State Games Offer
Opportunities for All

The Meijer State Games of Michigan is one of the larger state games in the country, with more than 30 sports offered on the summer program. The state will add a winter games in 2014 for the first time. Photo courtesy of Diane Durand
The Meijer State Games of Michigan is one of the larger state games in the country, with more than 30 sports offered on the summer program. The state will add a winter games in 2014 for the first time. Photo courtesy of Diane Durand

By John Conroy

Pickleball may not be the first sport that springs to mind when you think of an Olympic-style event. Played on a badminton court with a perforated plastic ball, round wooden paddles and a low net, pickleball has nevertheless joined basketball, figure skating and track on the annual lists of sporting events that several states are offering as part of their state games experience.

In fact, the increasingly popular sport suits the evolving ethos of the state games movement, which began in New York in the late 1970s, said Kevin Cummings, executive director of the Bay State Games in Massachusetts and vice-president of the National Congress of State Games board of directors. “When the state games started about 30 years ago, there was the mentality, ‘We’re going to start with basketball, soccer or the large-participation sports and then build smaller sports around it,’” he said. “That shifted somewhat because you can find 30 or 40 different basketball tournaments every weekend, you can find multiple soccer opportunities every weekend. What we’re finding is that sports that don’t have as many competition opportunities are those that thrive in state games.”

Member states from Alabama to Wisconsin find that statement to be true. Backed increasingly by convention and visitors bureaus and sports commissions, the 34 states that make up the NCSG sponsor a variety of contests throughout the year that award gold, silver and bronze medals to the winners. The typical mainstream sports, as well as events as varied as skydiving, darts and mountain biking, draw participants, visitors and dollars to the host communities.

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