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Playing Pickleball

Pickleball, often described as the fastest-growing sport in North America, is a court sport similar to tennis, but played on a badminton-sized court with a paddle instead of a racquet and a plastic ball rather than a tennis ball. Invented in 1968 in the state of Washington, pickleball has quickly spread throughout the world as a simple game that can be easily learned and played by people of all ages and athletic ability. Unlike tennis, which can take many years to master, it is not uncommon for people to learn pickleball quickly and compete at national tournaments within a year or two. But be warned--the sport may just be the most addictive sport you have ever tried!

The St. Albert Pickleball Club (SAPC) welcomes players of all skill levels. If you haven't played before, we recommend that you start by taking a free beginner's lesson. For more details or to sign up, see the Beginner's Lesson page under the "Explore Joining" menu.

Everyone learns at a different pace and in different ways, so you are the best judge as to what your next step should be. During most seasons, SAPC offers mentoring sessions for people who feel they are not yet ready to play with the rest of the members just yet and for others just wanting to improve their skills. Check this website's indoor or outdoor calendar for the next available mentoring sessions. See the Development menu > Mentoring page for more information on mentoring. After one to three mentoring sessions, you should be ready to play at the 2.0 level, and can check the calendars for the next available 2.0 session (or "2.0 to 2.5" session).

To help differentiate players of different skill levels, a rating system allows players to self-identify a rating based on specific criteria, or acquire a rating by participating in a rating clinic or by playing in tournaments sanctioned by Pickleball Canada. Ratings follow a scale of 1.0 to 5.0 (1.0 is beginner, 5.0 is world-class player) that includes half-point increments. As most club play sessions are organized by rating level, you will need to assess your rating so that you can play in the appropriate session. You can find self-rating guidelines at http://ifpickleball.org/ifp-rating-descriptions.

When assessing your own rating, remember to err on the side of rating yourself DOWN rather than rating yourself UP. For instance, if you feel you might be a 2.5 or a 3.0 but are not sure, you should rate yourself at the lower rating of 2.5. Record your self rating in your member profile, and update it as you gain skills.

SAPC members who would like to play at the 3.0 level or higher must be either club-rated or tournament-rated for that level. Register for and attend a club rating clinic to earn a club rating of 3.0 or 3.5. See member newsletters and web-site announcements for the next available ratings clinic. Visitors are welcome to our 3.0 and 3.5 level play sessions but must also have an equivalent rating. Players without a rating may drop in to any "All Play" or "2.0-2.5" session.

See our Development menu > Skill Levels and Ratings page for more information.

Wear appropriate workout clothing and footwear and stay hydrated to ensure your safety during play. Proper shoes are a must; court shoes (such as for tennis) are recommended. If playing at an indoor venue, court shoes must be clean and only used indoors. Visors, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen are also advisable during outdoor play. Do not play on the outdoor courts when they are wet and slippery.

Yes, the club provides balls for use during club organized play. Please do not remove them from the courts as the club funds were used to purchase them, and they belong to the club. For sessions at outdoor courts designated "Open Play," bring your own balls.

Aside from the beginner lesson, players are required to bring their own paddles. Although St. Albert Pickleball Club does not endorse suppliers, paddles can be purchased at local sporting goods stores. In addition, home-based pickleball trainers who periodically provide training at club venues will often have paddles for sale.

  • When buying a paddle, buy one that feels good in your hand.
  • Paddles to avoid include paddles that come in a set of two with a ball (they are a play set), along with paddles that have foam cores--these are of very low quality and are often sold in department stores. A good paddle will have a core made of polymer, graphite, aluminum, or Nomex (a type of polymer).
  • Prices will vary, but any paddle in the price range of $70 or up should be of sufficient quality.
  • You are strongly encouraged to buy a paddle that meets official approved specifications. Non-approved paddles cannot be used in sanctioned tournaments. A list of paddles that meet official specifications can be found at https://www.pickleballcanada.org/approved_paddle_list.php.
  • Lastly, we suggest you buy a quieter paddle if possible to help reduce impact noise for residents close to outdoor courts.

Check the Indoor Calendar or the Outdoor Calendar to confirm start time for drop-in sessions. Times vary according to the season and the available venues, and sometimes there are last-minute cancellations (particularly for school venues). Always check the calendar before heading out to play. See the Member's FAQ for more information on the different types of organized play you will see referenced in our calendars.

Many members play outdoors at times that are not scheduled by the club. The club’s Facebook group is the best way to organize a play session outside of scheduled hours. Only club members can join our Facebook group.

