Wheelchair pickleball trailblazer Terry Smith hopes the sport’s inclusion at the 2023 English Nationals can help spread the word across the country after claiming a silver medal in Bolton.

Smith, who lives in Annan but plays pickleball in Carlisle, was one of the very first wheelchair players of the sport which is hugely popular in North America when he tried his hand just before lockdown.

The 60-year-old was almost immediately hooked and has been a key part of the growth of a strong wheelchair group of players in Carlisle.

But Smith, who also plays wheelchair tennis, has big dreams and is determined to get people playing across the UK.

“I do most of my sport in Carlisle and my local club in Carlisle had an open day, there was a game going on that looked a bit strange at first,” he explained.

“Within 10 minutes of playing, I knew what a fantastic sport I had just discovered for wheelchair players.

“I was probably if not the first, one of the first in the country to start playing wheelchair pickleball.

“I attended a festival in Glasgow and a festival in Preston and they had never seen any wheelchair players before.

“I got talking to people and said I wanted to start promoting wheelchair pickleball. We just took it from there, we have established a really strong group in Carlisle now, we have about eight players and we attend festivals, opens and national competitions.

“Our aim is to get more people playing it. As far as we are aware, the group in Carlisle is the only established wheelchair group at the moment.

“What we really need is other similar groups to get set up In different parts of the country and then we can start having inter-club events.

“I am passionate to get as many people as possible playing this game.”

Over the past year, pickleball has seen a meteoric rise in the UK due to its inclusive and accessible nature, with an estimated 12,000 regular players and over 450 venues offering the sport across the country.

There are now 682 athletes attending the National Championships at the Bolton Arena, up from 430 at the 2022 event.

Wheelchair players are just a small part of the current event that sees a wide range of players from across the country and of all ages – but Smith is confident the physical benefits of wheelchair pickleball will see their numbers rise at future editions.

“I still love playing tennis but a tennis court is a big area to get around in a wheelchair. Basketball is a great sport but is very physical,” he added.

“The beauty of wheelchair pickleball is you play on a smaller court and usually play doubles, which is great for participation.

“I can play alongside an able-bodied person and it works really well. It’s a fantastic aspect to a wheelchair sport.

“We need these types of events and competitions to spread the word.”

2023 English Nationals takes place at Bolton Arena from Thursday 26th October to Sunday 29th October. This year’s English Nationals is sponsored by Skechers, Franklin, Scan and UK Pickleball Shop, Play will commence from 9am each day. Head to https://www.pickleballengland.org/ to find out more or to find your nearest place to play.