YOU would be forgiven for assuming that pickleball is one of those games invented in a back garden to keep children preoccupied on lazy, summer afternoons.

There is an element of truth in that, except in reality, the sport is a flourishing and fast-growing game played by people across the UK and the wider world.

Pickleball is a fairly new sport as it was only created in 1965 in the garden of a former American politician who was allegedly unable to find a shuttlecock to play badminton.

Fast forward 50 years and the sport is gradually growing in popularity from its humble beginnings across the pond, yet remains fairly unknown outside of a few areas of the UK.

Torfaen is Wales’ hotbed for the game, which is a maelstrom of badminton, table and lawn tennis – in fact any bat and ball sport.

The game is played on a court of similar size to one used in badminton with paddles slightly smaller than a tennis racquet and made from plastic.

There are at presently only two clubs in Wales and both are located roughly five miles from one another – in Cwmbran and Pontypool respectively.

At Cwmbran Stadium on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-12pm, the pleasure of pickleball is very much on display.

The man behind the racquet sport revolution is John Price, who first started playing the game in the USA around four years ago.

“When I came back to Wales last year, I decided to try and get the game going here,” said Mr Price, of Broadwalk, Caerleon.

“I was speaking to some English people in America who told me that they played pickleball at their local leisure centre and that’s where it all started.

“I knew that there were badminton courts at Cwmbran Stadium and that was the impetus that I needed to get things going,” said the 70-year-old.

Mr Price, known as ‘Shun’ to his friends, gathered a group together, which included Bernard Powell.

“Shun called me and mentioned this game that he had played in Miami and wondered if I would be interested in having a go,” said Mr Powell, 67, of Ponthir Road, Caerleon.

“So I agreed and coaxed my wife into coming along too. So the two of us, along with John and his wife, started playing about 18 months ago and the rest is history.”

In that time, from the original foursome of the Prices and the Powells, the group has swelled in size.

The players in Cwmbran number at around 25, and the four courts are awash with exuberance and the rhythmic noise of balls ricocheting off the paddles and the floor.

As soon as the clock strikes 10, the players with their paddles are on court and knocking the balls back and forth.

“They are keen as mustard to play – I can’t stop them,” said Mr Price, who not only plays but functions as the group’s coach as well.

“I wanted to do a coaching session on my return from America as I’ve had a few ideas on ways to improve their technique and overall game.

“But as soon as 10 o’clock comes around, they just want to play and I can’t stop them.”

The Cwmbran players are a healthy mix of male and female members and since there is no real gender bias in the sport, this helps increase its appeal.

“Pickleball is a gender inclusive sport and some of the ladies in our group give the men a good game, winning quite regularly,” said Mr Price.

“Ladies are just as good, or have the ability to be just as good as our male players. Some of the American ladies I have played against have skills.”

The timing of the sessions means that the group is predominately retirees, but the pickleballers believe the sport could easily transfix the younger generation as well as the elder.

“Personally I think pickleball would be perfect to be introduced in schools,” said Mr Powell.

“After all, there is so much coverage of children lacking exercise and spending all day on computer games.

“This would be perfect for them. If a group of people of our ages can play, then anyone can,” he added.

“We have noticed that since we started playing, our fitness levels have improved but importantly, everyone enjoys themselves.”

The problem facing pickleball at present is coverage as the sport remains fairly niche, even in its veritable Welsh home in Torfaen and the equipment expenses.

The paddles alone cost around £50 which to some individuals is a large start-up costs compared to other activities.

Mr Price approached Torfaen Leisure Trust regarding funding to take the sport to the masses, and he received a £1,500 grant to help bring the game to the masses.

“I went to Torfaen Leisure who thought the sport would be ideal sport for the retirees and to get them playing sport,” he said.

“They gave me £1,500 and with that grant, I bought 20 paddles and a number of balls as well as the cost of hiring the hall.”

As the driving force behind pickleball, Mr Price was asked to try and raise its profile within Gwent.

“My brief was to get people involved in pickleball and so far it is going well,” he said.

The potential is there to take this outside of Torfaen to places like Newport, Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly – the surrounding areas of Gwent really - and then beyond.

“We have players from Pontypridd and Aberdare as we are one of the two clubs in Wales at the moment,” said Mr Price.

With that brief in mind, the players in Torfaen believe the game has the potential to grow.

“That’s all it takes is that initial interest and if we can get that, more people will play pickleball,” said Mr Powell.

“There’s no age limit, no questions over gender or previous ability – it’s just a great, tactical game which helps keep you healthy in body and mind.

“I’ve played people in their eighties so it just goes to show that anyone can play this game.”

Pickleball is played at Cwmbran Stadium on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-12pm, with another group meeting in the evenings at Pontypool Active Living Centre on Thursdays at 7pm.

For more information on the sport, visit or contact John Price on