Structural engineer Jess Wilson saved her pickleball club in Norwich from going under and now the 27-year-old travels far and wide to compete in the addictive racquet sport.

The pickleball ace narrowly missed out on a medal in a tense third-place match at the 2023 English Nationals at Bolton Arena on Friday, eventually falling to defeat against Mollie Kubrick-Finney.

Wilson spends around 20 hours a week devoted to pickleball outside of her full-time job and is on a mission to get the next generation involved in the sport.

“The club was going to shut down if we didn’t take it over,” she said. “We wanted to keep it going so we put all our time and effort into it over the last nine months, myself and five other volunteers.

“We’ve now got 100 members, it’s one of the oldest clubs in the UK, after Covid it had all fallen apart.

“We put 20 hours a week into it on top of working full-time which is a lot but it’s really rewarding to see people come and enjoy it.”

“I played a lot of tennis, table tennis , badminton, a lot of racquet sport but this one is the best because it’s so much fun.

“We run our local club and it’s so accessible for everyone, we get local people in playing games and it’s amazing because it’s something you would never get in tennis.

Over the past year, pickleball has seen a meteoric rise in the UK due to its inclusive and accessible nature, with an estimated 12,000 regular players and over 450 venues offering the sport across the country.

There are now 682 athletes attending the National Championships at the Bolton Arena, up from 430 at the 2022 event.

And Wilson believes the 2023 English Nationals was the perfect event for the whole pickleball community to come together and hone their skills.

“The English Nationals are my practice; we’re trying to get more people into it.

“The standard is really improving, it’s a completely different level compared to last year. I did reasonably well in the bronze match, but the standard has gone up a lot.

“I’ve got a couple more tournaments, but I’ve done so many this year that I’ve ran out of time to take off work.”

2023 English Nationals takes place at Bolton Arena from Thursday 26th October to Sunday 29th October. This year’s English Nationals is sponsored by Skechers, Franklin, Scan and UK Pickleball Shop, Play will commence from 9am each day. Head to to find out more or to find your nearest place to play.