Grove City residents become real ‘hotshots’

By Sarah Huffman

Staff Writer

Photos courtesy of Jeff McKnight
Jeff McKnight (left) and his dad, Paul are co-owners of the Columbus Hotshots, the area’s first professional pickleball team.
Jeff McKnight plays pickleball professionally after spending much time at the courts at Windsor Park in Grove City.
The Columbus Hotshots are ready for competition in the National Pickleball League.

Long-time Grove City residents take ownership of Columbus Ohio’s first professional pickleball team within the National Pickleball League (NPL) and will begin competing in May.

Paul and Jeff McKnight are breaking ground by being the first father and son co-owners within the NPL by leading the Columbus Hotshots, one of six new expansion teams for the 2024 season. The NPL is a league uniquely for champions age professionals, 50 years and older.

Jeff McKnight spent a lot of time at the pickleball courts at Windsor Park in Grove City. He and friends would gather to play and became hooked on the game. As months passed, he grew in skill and sought new opportunities to compete in tournaments.

He eventually learned of the National Pickleball League. McKnight was visited at one of the tournaments by his father, Paul McKnight, who had also begun playing recreationally. Though this is new territory, the pair have a history of investigating potential family business opportunities, and began dreaming of making something more of their newfound love of pickleball.

Last year was the first year of the league and the McKnights knew it was looking to expand. They were ultimately awarded the opportunity for ownership of the Columbus Hotshots to enter the league in the coming 2024 season.  Jeff is additionally playing on the team and will serve as general manager, something he described as a “lifelong dream.”

“I hope to show people it’s a life-changing sport with many social and health benefits at really any age in life,” said McKnight.

The team hopes to gain momentum throughout their first season as a respectable ambassador of the sport, particularly by Columbus itself.

“We’d love to be another team in the Columbus sports landscape that produces winners and earns community support,” said McKnight.

The Columbus Hotshots are composed of 14 team members who will exclusively compete in doubles. Seven men and seven women make up the roster.

NPL teams are filled with the top competing champions age professional players from all across the nation, many of which make a living from their participation. The season’s tournaments will run from May through October in various cities, giving a variety of crowds the opportunity to attend.

June 21-23, the NPL comes to Columbus to compete at a new indoor facility, Paddle Taps, in Worthington. Community members are encouraged to attend and support the Hotshots live.

Follow the Columbus Hotshots on Instagram @columbushotshots or visit their website at columbushotshots.com to get updates on their season. All matches are live streamed on YouTube.

More information on the NPL can be found on nplpickleball.com.

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