Conway hosts Arkansas’ largest Senior Olympics in 40 years

By Lori Dunn

Scott Bryden of Conway was visiting Missouri on a business trip several years ago when he noticed a group of guys in a gym playing a game he didn’t recognize.

“I looked down and saw these guys whacking a ball across a net,” he said. The ball resembled a wiffle ball.

“I said, ‘What in the world?'”

This past November, 257 competed in pickleball at the Senior Olympics. 215 of them qualified for the National Senior Games pickleball tournament.

The sport is called pickleball, and now Bryden is quite good at it and loves to introduce it to others.

“I’ve been doing it ever since,” Bryden said.

This past November, Bryden was one of 257 Arkansans who competed in pickleball in Conway at the largest Senior Olympics held in Arkansas since 1983. Because of that event, he is one of 215 Arkansans who qualify for the National Senior Games pickleball tournament, scheduled for May 10 to 17 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Pickleball is a combination of badminton, wiffle ball and tennis. The balls are hard plastic with holes, similar to a wiffle ball.

Bryden qualified for the men’s doubles for the National Senior Games. He is an alternate for mixed doubles and is on the wait list for singles. “I play both singles and doubles. Typically, there is a lot more running for singles,” he said. His pickleball partner is Brad Boyle from Morrilton.

Greg Eberts, executive director of the Arkansas Senior Olympics, said pickleball is an activity that offers senior adults exercise while also allowing them to socialize.

Bryden agrees.

 “Players are very happy to teach new players the game and get people involved. I’ve seen three generations playing together. It’s a great way to have some family fun,” Bryden said.