Land of the Sky Tournament information can be found by clicking on the button above.

Newcomers to the site should note the pickleball book "chapters" in the left column and the repository of expert articles and videos in the right column.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

SE Regional Ambassador Retreat - Beginner Clinics (Part 1)

The mountains are calling and I must go...

As I mentioned yesterday, a group of 41 USAPA ambassadors plus guests recently held a 3+ day retreat at the Beech Mountain Club. The retreat consisted of various learning sessions, of which one was beginner clinics. Dick Osman gave the presentation based on his experiences with clinics in the Charlotte area. Dick and his wife Desire are ambassadors and area team liaisons in Charlotte. Dick's handout is shown below and my discussion follows.


  • Every clinic is different: number of students/teachers, ages, time available, facilities, etc.
  • Understand your students: athletic ability, experience with paddle/racquet sports
    • Adjust content, teaching style,, expected outcomes
  • Safety and movement - necessary, but emphasis will differ.
  • May need to separate the "Sheep" from the "Goats"
  • Throw the ball to those with less skill
  • "Talking is Not Teaching" (Jay Readinger)
    • Different learning styles: hearing, seeing, doing - do all
    • People come to a PB clinic to be active - less talking, more doing
    • Get a paddle in their hand early
  • Focus on PLAYING THE GAME, not skill development
  • Elements of the game out of context are not absorbed
  • Teach elements of the game Step-by-Step: explain, demo, do
  • Demo games are a waste of time
  • Use "Chess Pieces" to teach scoring and positions
  • Liability Waiver?


Safety - this topic cannot be emphasized enough, especially when dealing with older students. Simply put - when older folks fall, they break. Three areas should be discussed:

  • Court awareness - know where other players are in your immediate vicinity and do not run into them or swing the paddle so that it hits them.
  • Footwork - do not backpedal; if you must move toward the back of the court to hit a ball - especially a lob, use a drop step to turn and run. A drill practicing the drop step is worth the time.
  • Balance - hit balls only within your comfort zone; do not stretch to the point where balance is lost.
Sheep and Goats - Beginning players are not equal. Some are naturally more athletic. Others may have experience with other racquet sports. The point is that all players will learn at a different pace. Structuring the clinic to the lesser players will result in bored players with more ability. Separate the groups into different sessions with 2 instructors if possible.

Ball Toss - Practicing shots with inexperienced players can be frustrating for both the players and the instructor. First tossing the ball between players can give them a feel for the effort required to hit a shot as well as learn the appropriate arc to clear the net. Then having one player toss the ball to a second player to hit the ball is a good intermediate step before hitting it back and forth.

Context - A beginner clinic is not the best time to introduce strategic concepts. For example, the dink should be taught but the strategy behind it should be saved for follow-up lessons.

Chess Pieces - Keeping score and serve rotation is the single most difficult concept for beginners to grasp. Words alone will not work. Playing an instructed game does work, but the low skill level of beginning players might make it difficult to move through the possible outcomes (point, fault, side-out, etc.) on a timely basis. Instead, use 4 players as chess pieces by placing them in appropriate positions and work through scenarios while explaining the players starting positions and the score.

Liability Waiver - Use one. Remember this - Someone can sue anyone for anything. A sample release form can be found on the USAPA website in the last section of the Guidelines for Teaching Pickleball. It requires an USAPA member password to gain access. Any liability waiver form should conform to the facility's liability policy. Be sure to cover this with facility management.

Many facilities provide insurance against liability. But not all do. Ambassadors have limited insurance through the USAPA. More information can be found on the USAPA Ambassador "About Ambassadors" page. An ambassador password is again required.

No comments:

Post a Comment