They meet for coffee and to visit, but when niceties have been exchanged and the weather forecast reviewed, the men of the Goessel Pool Players club go upstairs and put on their game faces.
“It seems to me that men like competition, a challenge, maybe more than women do,” said Wilbert Schmidt. “We just play for the fun of it, but the competition keeps us going.”
The average age of the Goessel pool players may be reaching 90, but enthusiasm for the game, and the opportunity to get together, has not waned over the past 20 years.
“I’ve been playing since I retired from teaching in 1988,” Schmidt said. “I had to take a few months off to wrap up the sale of my home, but I am looking forward to going back soon.”
Schmidt and Henry Harold Wedel, unofficial leader of the group, said the social aspect of the game keeps them moving, and gives many in their group a reason to get up in the morning and go.
“There are some on our group who wouldn’t really have anything to do without our pool group,” Wedel said. “This gives us all a reason to get out and do something, to get moving and get started every day.”
The Goessel pool group used to meet at the AGAPE Senior Center before Chisholm Trail Country Church purchased the building last year. Now they set up their pool tables in the upper loft of Goessel Mennonite Church, where they meet almost every day for coffee, socialization, and pool.
“This place is working out pretty good,” Wedel said. “We like to gather by the kitchen for coffee and conversation, and then go upstairs to play.”
The stairs were a bit of a problem for some of the pool players, but Wedel said the church installed an additional railing, which made it easier for the men to get to their tables.
The group usually numbers seven or eight players, and while they get together every weekday morning at the church, from September through April they travel to league tournaments. They play pool in Moundridge, Hesston, Newton, Inman, Buhler, Hutchinson, Lindsborg, and McPherson.
“We just enjoy getting together,” Wedel said. “It’s fun to visit with the other teams at tournaments, and even though we don’t win much, it is still a very good time.”
The Goessel pool players might not have a reputation for being pool sharks, but they do lay claim to several trophies on display in their pool loft.
The team won sportsmanship awards in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and earned the honor of permanently housing what had been a traveling sportsmanship trophy. They also won in 2013 and have that trophy on display as well.
“We’re not out to play for blood,” Wedel said. “We just go out to enjoy ourselves, and I guess that shows.”
Schmidt said some players worked to develop their techniques, but for the most part, they just play pool.
“We just shoot straight and hope it goes where it is supposed to,” he said.