Pickleball at the Missouri State Senior Games is an event that brings people together

Thursday, June 7, 2012 | 6:03 p.m. CDT; updated 10:24 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 7, 2012
Pickleball competition at the Missouri State Senior Games opened Thursday

COLUMBIA — From the sidelines, it's clear to see that the fans are in for the long haul.

Brenda Kern sets up her blue chair in the grass and places sunscreen and a drink in each of its cup holders. Payton Kern, her 4-year-old grandson, sets up his miniature red chair and a green umbrella for protection from the sun. After a few minutes, Jan Stewart brings her red chair over, and the two women begin talking.

It's apparent pickleball is more than just a game. At the Missouri State Senior Games, that began Thursday at Rock Quarry Park, pickleball is an event that brings people together. 

Brenda's husband and senior games particiant, Lyle Kern, said that everybody is friendly in pickleball.  

"I've not met a pickleball player that wasn't a nice person," Lyle Kern said.

Pickleball is a smaller version of tennis, played on a 44-by-20 foot court and with a 3-foot high net. Players swing a small paddle, a little bigger than a ping pong paddle, and hit a perforated plastic ball.

Lyle Kern introduced pickleball to his family and friends back in Iola, Kan., and really enjoys being able to share the sport with his family. Brenda Kern might not play pickleball herself, but she likes to watch her husband play. 

Ken Stewart,Jan's husband, is also involved in several events in this year's games, including tennis, track and field, swimming and basketball. For the Stewarts, the senior games are a fun event to meet new people and compete. 

"He just likes the competition," Jan Stewart said. "I have played for one year. I don't want to play competitively."

She may not like to compete in the games, but she does enjoy the travel.

A while back the couple were talking, and it came up that he had traveled to all 50 states, something Jan desired to do. Now, because of her husband's participation in the senior games, Jan Stewart can say she has.

Someplayers such as Wayne McGraw, Karen White and Dan Larsonsay they enjoy playing doubles pickleball because it makes it easier to meet new people and get to know them. 

Because the players have to move around the court more in singles pickleball, they said doubles pickleball is easier and less strenuous.

Linda VanSlyke and Linda DeJarnette from Kansas City have been playing pickleball for years and enjoy it.

“I love it,” VanSlyke said. “Linda’s all taped up, and she still keeps playing.”

DeJarnette has two knee braces, two elbow braces and a wrist brace, but no matter the injuries, she stays in the game.

"We do not stop playing because we are old," Larson said. "We grow old because we stop playing."

Greg Bowers is supervising editor.

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