The senior shuffle: Shuffleboard club seeks more players as membership declines
When Joe Piller had a stroke, the last thing on his mind was getting back on the shuffleboard court. But thanks to a strong will and a love for the sport, he came back.
Now he wants more competition. Piller suffered a stroke in 1991 that left him immobile, but he was determined to continue with his favourite sport — shuffleboard.
“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” said Piller, a Waterloo resident, who is 87 years old. Piller is hoping more seniors will join him with the Rockway Shuffleboard Club, as membership numbers continue to decline.
“We want to appeal to some seniors to join our club,” said Piller. The club used to compete at Rockway Community Centre on King Street near Rockway Golf Course in Kitchener. As recently as the early 2000s, the club was filled to the brim with members and they ran out of space with more than 60 members. After a few years, the club received a gift from the City of Kitchener in the form of 12 new shuffleboard courts in a downtown community centre.
Now, as membership declines due to age, the club is down to only about 20 members. “We’re getting old,” joked Piller.
“But shuffleboard is an outlet for seniors. It’s fun, it’s easy and it’s not strenuous. You can find new friends and meet many new people and find physical challenges as well.”Piller said he thinks part of the reason is that people in the area don’t join is because they just don’t know there is a local shuffleboard club.
In fact, he’s found local people playing in New Hamburg or even Elora.
Although he only started playing shuffleboard well into his senior years, the sport has taken Piller across the continent for regional, provincial and national championships.
*Piller is also good friends with the late Garnet Duffy, the “Shuffleboard King,” who represented Canada at an international championship in Brazil. Duffy died in fall 2015.
In fact, it was Duffy who introduced Piller to the competitive side of the sport when the two met in Florida during inter-park play.
“He asked me if I would join him as a partner in competition,” said Piller. After that, Piller and Duffy just kept winning medals and accolades at different competitions both locally, provincially and internationally in Florida. They did so well, in fact, that they were told they could no longer play in the amateur ranks because, well, they were too good.
“We made a good team,” said Piller.
This was all after a severe stroke, which left him with poor balance and unsteady on his feet. Piller was active in bowling and horseshoes before, but had to give those up due to the physicality of the sports.
“Billiards and shuffleboard I can play because I can balance myself,” said Piller.
Piller said the club is extremely welcoming to new players and aside from the competition, it’s all about creating an outlet and community for other seniors.
“For people who have never played shuffleboard, we will welcome them to our club and to our community centre and enjoy good fellowship and camaraderie with us.
“We want to give the people the encouragement to come and play shuffleboard and get to know everyone,” said Piller. “It’s basically just a social thing for us.”
Piller notes the irony in a plea for members, especially since there was once an issue with not having enough space for all the members.
“We used to appeal for courts, but we’re appealing for members,” said Piller.
For more information on the club or to join in on a game, contact Joe Piller at 519-888-0426.
- Stan Speaks: Pic of Garnet is from my archives. Garnet had a wonderful attitude; all shufflers enjoyed his friendship. May he Rest in Peace!! 2016 07 -07 Sent along by Bob Weber with THANKS!!