The Firley YMCA at 525 Ellis Blvd. in Jefferson City, MO, was host to an extraordinary pickleball event last Saturday.
The SOMO State Championship
The center held a series of games as part of the first-ever SOMO – The Special Olympics Missouri Pickleball State Championship.
The games consisted of regulation doubles (two-player teams, each of whom has intellectual disabilities) and unified teams (made up of one player with an intellectual disability and another without).
Teams winning two out of three games would then advance through the tournament, which featured about 80 contestants.
Robert Weigel from Fulton said “It was really fun” and that he would find a way to practice more if SOMO continued to add events like this. “If you have the motivation and devotion, you can do it,” he said.
Joe Davis, his unified partner, said that once someone starts playing pickleball, it’s difficult for them to stop!
Weigel wasn’t so keen on the idea of match-ups with fellow Fulton residents. “I don’t want to win against my own teammates,” he said.
“Adaptable To All Ability Levels”
Missouri is one of the few states offering pickleball, said SOMO director of sports competition and statewide training Luke Lamb.
“We’re really excited about (the popularity of pickleball). As you see when you drive by tennis courts, you have kids playing, you have people in their 70s or 80s playing, people who are super-athletic, people who are a little less athletic. So it’s really adaptable to all ability levels, which is what we like to see.”Luke Lamb, SOMO Director of Sports Competition and Statewide Training
While the two-player teams were competing, Fulton coach Ken Petterson introduced some beginners to the nuances of the game by gently lobbing balls for them to return.
The Jefferson City YMCA was the place to be Saturday as several athletes from around the Show-Me State came to compete in the inaugural State Pickleball Competition hosted by Special Olympics Missouri.— KRCG 13 (@KRCG13) July 17, 2023
Read more here! https://t.co/GVV6VE1yII pic.twitter.com/FOlCUz8QyM
Petterson, who also serves as a co-commissioner for Special Olympics pickleball in Missouri, mentioned that some local players have already reached an impressive skill level.
He says, “The idea is for people like this young lady that’s hitting the ball to develop her skills enough so she can play doubles or singles regulations.”
Petterson described it as a combination of social interaction and physical activity. He emphasized how the athletes develop friendships, and their training sessions provide an opportunity to meet and connect with each other once or twice a week.
Participants From All Over Missouri
“We saw with COVID. I had athletes calling me in tears, saying ‘Coach, when can we practice again?’ because they miss their friends,” he said.
Indicating one of the players he was teaching, he commented:
“Having this young lady get better, you can see her self-esteem growing in her eyes,” Petterson said. “Getting one shot is crucial. It’s making her feel good.”
Participants came all over from St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia, Fulton, and Cape Girardeau. The 80 players were made up of 60 athletes and 25 unified partners.
“We expect the sport to grow pretty quickly. We’re using this event to learn what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “And make it better going forward. I would say within a year or two, it’s maybe going to double in size.”
According to him, once that occurs, the sport will likely be included as part of a larger multi-day event that offers various sports.
We also featured this great article about the pickleball scene in Missouri back in October 2022.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?