COVID-19 public health rules have a lot of people feeling constrained these days. Every now and then, however, out of the restrictions comes innovation.
At one Montreal racket club, the pandemic has sparked the invention of a new sport.
“We discovered a game called ‘squickleball,'” said John Archer, a member of the Atwater Club. “It’s a mix between squash and pickleball, and we absolutely love it.”
Some call Archer the godfather of the new sport, but he’s more modest than that.
“I think that’s a little dramatic. I like ‘the king of squickleball,'” he said.
As the king, Archer makes the rules. The first two are to let him win, although Susana Stroll gave him a run for his money in her first time playing the new game.
“It’s super easy to pick up. It’s so fun, different than the other racket sports,” Stroll told Global News after her match with Archer.
The only reason the sport exists is because squash is banned at the club due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Squash has a lot of physical exertion. There’s a lot of heavy breathing, sudden movement, and there’s close contact,” Archer explained.
Pickleball is allowed because it’s conducive with social distancing, but of course, it was in high demand. Meanwhile, the squash courts were empty. The club equipped them with nets, and squickleball was born.
“I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard on a squash court as we do on the squickleball court now,” said Archer.
Unlike in regular pickleball, in squickleball you can hit the ball off the wall. Innovations like these allow more people to get out of their homes and maintain their physical and mental health.
“I’m not sure what I would do without it,” said Archer.
“It warms my heart a little bit,” said Dawid Jagiello, the Atwater Club’s manager. “We have also a lot of older people who come here and they depend on us to keep them active.”
Archer already has a list of catchy slogans for the game, including “swipe right for squickleball.”
“It’s all about branding, right?” he said.
The merch is only the beginning. His ambitions are international.
“We’re fairly confident that squickleballl will become an Olympic sport before squash does, so we’ve put in an application for that and we’ll see how that goes,” he said.
The International Olympic Committee will need to act fast. Once COVID restrictions are lifted and squash is allowed again, squickleball mania might be over.