The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Local pickleball club consistently hits the courts, welcomes all  

Josh Norman, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Eastern Illinois University plays pickle-ball at Lantz Arena Tennis courts Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 19. (Tyriq Johnson)

Few sports have grown as quickly and predominately as pickleball. Invented in 1965, it has only gained national popularity in the last few years.  

So much so, that even Eastern Illinois University and Charleston have a joint club that meets throughout the week at Sister City Park to play the fastest-growing sport in America. The club was first started by Kinesiology Professor, Hasan Mavi and Vice President for Enrollment Management, Josh Norman. 

According to Norman, the pickleball club has been around for nearly a year, and he enjoys that people of all ages can join.  

“It’s just the inclusivity of pickleball and that whether you’re seven or 70 you can participate in the game and so it really just brings people together,” Norman said.  

This year, Eastern hosted a “PantherPalooza” to reach out to students with potential programs, organizations, and clubs. The pickleball club was among these groups having their own table and a signup sheet for those interested.  

Norman said the event showed a reinforced interest in the game.  

“This year was the first year that we really went to PantherPalooza and took sign-ups and so when we had 70 students sign up for the club, we knew we’re going to need more space,” Norman said.  

The club is now working to bring the sport to campus in the form of new courts being built over tennis courts near the student recreation center, but there is one main concern about putting in new pickleball courts, according to Norman.  

“One of the biggest flashpoints for pickleball as it’s spreading across the nation is just noise because the ball hitting the paddle makes a very distinct sound,” Norman said. “So, you know, part of the process is just making sure that for residents especially those in SPN [Stevenson and Powell Norton], that it isn’t excessive noise.”  

Vice President for Student Affairs Anne Flaherty plays a match of pickleball along with other EIU faculty at the outside Lantz Arena tennis courts Tuesday evening. (Ashanti Thomas)

Vice President of Student Affairs Anne Flaherty is also an avid member of the club and said they hope to have the courts put in before the end of the school year.  

She also said that she started a smaller group of new players that would meet on Monday nights to get to know the fundamentals of pickleball.   

“So, it’s fun to see the newbies get better and start playing with the more advanced players,” Flaherty said. “It’s been a great opportunity to see the community members play with students and just bridge the gap.”  

Junior business major Katelind Winterland said the club was more than inviting when she first started.  

“I was playing at the YMCA in Mattoon in like a volleyball tournament and they were there, so I just jumped in,” Winterland said. “Then they added me to the group chat, and I started coming.” 

Senior television and video production major Jessica Nantes said she has also recently joined the club and has enjoyed getting more active.  

“I’ve met new people and I’ve gotten to actually exercise in a way that’s fun,” Nantes said. “I have really enjoyed playing with people I’ve played with, but also just getting to like move my body in a way that’s not just running on a track like I get to actually do something with a purpose behind it.”  

According to Josh Norman, he thinks pickleball is a great way for students to connect with each other as well as faculty, staff and others in the community.  

“I love the way that the sport is growing especially on our campus because anything that creates a sense of belonging for our students is good for retention and persistence, but also good just for their experience overall,” Norman said. 


Drew Coffey can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].  


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About the Contributors
Drew Coffey
Drew Coffey, Reporter, Columnist
Drew is a senior television and video production major. He previously served as a reporter for The News.
Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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