A healthy contingent of players traveled to play in the Winona Lake tournament last weekend.
The event incorporated a round-robin play format, as outlined in a Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce news release. In response to the unforeseen level of interest, organizers had to extend the number of courts from the originally intended six to eight.
Having The Tournament On An Annual Basis
Expanding on the theme of the player turnout, Tournament Director Dave Thieme said, “We have quite a few from Goshen, Elkhart [about 35 miles away], that area, but the farthest one that I know of is Indianapolis [nearly 130 miles away].”
Additional tournaments are emerging across the state, including established events like the South Whitley Fall Festival and the Marshall County Blueberry Festival. According to Thieme, there is “no doubt” that pickleball has the potential to become an American pastime.
The current objective is to establish the pickleball tournament as an annual event. Given the participation of 173 players in this year’s game, Thieme expressed that there is no apparent reason not to proceed with it in the future.
“I thought that would be a really good turnout with the short notice. We’re far exceeding what we thought we could do.” Thieme said.
He added his goal for the tournament had been to see only between 75 and 100 people register.
Warsaw’s Combined Community Services
All proceeds from the tournament went to Warsaw’s Combined Community Services (CCS).
CCS Executive Director Randy Polston recognized the community’s support: “Together, we have been able to make a significant impact on the lives of so many individuals in Kosciusko County.
“It is inspiring to see the kindness and generosity of CCS’s village, and I know that without it, we would face many challenges in meeting the ongoing needs of those we serve.
“Thank you for being a part of our mission and continuing to make a difference with us.”
Silveus Insurance Group was the title sponsor, supported by major contributions from Mud Love, Scott D. Thieme Financial Adviser Edward Jones, and Focus UP Pickleball.
Sherman and Lins, SYM Financial Advisors, Lester Pierce, Ryan Motors, Arby’s, Cloud9, Oak & Alley, Rabb Water, Pickleball Rocks, Jeff Owens ReMax Results, and Pedals and Paddles also made generous donations.
A Significant Surge
Rob Parker, President and CEO of Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce, was enthusiastic about how great the courts had been for the community: “The new pickleball courts in Winona Lake are a testament to community excellence, providing enthusiasts with a state-of-the-art facility to enjoy their passion.
“The upcoming tournament promises to be an incredible showcase of skill, camaraderie, and competition as players gather to compete in this rapidly growing sport against the backdrop of beautiful Winona Lake.
Thieme was also quick to praise the help they’d received: “The support we’ve received from the business community and volunteers has been incredible.”
As Ink Free News reported, pickleball made its official debut in the Warsaw area in 2010, as per Kayla Metzger, who first encountered the game with her late husband, Mike Metzger, during a trip to Florida.
The Metzgers initiated the local pickleball sessions at Lucerne Park Senior Center with a small group known as the Pickleball Phanatics.
They had to transition to progressively larger venues as their player base expanded. And since 2022, their games have been held at Gordon Recreational Center at Grace College.
The Phanatics also engage in matches at local parks, reflecting the growing demand for playing space. Presently, there are four pickleball courts at Kelly Park, inaugurated five years ago, and another four at Winona Lake Park, which opened just this year.
According to David Thieme, an average of 60 players utilize a court on any given day.
David attributes the widespread recognition of pickleball to both word-of-mouth referrals and the influence of social media.
He also acknowledges the COVID-19 pandemic for significantly contributing to the game’s surge in popularity: “I think COVID brought out some of that. It helped because you couldn’t do anything else, and people were so confined, and so people were allowed to at least do that in most communities.”
Thieme emphasized that while physical exercise is a notable advantage of engaging in the sport, a less often discussed but equally significant aspect is the friendships forged through play: “It’s probably people you would’ve never met in your life.
Players Range From 8 To 80
In terms of the demographic participating, members of the Pickleball Phanatics noted that players range in age from 8 to 80 years old; as Thieme explains: “Early on, it was older people. But I think that’s one of the things why it’s grown so much: it appeals to multiple generations.
“I’ve been on a court before with a grandpa, his son, and granddaughters. That’s one of the things; it’s kind of bringing people together.”
Winona Lake is a town in Wayne Township, Kosciusko County, Indiana, and the major suburb of Warsaw. The population was 4,908 according to the 2010 census.
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