Matt Hansson and Invictus Australia team up to bring inclusive Pickleball to Towoomba
In the heart of Toowoomba, an extraordinary relationship has developed between Matt Hansson and Pickleball Australia, inspired by the work that Invictus Australia (IA) facilitates for veterans around the country. This collaboration has not only reignited Matt’s passion for the game but also fostered an inclusive community for players of all abilities in the local area.
The story began back in 2023 when Justine Lugg, a Veteran Engagement Officer at IA, reached out to Matt Hansson, a pickleball enthusiast. Matt had temporarily stepped away from playing the sport locally but was more than willing to lend a helping hand volunteering to run an event at IA’s Defence Community Day. IA runs these days regularly around the country and they serve as a chance for the Defence community to engage with local Sporting Organisations and Veteran Services to enhance their connection and quality of life during and after service.
Justine worked closely with Matt to create the pickleball component of the Defence Day. Matt was then inspired to work with IA ongoing, aligning with the ethos of using inclusive and adaptive sport to better the mental health of veterans and their families. Justine played a pivotal role in connecting Matt with the team at Pickleball Australia, which reignited his passion for the game and ultimately led to him cementing his role as the facilitator of Toowoomba Pickleball and the Chairperson of Pickleball Australia’s Inclusion Working Committee.
How Matt found Pickleball
Matt’s initial journey into pickleball began when he happened upon the new sport at a local indoor sports center. The game’s unique characteristics sparked his interest, particular it’s inclusive nature as Matt sustained a serious injury from a motorbike accident in 2014. Matt’s day job in the disability support sector also attuned him to the importance of adaptive sports, which he brings to his role within the pickleball community.
“After having my motorbike accident in 2014 and sustaining life-altering injuries, I almost quit sport. When I came across Pickleball, it showed me that there is a sport out there that is inclusive and has something for everyone, no matter their ability. Everyone is on the same playing field, and that’s what I love about it the most” recalls Matt when asked of his initial involvement in the sport.
Matt also underscores the sport’s positive impact on mental health: “There are so many positives through this sport! I have had the opportunity to travel and compete with people I never dreamed of. It has also helped me with my mental health, and that is something I’m very grateful for.”
This relationship between Matt and Invictus Australia is a testament to the power of inclusivity and the positive impact of sports on mental health and wellbeing. Veterans in Toowoomba now have a dedicated pickleball club, and the interest generated from IA’s “come and try” event has resulted in numerous bookings for the regular program on Tuesday nights through Toowoomba Pickleball.