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Veterans form connections through pickleball

By Maggy Wolanske,


(COLORADO SPRINGS) — Over the past several weeks, Life Time Fitness in Colorado Springs has opened its doors to a group of military veterans who are eager to learn the sport of pickleball, and it’s all made possible by the nonprofit organization Military Adaptive Courts Sport .

“The Military Adaptive Courts Sports is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that provides programing for pickleball, racquetball and badminton for veterans,” Pickleball Coach, Mick Tingstrom said. “And so they, in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, are providing this sport across the country and these programs across the country for our veterans and we are very fortunate to have Life Time Fitness, providing a world class facility for our veterans to come here and learn to play, have fun and build community.”
Out on the court at Life Time, players practice their pickleball skills.

Out on the court, players range in age and skill level, but all share the same appreciation for the little yellow pickleball.

“When I’m out here playing, I don’t think about sort of the rest of life… It’s just I’m out here with some people having a good time laughing, hitting a little yellow ball around it,” said Pickleball Player, Steven Hutchcraft.

Hutchcraft previously was not a fan of the sport but after losing mobility he decided to try it out.

“So when pickleball first came out, it was kind of the fad, I thought,” Hutchcraft said. “I watched it a couple of times and I thought, it’s all right, but not for me kind of thing. And so that was before my accident… as I’ve now got involved with pickleball, I totally love it.”
Hutchcraft with a big smile on his face, goes up to hit a ball.

For other players like Bruce Hutcheon, he shared how watching other players on the court inspires him.

“They’re very special because they’re here, they reached out, got off the couch, and there’s people here that play basketball, tennis, out of their wheelchairs,” said Hutcheon. “Nothing’s holding them back. They’re moving forward with their lives, doing the best they can.”

Players not only bond over the sport of pickleball but also are able to have conversations about their time serving our country.
Loud cheers could be heard from the bench.

“It just really motivates me and then getting together with us and having that camaraderie of living those stories, living our time in the military, sharing experiences really brings that extra piece to it rather than just, ‘hey, these are neighbors or people in the community,'” said Hutchcraft.

For coach Tingstrom, he is able to share this sport with his father who was also out on the court helping players learn the sport.

“You get to do a father-son thing when you’re in your fifties and when you’re in your eighties,” Tingstrom said. “So it is like me being a kid again and I feel like I’ve got a new start and a fresh start in living an active life.”
Coach Tingstrom helped coach other players out on the court on Wednesday.

With opportunities like this one to connect with each other, Hutcheon emphasized how it connects the veteran community with each other.

“22 veterans a day commit suicide,” Hutcheon said. “So, if we can do one small thing to get them engaged in community, whatever that is, whatever that looks like, then we might save a life.”

When asked if he will continue playing, Hutchcraft responded with no hesitation, “absolutely and we’ll see how things progress, but for many years to come for sure.”

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