JOPLIN, Mo. — It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the country, as well as here in the Four States.

When it comes to Pickleball, Pat Lipira was way ahead of the curve when it comes to the rest of the Four States.

“Well over 20 years ago, I taught it in the Kinesiology Department. Before anyone knew it existed here, they played it on the East and West Coast but over 20 years ago I taught this game to physical education majors but nobody played it here, but it’s just been recently in recent years that it’s exploded here,” said Pat Lipira, Pickleball Enthusiast.

Case in point is the second annual MSSU Pork and Pickleball Tournament, with proceeds going to the Lion Co-op and the Region Ten Area Agency on Aging.

“So it’s a really cool mission. All these players have either donated food items to the Pantry or their registration fee went to the Meals on Wheels program from Area Agency on Agency so we’re kind of excited. We’re still doing to recreational fun but we’re still serving our community,” said Steven Benfield, MSSU Director of Recreational Services.

The game was invented in 1965 in the state of Washington, but the exact reason for the name isn’t known for sure, theories include the founding family’s dog’s name was Pickles. Or, if played correctly, the game can put you in a pickle.

It’s a cross between Ping Pong and Tennis but takes up less room than a tennis court, so there’s less running involved.

Once you learn the game, Lipira says you can play the sport for almost a lifetime.

So how popular has this sport become? Well, many of the tennis courts around the Joplin area have been converted to Pickleball courts.

“And truthfully, we’re having this tournament at Missouri Southern hoping that maybe this will wind up being one of the facilities that the community will enjoy coming out and playing pickleball. Right now, as you know, they play at the Y, and Carl Junction, and Millennium, and we’d like Missouri Southern to be a Pickleball hotspot,” said Lipira.