Tyson McGuffin provides pickleball instruction at the Native Sons Hall. Scott Stanfield photo

World beater hosts pickleball camp in Courtenay

Tyson McGuffin, one of the top pickleball players in the world, shared some of his expertise with some local players last week at a boot camp at Native Sons Hall in Courtenay. The indoor venue accommodated about a dozen adult players on four courts, Sept. 14-16.

The growing sport of pickleball is easy to learn and requires minimal equipment. It incorporates elements of tennis, badminton, squash and racquetball.

“People say it’s ping pong on steroids,” said McGuffin, 28, a resident of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Growing up in Lake Chelan, Wash., McGuffin was first into wrestling before taking up tennis at age 14. He played at the collegiate and professional levels, reaching the top 1,200 in the latter. He liked the individual aspect of singles’ tennis, but needed to play four or five times a week because the talent pool was ridiculously deep.

Three years ago he discovered pickleball, in which he could excel with twice weekly play. But aside from the competitive aspect, he also loves the camaraderie and community feel of the sport.

“I fell in love with the sport,” he said. “It was a breath of fresh air for tennis…The sky’s the limit with this sport. It’s easy to play, it’s inexpensive, you can play it on any surface.”

McGuffin — who started coaching tennis at age 15 — plays pickleball professionally and teaches camps around the world. He won the national singles title in 2017, and the US Open — a major event — in April.

“This has been my breakout year,” McGuffin said.

He won his first major doubles title, along with partner Matt Goebel of Spokane, Wash., at the Tournament of Champions last month in Brigham City, Utah. He lost in the singles final to Ben Johns, 19, the only player to have beaten McGuffin on the pickleball court in two years. As such, his world ranking dropped from the top spot to number two.

“But I have nationals coming up in about two months and I’ll be right there. Don’t you worry.”

In recent years, a lack of designated pickleball facilities had been a source of conflict in the Comox Valley. However, six new outdoor pickleball courts are functionally ready for play at Highland Park in Comox, next to the box lacrosse court. The project is an initiative of the Rotary Club of Courtenay, which partnered with the Town of Comox, the regional district, community groups, businesses and the Comox Valley Pickleball Association. Come spring, the courts will be finished with final court coatings.

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