floor tiles, offering a softer, more comfortable playing experience. The Canistota school further supported the sport by allowing the painting of pickleball lines in the gym, enabling year-round play. Bruinsma appreciates the upgrades, noting the softer surface’s benefits for joints and shoes compared to traditional concrete. The club’s active Facebook page facilitates communication and spontaneous games, ensuring a vibrant, engaged community.

“We were grateful for the concrete courts the city provided initially, But quite honestly the hard concrete scuffs up shoes and is harder on our joints.”-(Cathee Bruinsma)

A Sport for All

Canistota’s pickleball community gathers almost every morning at 8:30, fostering social connections alongside physical activity. The club welcomes beginners, emphasizing inclusivity and encouragement.  The courts host players of all ages and backgrounds, from retirees to busy moms and high school athletes. Ellie Becker, a high school student, finds pickleball a fun way to stay active over the summer. For many, the appeal extends beyond the game itself.

“I’m involved in other sports in school, this is a fun way to stay active over the summer.” – Ellie Becker.

Robbin Ketcham, a newcomer, prefers pickleball over water aerobics, enjoying the warmth and fun the sport offers,

“I was doing water aerobics but I didn’t like the cold water.”

“This is much better and so much fun.”-(Ketcham)

Pickleball's Growing Popularity

Building Community

For Canistota’s players, pickleball is more than exercise; it’s a way to connect with neighbors and forge lasting friendships. Brenda Gudahl Jolley values the camaraderie, playing regularly and encouraging others to join. The town’s annual Sports Days celebration will feature a pickleball tournament on July 13, showing the community’s enthusiasm and the sport’s growing popularity.

“I love the camaraderie with community members, who are now friends.”

“It’s OK if you don’t have any experience. We are not super competitive, but praise and encourage all that join us to make us better at the game.” -JOLLEY

In Canistota, pickleball fever is more than a trend; it’s a testament to the town’s spirit and the power of sport to unite.

News in Brief: The Rise of Pickleball in Canistota

Canistota, S.D., a town of fewer than 700, has embraced pickleball, driven by local enthusiast Cathee Bruinsma and her friends. Starting seven years ago on the town’s tennis courts, the pickleball club now boasts 17 members and dedicated facilities, including a new park with courts and a clubhouse. Upgrades like interlocking tiles and indoor courts at the school ensure year-round play. The sport fosters community, attracting players of all ages for daily matches and socializing. As pickleball gains traction statewide, Canistota exemplifies the sport’s unifying power and its appeal beyond mere exercise.

Also Read: Pickle for a Purpose Tournament Raises 10K Dollars for Local Causes



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