Sports Sensation!

A brand-new, fast-paced, fun-packed and sociable sport is about to hit the Ribble Valley. Catherine Robinson finds out more

What’s the fastest growing sport in the world? No, I didn’t know either! It’s padel tennis – a quick-paced, social sport that started off in Mexico (hence the spelling). It’s sometimes described as a hybrid of tennis and squash and it’s so easy to play and so notoriously addictive that it’s spreading across the globe like a frontal weather system – and now it’s available in the Ribble Valley.

Mark Schofield, one of Lancashire’s top tennis coaches, has created a doubles and singles padel tennis court at the Ribble Valley Tennis Centre in Clitheroe: “It’s an honour to be the first to bring the game of padel to the Ribble Valley. We have always tried to be at the forefront of innovation in racket sports, running everything from mini tennis for primary age children, to elite squads, to seniors tennis. Padel is the next evolution in racket sports,” explains Mark.

As the sport is so new, coaching will initially be central to Mark’s plans: “Padel tennis has already taken Europe and America by storm,” he adds. “It’s huge in London and the south-east. It’s also recently gathered quite a following in south Manchester. In fact, it’s almost impossible to book a court there! They’re snapped up the second they become available.”

Mark is a former national junior tennis champion and a contemporary of Tim Henman, whom he beat to the National Junior title. He was also Lancashire men’s tennis captain for a number of years and Lancashire singles and doubles champion. So, when Mark is enthusiastic about a new racket sport, it’s time to sit up and take notice!

“I really want the Ribble Valley to be at the forefront of this explosion,” enthuses Mark, who became an LTA accredited padel tennis coach in 2023.

“It’s a quick, flowing game that’s great fun. The court is smaller than a standard tennis court and therefore much easier to play. The game of padel is played in an enclosed glass court, subsequently the ball is always accessible. This, coupled with the serve being underarm, as opposed to the traditional over arm serve means that the game is far easier to play. This has a double benefit – for the fitter, more proficient player it means the game can be fast and furious, but for the beginner, or the less fit, it means there’s not as much dead time or running about.”

The equipment differs from tennis. The bat – or padel – is smaller than a racket and is made from EVA foam. The ball looks like a tennis ball, but it has slightly less pressure, allowing it to rebound off the walls slowly, giving players more time to hit shots.

Mark is convinced that some of padel tennis’s appeal is its sociability, enhanced by its availability on the Playtomic app: “With the Playtomic app you can either book the court as an individual, a group, or as a new player with the availability to invite others to your booking.”

Mark is insistent that padel tennis is suitable for everyone – regardless of their age, ability or previous experience – and as this will be the first padel tennis centre in the Ribble Valley, everyone taking up padel now is starting from the same base, eliminating the dread sometimes felt by the adult beginner.

If you’d prefer a lower impact sport though, Mark is also setting up two pickle ball courts alongside the padel tennis. Pickle ball is another fast-growing racket sport which combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. It’s played with a hollow plastic ball and a paddle.

“We’ll have everything you need to get started in either padel tennis and pickle ball,” says Mark. “There are no stuffy dress codes. You can wear whatever you feel comfortable in and a suitable pair of trainers.”

Mark is offering free coaching sessions in padel tennis and pickle ball in January – so what are you waiting for?

To book a session, download the Playtomic app or call or email Mark:
07917 457861



Tedd Walmsley

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