Going 'berzerk' for Pickleball

Published 3:30pm 4 March 2021

Going 'berzerk' for Pickleball
Words by Nick Crockford

Redcliffe’s Focus Tennis Academy is introducing Pickleball, one of Queensland’s fastest-growing sports, to its courts on Sunday – with a free invitation for anyone to try it.

Pickleball is a cross between tennis, badminton and table tennis and has gone “berserk” in this state, according to Pickleball Queensland.

It is played on a badminton-size court, often adapted on a normal tennis court, with bats and a plastic ball.

In 15 months it has built-up more than 4000 players in 12 registered centres across Queensland – a list Focus Tennis Academy is looking to join.

Come and try

The Oxley Ave centre held a Pickleball come-and-try day on Sunday, with Pickleball Queensland staff assisting new players.

It is slower than tennis and suitable for those with less mobility, but Pickleball is competitive with its first Queensland titles held in November.

“Sunday is an Open Day (8am-noon), anyone can come and have a free game and learn the rules,” says Chris Novic, Head Coach and Director of Focus Tennis Academy, Oxley Ave.

“Pickleball Queensland will have players here. We hope to be one of the main centres in Moreton Bay. Eventually we’d like to have one or two (permanent) courts.”

Court-ing success

It is just one of the programs at Focus Tennis Academy which has around 1000 players, from three to 83 years, using its 12 courts each week.

They include social, junior, competitive and disability programs, with the Special Olympics Queensland Games holding its tennis competition at Redcliffe on March 20-21.

Programs have been created to meet demand, including Teen Tennis, designed by Chris “three or four years ago” to stop a drop-off in numbers.

“We had players not wanting to play, but hang out with their friends,” said Chris, “so I rang them and asked them what they wanted.

“We designed a program, put on some music, said bring a friend down … it’s probably our biggest program with 35-40 kids each Monday and Tuesday evening. Tennis Australia now has a Teen Tennis program.”

Membership numbers at Focus Tennis Academy are expected to be back at 750-800 this year, with 60 newcomers, following the impact of COVID.

The centre closed for just two weeks last March, on advice from Tennis Australia, then had a phased reopening following the COVID guidelines.

Chris says the academy is back to its pre-COVID position and was “looking for its next generation of kids coming through”.

Following legends

They will be treading on the same courts as Australian legends Rod Laver (11 Grand Slam Singles titles), Roy Emerson (12 Grand Slam Singles) and John Newcombe (world number one singles and doubles) who all played at Redcliffe.

“Redcliffe was known as one of the main tournaments in the Queensland calendar,” says Chris, “there’s a lot of history here.”

Members include the Frawley family – Rod Fawley, who reached the 1981 Wimbledon semi-finals before losing to John McEnroe and John Frawley who reached number 35 in the world.

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