We will be publishing here articles and videos that introduce you to our club our people and our goals. The articles are written from a members point of view
In honour of National Coaches Week, and as a member of Pickleball Hamilton (a not-for-profit organization incorporated in 2014 as Pickleball Hamilton Association), recognizing Matthew, Jessica and Linda Kawamoto is easy to do and well deserved.
As a lesser known racquet sport to squash, badminton or tennis, pickleball’s popularity has grown exponentially in Canada and the US over the last few years, particularly with grassroots organizations like Pickleball Hamilton (https://pickleballhamilton.com) fueling its success.
Laying one of the early foundations in Ontario almost a decade ago, Pickleball Hamilton was one of the first organizations to successfully lobby for and have built in partnership with The City of Hamilton, 24 dedicated pickleball courts at Hill Park (12) and, most recently, at Confederation Park (12). Pickleball Hamilton continues to be a thriving association with a large number of dedicated volunteers that promote inclusiveness, accessibility and raising the level of pickleball in Hamilton.
It all started for the Kawamotos when Linda introduced her family to pickleball in 2014. Today, the entire family shares a passion for the sport and are active participants in tournaments across North America. Together, Matt, Linda and Jessica have an impressive 150+ medals; Matt and Jessica are pro-level, US Open Gold Medalists. For most, that probably would have been enough. Yet, what is remarkable about the Kawamotos is their steadfast humbleness, work ethic and contagious energy they continue to bring to the sport to this day.
Matt, in particular, is one of those truly good people whose energy and passion for coaching seems boundless. In 40+ years of sport, Matt is the only coach I have ever had that comes to teach with only his skill, big smile and 3 balls in his pocket, ready to work with you at your level and lead you to achieve real results. His court sense and knowledge of strategy are well beyond his years and it is so easy to forget that he is only 25 and his competitive career is only getting started. To me, that makes him a Canadian coach to watch and, with the support of Jessica and Linda, the difference makers to Pickleball Hamilton and pickleball players across Ontario.
“There are players who coach, and then there are coaches who play. Spend an hour with Matt and you'll know which one he is. I've taken lessons with him back when I was a beginner who couldn't grip a paddle and as an intermediate with bad habits holding me back. No matter where I am in my game, Matt always pushes me to improve and makes me feel like I can reach the next level. Two years in, I'm happy that I can call him both a coach and a friend.” - Jacob McLellan, member since 2018
“A lesson with Matt is like a morning coffee. I look forward to it. I savour every moment and I feel energized to tackle the rest of my day. Matt focusses on every second of the lesson. Nothing is more important. I do believe that I am getting better. Look out, summer 2021! “ – Connie Wilson, member since 2018
So, cheers to you Matt, Linda and Jess during National Coaches Week and all that you bring to the game of pickleball. You make a world of difference to your students and we all owe you a big #ThanksCoach!
We are living in an unprecedented time, surrounded by much unpredictability. COVID-19 has changed so much for all of us and we continue to evolve to learn to live in the new normal.
For so many of us pickleball enthusiasts, COVID temporarily brought play to a halt in March 2020. When restrictions started to ease, the conversation soon turned to the logistics of when and how to come back to the sport safely. Pickleball, in particular, supports a wide array of active older adults, many of whom are or care for family and friends that are, high-risk. This fact was foremost to Pickleball Hamilton’s 6-Court Hill Park facility re-opening plan, corroborated by their Mission Statement (pickleballhamilton.com):
“Pickleball Hamilton is dedicated to introducing, teaching and growing the game within the Greater Hamilton Community. We are passionate about--and committed to--providing inclusive, varied and accessible programming in a well-maintained and safe environment.”
Following several discussions and approval by the City of Hamilton, Pickleball Hamilton’s Board navigated new territory to put together COVID protocols to protect its members, going above and beyond the requirements and recommendations from the Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments as well as Pickleball Ontario guidelines:
With these protocols, Pickleball Hamilton created tremendous confidence within the membership that Hill Park was a safe play environment, where COVID rules were proactively managed and strictly enforced. They also ensured that COVID did not spread within our community. It speaks volumes that play continued uninterrupted over the 2020 season and thankfully there were zero COVID cases.
Pickleball Hamilton’s board knew that these guidelines would not accepted by all in the same way and some members could be lost, but they took the difficult path anyway. And for that, Pickleball Hamilton should be commended for their leadership; they did what was right and kept their club members and visitors healthy and safe.
Pickleball Hamilton Board:
President – Linda Kawamoto
Vice-President – Carolyn Buck
Treasurer/Secretary – Jessica Kawamoto
Club Pro – Matt Kawamoto
Director – Haig Saadetian
Director – John Sharp
Director – Matt Cunningham
Director – Ray Munro
Even though pickleball has been around since 1965, the sport is still establishing its presence in Canada and in Ontario, in particular.
In the beginning, pickleball in Canada grew from the desire of a handful of determined pickleball enthusiasts who played in the US but came home and found it difficult to find other pickleball players and courts to play on. These early ambassadors of the sport are responsible for creating many of the active hubs of pickleball that have been sprouting all across Canada such as Waterloo (ON), Red Deer (AB), Kelowna (BC) and Montreal (QC).
Hamilton (ON) is another active pickleball hub where Pickleball Hamilton actively promotes inclusiveness, accessibility and raising the level of pickleball in the City and surrounding areas. Without similar opportunities, many Pickleball Hamilton members continue to travel long distances to Hamilton due to the lack of facilities and organized play in their own neighbourhoods.
Laying early foundations over seven years ago, Pickleball Hamilton is still one of the few organizations in Southern Ontario to successfully lobby for and build, in partnership with the City of Hamilton, 6 (soon to be 12) dedicated pickleball courts at Hill Park and, most recently, 12 dedicated courts at Confederation Park.
These successes are largely fueled by the dedication and effort of Pickleball Hamilton’s founders Rick Stevens, Jeff Morgan and Gary Russell. Over the years and behind the scenes, these early ambassadors put in hundreds of hours developing business plans and lobbying City of Hamilton officials to put a spotlight on the fastest growing sport in North America and the need for accessible, affordable indoor and outdoor facilities. It is inconceivable that any of these Hamilton pickleball facilities would exist without the countless volunteer hours put in by Pickleball Hamilton.
This is in stark contrast to the surrounding areas of Brantford and Burlington where there are little or no dedicated pickleball facilities. At community centres, where most indoor pickleball is played in Canada, wait times for play are often long and pickleball sessions must often compete with more “established” sports such as volleyball, basketball, badminton etc. for play time.
In the early stages of pickleball development in Hamilton, the founders and past board members of Pickleball Hamilton successfully lobbied on behalf of all the pickleball players in the City to have more recreation centres providing pickleball and more pickleball time slots provided at the recreation centres.
It is no surprise then that in 2019 (pre COVID-19), the sport has grown to include over 15K registered visits by pickleball players at City of Hamilton recreation centres.
As one of our volunteers observed recently:
“It takes ‘a village to raise a child’ and the same is true for Pickleball Hamilton. The seed planted so many years ago by Rick, Jeff and Gary continues to thrive and grow in the hands of dedicated volunteers who work behind the scenes to find many ways to contribute to the club and spur Pickleball Hamilton’s support of its membership and overall growth of the sport in the region.”
Pickleball Hamilton; we are stronger together through volunteerism.