Most club play sessions are either paddle box play or round robin sessions.

Paddle Box Play

After a match is finished, the winners place their paddles in the GOLD box, and losers place their paddles in the SILVER box. Paddles for the next game are pulled from each box in alternating groups of four. This helps to mix up play, so that you do not play with the same partner two games in a row. This is good for inclusive play, which our club promotes.

Round Robin Play

When you arrive at a venue for a round robin session, you will be assigned a random number. A sheet or white board specifies each game as a group of four random “numbers” (players), which helps ensure people play with and against different players throughout the session. When attending a round robin session, please arrive no later than fifteen minutes before the session is scheduled to start. Latecomers may not be allowed to participate in the session.

Other Play

The club also organizes ladder play, shootouts, King and Queen play, reserved play, and more.

A more complete set of club rules and conventions for paddle box play, round robin and other play types may be found on our Play Types page.

Membership

You need to be a member of St Albert Pickleball Club in order to play at designated "Members Only" drop-in times and participate in certain club-sponsored events, such as advanced lessons, training opportunities, round robin mixers, club tournaments, ladder play and social events. Your membership fee also includes affiliation with Pickleball Alberta and Pickleball Canada, which allows you to enter sanctioned tournaments. Membership in Pickleball Canada also provides the club and members with insurance, and helps develop pickleball as a provincial, national, and international sport.

Members also save on indoor play, as they pay one sticker to play versus the two stickers charged for a visitor's play.

Our club also benefits from a municipal agreement and strong relationships with the City of St. Albert, our local schools and other venues, giving members more indoor play opportunities per member than most other clubs in Canada.

Members also meet more people, gain new friends, strengthen relationships, get fitter, feel better, live longer and laugh more. Where else can you get this for $30 per year, plus a few dollars per sticker for each indoor play?

To apply for membership, click "Join" under the Explore Joining menu.

Memberships are only sold online, on this site. You will need a credit card to pay for your membership and then to subsequently purchase a card of stickers if you wish to play indoors.

Our club's membership year aligns with Pickleball Alberta's year, and runs from May 1 to April 30 of the following year.

New memberships purchased on or after March 1 are good until April 30 of the following year. New memberships purchased between January 1 and the last day of February expire April 30 of the current year.

The membership fee is not prorated. It is very low, and to keep it low (and to make best use of our volunteer's time), there are no refunds. But you can "try before you buy" by taking a free beginner's lesson, and you can attend a mentoring session and play sessions as a visitor (non-member). We think you will find playing pickleball, as a member of our club, is a very economical way to be active, keep fit, connect with people, and have fun!

To make best use of our limited volunteers' time, we only accept memberships online, but the process is safe and easy.

  1. Press the Join button on the Home page or select the Join option under the New Members menu.
  2. At the first Membership Registration page, enter your email address and the code you see displayed, then press Next.
  3. At the next page, enter your profile details, read and accept the Terms and Conditions, and press Next.
  4. At the next page, review the payment information displayed, then press Pay Online.
  5. At the payment page, add your credit card information, address and phone, and edit your name if needed. Ensure all this information is consistent with your credit card company's records. Press the Pay $xx.xx (CAD) button. Wait several seconds for a "Payment successful" confirmation.

You will receive an email with your password, another confirming your payment, and a third welcoming you to our club.

Members can purchase an indoor venue card of 20 stickers for $67 from the private members store on this website. When members log in, they see an extra "Members" menu giving them access to this online store and other member-only pages.

At the beginning of any indoor play session, visitors may purchase two stickers from any member for $6.70 exact change or for $7.00 rounded up.

With the exception of tournaments and certain other special events, members and non-members can play on the city's outdoor courts at no additional cost. However, the City of St Albert has granted the club exclusive access to some of the courts for certain scheduled times. If indicated as "Members Only" on the calendar, then only members are allowed to play on designated courts at those times.

Visitors may attend a maximum of one mentoring session, and may attend other club-organized play events other than those marked "Members Only" or "Reserved Play" on the calendar, subject to availability of space. For example, if the number of members who appear for a drop-in play event exceeds twice the court capacity, visitors may be excluded.

Visitors living in the vicinity of St. Albert are expected to become members after three drop-ins as a visitor, and may become members before attending any drop-in sessions.

For rated play events, such as 3.0 play or 3.5+ play, guests must have the playing proficiency of our club-rated players, and should bring proof of proficiency from another club if possible.

At indoor events, including mentoring sessions, visitors pay two stickers to attend, and may purchase these stickers for $6.70 exact change from any other member in attendance.


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