- The Coshocton Pickleball Club was founded in 2017 and has about 50 members. They play from 8-11 a.m. weekdays at Kids America with some afternoon slots.
- The club hosts tournaments and special events with a 24-hour pickleball marathon benefiting the club held from noon Jan. 7 to noon Jan. 8 at Kids America.
- Pickleball is a combination of tennis and table tennis with players hitting a perforated ball over a 36 inch high net.
- Along with having fun in sports, the players said they enjoy the club’s family atmosphere and expanding their social circle to new friends with a common interest.
COSHOCTON − If the members of the Coshocton Pickleball Club have one thing in common it is their enthusiasm for the sport and their desire to see it grow.
Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. It is often described as a combination of table tennis and tennis. Games can be played on outdoor or indoor courts with players hitting a perforated hollow polymer ball over a 36-inch-high net using hard-faced paddles. Opponents hit the ball over the net until one misses, hits out of bounds, or commits another rule violation.
The Coshocton Pickleball Club has about 50 members, but Cathie Akins says they have more than just members who play. It was founded in 2017. They originally used a tennis net, but have since added official equipment. They play from 8-11am Monday through Friday at Kids America with some afternoon slots.
Akins said they usually have seven to eight pitches working at once with four on the field. In addition to the indoor courts at Kids America, there are three outdoor courts at Hall Park and at the city’s recreation field behind Kids America.
“It’s such a community now. I’ve made so many new friends,” Akins said.
Traci Smilo has been playing for about a year and a half. While she played other sports, but pickleball was new to her. Beyond the exercise and competitiveness it provides, she really sees how it brings people together as Akins said.
“You have that diversity between old and young. You have kids coming in, middle-aged people and seniors. It brings everyone together and that’s what the community needs,” Smilo said. “It’s like a family and everyone is there for each other.”
Smilo first heard about pickleball from Daphne France, who is the president of the club. She said there is strong appeal for those in her age group who may be retired or approaching retirement and want a healthy exit. She and some others are planning a trip next September to play pickleball in Spain.
Charlene Ianniello has only been playing for a few months. A close friend introduced her to it. She had heard the term, but before that she knew nothing about the sour ball.
“I’ve met a lot of nice people here. I was very intimidated at first when I came, but once you get here, everyone feels so welcome,” Ianniello said.
Rob Veitch, Fred Williams and Rachael McCreery are the pickleball directors at Kids America. Veitch said the number of people playing has just exploded in the last two years. They have players coming to tournaments from big cities like Columbus and Cleveland who say they don’t have facilities as nice as Kids America in their area.
Those visitors spend money while in Coshocton and that provides an economic boost. McCreery said their regulars usually go out to eat after playing and help the businesses in their own way.
“The unique thing about pickleball is you don’t necessarily have to be a born athlete to be good at it. You can play within your limitations,” McCreery said. “Something we’ve heard over and over again from people here is that it saved them from depression and gave them a social circle they never had.”
Linda Ashcraft recently turned 80 and is one of the older members of the club. She took a walking and exercise class for seniors at Kids America. Sometimes she would watch pickles and think it was fun. Plus, Ashcraft’s husband died about a year ago and she wanted to stay active.
“I tried it and I liked it,” Ashcraft said. “It gets me out of the house and keeps my mind occupied. It’s been a blessing.”
Learn more about the Coshocton Pickleball Club, including upcoming tournaments and introductory seminars, on its Facebook page or call Cathie Akins at 740-202-3002.
The club will have a 24-hour pickleball tournament from noon Jan. 7 to noon Jan. 8 at Kids America. Proceeds will go toward pileball instruction and supplies. The Coshocton Open takes place March 3-5.
Leonard Hayhurst is the community content coordinator and general reporter for the Coshocton Tribune with more than 15 years of local journalism experience and multiple awards from the Ohio Associated Press. He can be reached at 740-295-3417 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @llhayhurst.