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CIU joins with Special Olympics to celebrate pickleball

Eyes on the pickleball! Dr. James Whitaker teams up with Special Olympics to learn pickleball. (Photo by Kierston Smith)

April 28, 2023

By Bob Holmes

“Thanks to Special Olympics in South Carolina. You rock!” Shouted a Special Olympics athlete after learning a new sport in CIU’s Moore Fitness Center — pickleball.

To celebrate National Pickleball Month in April, CIU hosted the pickleball clinic for Special Olympic athletes. Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in America, described as a combination of tennis and ping pong, using small paddles and a Whiffle ball, and played on what is similar to a miniature tennis court.

A dozen Special Olympic athletes joined with CIU student volunteers who coached the athletes on the sport.

“We’re trying to find ways that our students in the Sport Management major can get involved with Special Olympics because what they do is so awesome,” said Sport Management Program Director Dr. James Whitaker. “It brings so much joy to everybody.”

Sport Management major Lauren Baker, a senior, was among the CIU students who assisted.

“I actually enjoyed it too,” Baker told ABC Columbia News. “I learned a lot of the rules. So, it’s definitely something I want to do moving forward.”

Providing much of the instruction was the nonprofit Adaptive Pickleball from Greenville, South Carolina. Founder Sandy Halkett says the goal is to travel South Carolina introducing Pickleball to Special Olympic athletes.

“We’re going to grow this into a Special Olympic sport and take it as far as they will let us take it,” Halkett said.  

See more about the event in this report from ABC Columbia Reporter Alex Tejada.  

What can you do with a Sport Management degree from CIU? Check it out.

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