London ball

What is padel? , Evie Allen-Jones, Esher College

I recently spoke with members of the Ashtead Squash and Tennis Club (ASTC) to find out more about the fastest sport in the UK, Padel, and the positive effect the sport has had on their club . It is an inclusive and accessible sport which is highly sought after and in demand by other sports clubs, particularly in the Surrey and London areas.

Padel is a hybrid sport, mixed between tennis and squash. It is played on a court half the size of a tennis court, following the same point system as a regular tennis match. The court itself is surrounded by mesh and glass and the game is played with Padel rackets. It is played on Astro turf and for courts that are outdoors, many have a drainage system to allow the sport to be played in almost any weather condition.

The rules are quite similar to tennis, except you serve by bouncing the padel ball on the ground below waist level. The ball can bounce off any wall but can only hit the grass once before being returned. Players can opt for a two-player singles game or a doubles game consisting of two teams of two players.

The history of the sport is widely debated as many have different ideas about its origins. However, most believe that it was Enrique Corcuera who invented hybrid sports in Mexico. The popularity then moved to Spain where it is well established. The sport has been around in the UK for 20 years but has gained momentum in the last 5 years.

At ASTC, sports have always been a fun and enjoyable part of their community. Unfortunately, like everywhere else, when lockdown hit and the club was unable to open, it had a huge impact on members and coaches. Usability has always been a huge part of the sport, so when it was taken out it was a really tough adjustment. However, many long-time members and people who work in the club have decided to use this time to do good for the club.

Graham Jones, an ASTC member for over 10 years, told me about adding Padel to their club and the positive influence it has had on the community. He explained that the members got together and presented the idea of ​​a Padel court and adding the sport to their current selection: Tennis, Squash and Racket Ball. It was decided that this could be a great addition as lockdown measures have eased and people may find themselves outside in small groups. In addition to the Padel court, an old horse box has been transformed into an outdoor drinks bar. This serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages as well as snacks for the players after games.

I was lucky enough to be able to visit the club and see the new courts, Tipple Box and talk to the club president: Mike Standring. We talked about the addition of Padel and how it changed the dynamics of the club. He said: “The yard and the weather shelter created a purpose for being outdoors, bringing people together while being active.” The addition of a new modern court to the club was also a huge improvement as some of the other racquet sports courts are slightly older. I also learned that memberships have increased by 20% for the club thanks to Padel and what a success it has been. “The effect of Padel and the new court has been exponential.”

I also spoke to a member, Hany Badair, who started playing Padel during the lockdown in Cairo. As the restrictions eased and he was able to come to England, he was very happy to see Padel’s new court. “It was the only one in the area that I knew, so it was perfect that it was at the club where all my friends were too. It was great to see everyone again after a long time, playing outside in the sun and to have fun exercising.

At ASTC they have a membership system that allows you to play it. You can become a full member, giving you access to all four sports on offer for £275 a year. Or you can become a partial member, giving you access to your favorite sport for £75 a year. In addition to all the sports facilities, the club has a bar area with TVs to watch live sport and dance/sports clubs for the kids.

Since the opening of the Padel court 18 months ago, members have increased so much that the club has had to cut itself off. This is partly due to the lack of padel courts in the Surrey/London area and the demand for this new sport. Currently, almost all sports clubs are building or obtaining planning permission for a padel court in order to meet the demand. Oxshott now has 2, Epsom has 3 and Weybridge and Ashtead both have 1. There have even been a few sports stars spotted at ASTC and it is known to be the best place for players and coaches to Chelsea who are known to become very competitive on the padel courts!

Talking to the members, I found a recurring positive they all had for Padel was its inclusiveness. The sport is accessible to all ages and at ASTC, player ages range from 10 to 80 years old. The club also offers the possibility of mixed doubles for all their sports, allowing everyone to play against each other. In addition to a range of ages, Padel is also accessible to people with disabilities, especially those who use wheelchairs.

For many people during the lockdown, it was very difficult to be at home and isolated. Especially for the men at the club, losing their daily exercise and interactions with their friends was extremely difficult. Many people have had mental health issues during lockdown and with the introduction of the padel court, every member I spoke to reiterated the importance of exercise for their mental wellbeing. Adding the court during such a difficult time for people has improved the mental health of so many struggling people. The social side of sport brings people together, from all walks of life and of all ages. Graham said: “At a time of such isolation, being outside and being active was such a big change. It was a breath of fresh air!”

The padel court was an investment for the club but only brought new enthusiasm and success to the members. For anyone interested in Padel, contact your local sports club and see if a new Padel court is on the horizon. From everything I’ve learned, there’s no downside! It comes with a welcoming community and a surge of fun.