'There's nothing like pickleball:' Vernon man's lawsuit to restore club membership thwarted - InfoNews

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'There's nothing like pickleball:' Vernon man's lawsuit to restore club membership thwarted

Lane Roberts, a pickleball racket and his dog.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Lane Roberts
October 26, 2018 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - Lane Roberts believes he has been dealt a cruel injustice and he aims to right it.

When Vernon City Bylaw was no help, he took it to social media, then Provincial Court, then B.C. Supreme Court and now he’s considering his options.

"If I get 10 or 20,000 signatures I could take it to the Mayor. Or maybe Justin Trudeau, why not?” he says.

But for now, he still cannot play in the Vernon Pickleball Association.

In the B.C. Supreme Court case of Lane Roberts v. Vernon Pickleball Association, its Concerns and Complaints Committee and several named directors, he lays out a timeline from the 'Rick Double Bounce Incident' of 2016 to his suspension for bringing his dog to the courts, to the complaints about him coaching other players and finally: A lifetime suspension.

He tells iNFOnews.ca he was devastated at losing pickleball. In the 380 days since his suspension, he’s only played a few times, in Kamloops, but he spends more time driving than playing.

“If I had lots of money I would sell my place and move to Kamloops or Kelowna and buy a little place and play pickleball there but I can’t afford that,” he says.

He retired after nearly two dozen years as a gym teacher. Now nearly 70 and long retired, he has played games all his life: Basketball, tennis, volleyball, flag football, hockey, soccer. He craves them still, but two hours playing those sports is too much and most people playing them, too young. Two hours of playing pickleball?

"I was playing 20 to 25 hours of pickleball a week. Year round, summer and winter. Now what other sport can I play that much?” he says. ""This is the perfect sport for anybody that’s retired."

He’s been all through the recreation guide seeking a replacement. Tennis is only a few hours a week. Golf and skiing are too expensive. He can walk around Kal Tire Place. He walks his dogs a couple times a day — but he’d rather chase a ball. He needs to. Finding pickleball in his late 60s came at a perfect time.

"What else do you do for recreation in the winter time? You tell me? There’s nothing like pickleball, especially for the winter months,” he says.

In his lawsuit, he said he tried apologizing to the association and declared: “I will do whatever is necessary to be allowed to play. I will literally bite my tongue off!”

He’s tried playing other local pickleballers, not as part of the association.

"Nobody will play with me,” he says. “Why? Because I sued them."

Though his battle had been brewing with the association since they instituted their ’no-coaching’ rule and the Double Bounce Incident (“Ann saw the call as I did and it was only Rick who objected and as a result LEFT THE COURT,” he said in court filings), his lifetime suspension came at a terrible time. It was the day after his girlfriend’s dog, Deenie, died not far from the pickleball courts. Worse, he accidentally killed the frail, old dog when she cut into his bike path. 

"I was under great stress and still haven’t played much pickleball since that day,” he says in our interview. “You can play your sport and get so focussed on what you're doing athletically, that during that time you are not thinking ‘my dog died’ or 'I killed my dog’. You get exercise and get your mind off that thing.”

Without his preferred outlet, his energy has been on trying desperately to get it back. He’s a taxpayer, he’s been using and contributing to recreational facilities his whole life, he says. He can be banned from city courts because he broke arbitrary rules?

He kind of admits when he took it to small claims, he was hoping the association would just relent. Instead, they ignored him so he pursued it and lost on jurisdiction.

Undeterred, he took it to B.C. Supreme Court Justice Sheri Ann Donegan seeking, among many other things, “remove the NON-coaching rule from the VPA Code of Conduct” and “The VPA be fined the cost of my membership in the organization and all costs pertaining to playing pickleball in all seasons for the rest of my life.”

He claimed, again among a great many other things, damages for pain and suffering with physical and emotional symptoms but “first and foremost I would like my membership restored so I can play pickleball again."

He didn’t anticipate that the Vernon Pickleball Association would hire a good lawyer. After Justice Donegan explained in a wonderfully-worded decision she had no avenue to force a volunteer association to change their bylaws or restore his membership — she awarded the association their costs.

He hasn’t seen the bill yet.

“Someone suggested $20,000,” he says.

But still, no regrets for Lane Roberts.

"I think justice has to come from somewhere,” he says. “What else do I do?"


To contact a reporter for this story, email Marshall Jones or call 250-718-2724 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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