The Missouri State Senior Games will start on Thursday. There are over 20 events, including basketball, cycling and pickleball

COLUMBIA - The Missouri State Senior Games will take place this weekend, starting Thursday.

In order to participate, athletes must be at least 50 years old. 

Dave Fox, Show-Me State Games Executive Director, said the event has given participants something to look forward to. 

"These folks have been training, and for the first time in over a year, this gives them a place to go showcase their talents," Fox said.

"There's no doubt it's a competition, but it's also a social event," Fox said. "It's an opportunity for our seniors to social reconnect with some old friends and meet new friends."

Fox said people come from all the country over to compete.

"We have over 20 states represented this weekend," Fox said. "We've got somebody from Alaska that's coming in to participate this week."

Fox said the Senior Games have more than 20 different sporting activities. Options include basketball, cycling, archery and pickleball.

Jim Berger, Missouri Show-Me and Senior State games commissioner of pickleball, said the pickleball tournament started in 2009.

"This is now the oldest organized pickleball tournament in the state of Missouri. It actually started here what at the Show-Me Games with under 40 players," Berger said.

Berger said the event has only grown and expects it to continue. 

"This year, we're gonna have probably about 350 from more than a dozen states," Berger said. "This could easily attract 500 or 600 players in the next three to five years for pickleball alone."

Fox said while participants compete to win, but there's also another incentive.

"The Missouri State Senior Games is apart of the National Senior Games Association, so our event is a qualifying event," Fox said. "So if you medal for any of our events, you qualify for a national event."

Fox said the next national event will be in 2022 in Fort Lauderdale.

One local athlete, Diane Rubenstein, expressed her feelings of the Senior Games returning after being delayed due to COVID-19.

"It's really terrific to be able to play, and a lot of us were able to play pickleball during COVID, its kind of a COVID friendly sport," Rubenstein said.

Even though not a lot of people travel to play in pickleball tournaments, Rubenstein expressed how nice it is to meet players from different parts of Missouri.

"It's especially nice to connect again with the Kansas City and St. Louis people who've come in for the Show Me Games," Rubenstein added.

Another competitor in the pickleball event, Rich Geenen, expressed how pickleball helped him during the pandemic.

"It's been wonderful, I played a lot of tournaments over the past 12 years, I stopped playing tournaments recently because of injuries and so on, but COVID was driving me nuts quite frankly being trapped indoors. I'd still get out and play pickleball outdoors whenever I could, but the tournaments bring a competitive aspect".

For more information on this year's games, visit the Missouri State Senior Games website.

This weekend's Senior Games

Sport Site Date and Time 
Pickleball - SMSGCosmo Bethel ParkJune 12 - 13, 8:00 a.m.
Soccer - SMSGCosmo ParkJune 12 - 13 7:30 a.m.
Volleyball - SMSGColumbia Sports FieldhouseJune 12, 8:00 a.m.
Volleyball - SMSG Columbia Sports FieldhouseJune 13, 8:00 a.m.