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Pride meets pickleball at fundraising tournament in Waterloo

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A unique tournament in Waterloo may help more people feel a sense of pride when they step onto the court.

SPECTRUM Waterloo Region, an organization supporting 2SLGBTQ+ people in the region, teamed up with Pickleball of Waterloo Wellington Region (POWWR) to offer their first ever pickleball tournament at RIM Park on Saturday afternoon.

“This is a fundraiser for SPECTRUM. We’re raising funds for our sports and recreation programing that helps the 2SLGBTQ community in Waterloo Region engage in sports,” SPECTRUM sports coordinator Troy Dettwiler explained.

“Creating inclusive spaces for people that are a part of the community, allowing them to participate in sports without fear of judgment, without fear of having to think about what others are thinking about them – oftentimes people come into our space and they’ve been in spaces where they haven’t been accepted for who they are and being in a space where you’re surrounded by others that are similar to you allows people to feel almost like a sense of relief, a sense of power in that space,” he said.

The day started off with a player clinic, teaching new players the ins and outs of pickleball before they went off to the courts to try it for themselves.

SPECTRUM said the City of Waterloo covered the rental costs of all 12 courts used throughout the tournament to ensure all funds raised could support the organization’s free sports programs.

“With our multi-sport drop in, we try to rotate through a bunch of different sports. The idea is to give people a teaser of different types of sports,” Dettwiler said.

“We’ve done everything from Muay Thai, we’ve done pickleball, badminton, and we’ve done basketball, indoor soccer – pretty much everything. We really try to give people an opportunity to try new things.”

The tournament was open to anyone who was interested in joining in on the fun. Some regular members of SPECTRUM sports programming took part alongside members of POWWR and other community members who just love the sport.

The event was a rousing success for the organizations, selling out before anyone even hit the courts.

Pride and Pickleball

Members of POWWR were on hand to help teach people the basics of the sport and offer some friendly guidance from the sidelines.

POWWR’s president, Fiona MacGregor, said she first began working with SPECTRUM after she heard about their sports programming and wanted to offer her pickleball expertise.

“We started with one court and there ended up being more people than we could accommodate. When I was talking to Troy about the program I said perhaps we can think of a pickleball tournament, because that’s one of the things in POWWR that we’ve always talked about – different types of tournaments for communities.”

MacGregor said they broke the players up into four different skill categories for the day to ensure everyone was able to enjoy their time, regardless of their sporting background.

“That’s what POWWR is about,” she told CTV News. “It works well with SPECTRUM’s program – introducing people to new sports or helping develop them.”

She also believes Saturday’s tournament may be among the first Pride pickleball events in the country.

“We sent notes to Pickleball Ontario and Pickleball Canada and never heard back from them. As far as we know, this is the first Pride tournament in Canada and clinic as a combined day. So it’s really, really exciting.”

Getting involved

Dettwiler hopes Saturday’s event may inspire more people to discover the joy of sport.

“We have people now that are part of POWWR from playing with SPECTRUM. They built the confidence in our environment and then went out into the community and started engaging more in sports,” he said.

“It’s really important as Pride Month is coming up that we celebrate and recognize the 2SLGBTQ community here in Waterloo Region. There are so many amazing Pride events that are happening throughout June. Just having that level of support and people engaging with Pride, whether you are part of the community or not, there are ways that you can be involved.”

More information on SPECTRUM’s sports programs can be found online.

Meanwhile, POWWR’s pickleball programming typically runs from fall to spring.

“We’ve taught [pickleball] to Grade Fours all the way up to 80-year-olds, 90-year-olds. [It’s a] diverse group of people with abilities, disabilities, and mobility issues. That’s what we think is important.”

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