Enthusiasts bring popular new sport to Southwest Nebraska

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Anyone who thinks there’s nothing to do in a small town has probably never lived in one.

Small-town folk know how to make their own fun.

At the slightest hint that you’d be willing to volunteer for a community activity, you’re likely to find yourself busy every night of the week.

The traditional church and school family activities demand plenty of time, of course, but singles and empty-nesters can, with a minimum of effort, fill their time with worthwhile projects.

A good example was the ribbon cutting Wednesday at new pickleball courts in Russell Park.

If you haven’t heard of pickleball, or Russell Park for that matter, here’s the story.

Pickleball was invented by three dads in 1965, who needed something to keep their bored children busy over the summer.

They combined tennis, ping-pong and badminton, played on a very small tennis court, using solid paddles and a Whiffle ball to create what is today one of America’s fastest-growing sports.

A couple of courts were set up at the McCook YMCA, but the sport proved to be so popular that it outgrew the Y. Undeterred, a few local enthusiasts got permission from city officials, obtained a grant through the McCook Rotary, and expanded pickleball activities to Russell Park, a quiet neighborhood park on the same block as McCook’s east water tower.

At Wednesday’s ribbon cutting, they demonstrated setting up the portable nets, which can be checked out from the YMCA, and held a tournament.

The sport is popular with all ages, including Baby Boomers with bum knees and bad hips.

Congratulations to everyone involved in bringing this new sport to Southwest Nebraska.

Pickleball is only one of a number of activities finding popularity with area residents. The YMCA is a beehive of activity for all ages, Heritage Hills and other area golf courses are busy whenever the weather is even slightly accommodating, and groups like the Republican River Fitness Series are drawing hundreds or participants to running, swimming and cycling races and fun runs.

Combine those new activities with traditional hunting, fishing and water sports, and there’s no reason to complain about nothing to do.

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