She stands out on the pitch for Chambersburg. But soccer might not be her best sport.

Dylan Jacobs
Chambersburg Public Opinion

Go to a Chambersburg girls' soccer game this season and it's likely you'll never seen Ava Kalist come off the field.

She's a cornerstone of the Trojans team at the centerback position and a senior leader of the team.

But soccer might not even be her best sport.

When she’s not in school or on the soccer field, she's on the pickleball court. And she’s not just there to chill out. She’s there to dominate.

Pickleball is a game that combines aspects of tennis, badminton and ping pong, and can be played inside or outside on a smaller, badminton-sized court.

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Kalist is already making a name for herself in competitive pickleball, as she finds herself ranked in the top 20 for women in the Mid-Atlantic region. She even has a sponsorship with an equipment company called Selkirk.

Her journey has been a family affair, with her grandparents and parents all playing competitively as well.

Ava Kalist is not only a star for Chambersburg soccer, but she is one of the top young pickleball players in the region.

"[My parents] started playing at the Chambersburg Country Club, and I would always go watch them play because I was too young to stay home,” Kalist said. “So I would just watch them play, and then one day I was like, ‘I want to try this.'”

She tried it, and so far it’s been a good decision. But it’s paying off because of the work she puts in.

“I practice every day, every single day, and I just told myself, ‘Just don't give up,'” Kalist said.

She goes to play pickleball before or after soccer practice, depending on when it is. It’s a busy schedule, but it’s worth it.

Ava Kalist is not only a star for Chambersburg soccer, but she is one of the top young pickleball players in the region.

"It's a lot,” Kalist said. “I think this year is when I really started to tell myself that I really want to play pickleball in the future. So this year, I go to school, I play pickleball and then I come to soccer practice, or I'll play pickleball after soccer practice so it's really busy.”

She’s been busy at the tournament circuit as well, competing at events in Philadelphia and Winchester, Virginia, last month, picking up gold medals in mixed doubles and singles, respectively. 

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But now she’s back in Chambersburg, balancing her schedule with pickleball and soccer, which is now in full swing.

Playing each sport takes up a lot of her time, but they each make her better at the other.

“For soccer, it's a lot of footwork,” Kalist said. “So on the pickleball court, it obviously helps me getting back and forth and just keeps me fit. Like both sports keep me fit for each other.”

Ava Kalist is not only a star for Chambersburg soccer, but she is one of the top young pickleball players in the region.

Even though she may be running from pickleball when she gets to soccer practice, Trojans' head coach Ed Franchi doesn’t see any ill effects.

"Absolutely no drop off when she comes here. Because quite honestly, she's actually been playing fabulous,” Franchi said. “She's one of my center backs, and I literally don't take her out of the game ever.”

This balance is something that Franchi actually encourages.

"You have some coaches out there that basically say, ‘I'm a soccer coach. I expect you to live and breathe soccer year round, do it all the time. Don't do anything else.’ I'm not one of those coaches,” Franchi said. “I like getting more of a well-rounded person. Try different things, play different sports.”

It’s safe to say that Kalist has a preference.

“If I compare soccer and pickleball, soccer is more of a team sport and pickleball has more individual parts to it. Although you're working in a team like mixed doubles,” Kalist said. “I find a little bit more joy in winning a pickleball match because it felt like I truly played well.”

Pickleball will be her main focus going forward as she hopes to continue playing at a professional level.

But according to Franchi, she still shows up with the right attitude every day.

"She's one that leads by example,” Franchi said. “Because, again, she is always there. She always has a smile on her face, always has a great attitude and always gives me 110%. She never ends up complaining.”

Ava Kalist is not only a star for Chambersburg soccer, but she is one of the top young pickleball players in the region.

What she’s able to do, compete at a high level in two sports and show up with a great attitude, just shows what kind of person she is according to Franchi.

"As great of a soccer player she is and as great of a pickleball player she is, she's an even better person,” Franchi said. “Just a great kid.”

And Kalist has a message for anybody who thinks pickleball is just an old person game.

“Pickleball is harder than it seems,” Kalist said. “There's a lot of stereotypes of pickleball like, oh, it’s for older people. No … it’s for any age.”