As pickleball gains popularity and more and more youngsters take to court to play the sport, it’s important to get the right amount of quality coaches teaching the game to beginners. Below is a lowdown on effective ways to coach pickleball to kids – and other beginners – and what can be done to make them good at this game.
With pickleball gaining more and more in popularity, it’s no surprise that there’s a burgeoning interest in the sport over the last few years.
From the perspective of growing the sport, it’s crucial for pickleball to not just remain a sport for the seniors but have a lot of kids and young beginners take to it as well.
As a coach or parents or grandparents, therefore, it’s important to explain the importance of creating a positive and enjoyable learning experience for those starting out. How can those in the know ensure that?
We have a few tips and pointers, a basic checklist of sorts, which could help you teach pickleball to kids and young beginners.
Table of Content
Teaching the Basics
The starting point of teaching any sport is to start with the basics and the rules. It’s no different with pickleball.
Some of these would probably be picked up by watching pickleball itself but it’s also important for coaches to teach the fundamental rules and objectives of pickleball to these youngsters.
Some of these rules would be easy to explain if the player has watched pickleball before or even if he or she has watched other such racket sports but there are other rules which are specific to this sport.
Like, it’s important to talk about the importance of kitchen or no-volley zone in pickleball. Or even speak the pickleball language which includes terms associated with the sport that will then become a part of the kids’ lexicon with time.
Scoring in pickleball is another aspect of the sport that a kid needs to know.
From there it’s also imperative that the young beginner is made aware of the equipment associated with pickleball.
The most important piece of equipment in any racket sport is, obviously, the racket itself – or paddle as it’s called in pickleball – and that is often the starting point of the equipment discussion.
Beginner pickleball paddles are typically different from the ones used by those who have been playing pickleball for a while and it becomes an important exercise for the coaches to help the kids understand which equipment works the best for them.
The other aspect to be taught is the maintenance of these pickleball paddles, which is an important habit one should inculcate from the very beginning.
From there on, it’s also vital to understand the court layout and its dimensions.
This will allow beginners to understand the space in which they are expected to strategize and play and while over time it would become a part of their muscle memory, it’s a good starting point for any kid to understand this at the very beginning.
Creating a Positive Learning Environment
We all want to win in any sport we are competing. Sure, one gets that.
At the same time, however, it’s important to emphasize the importance of fostering a supportive and an inclusive atmosphere while playing pickleball or any sport.
Sport is also about having fun and at those early stages, it’s important not to forget that and this could stem from the coach itself.
Some of the other aspects around this include the following:
- Setting clear expectations around behavior, sportsmanship and fair play
- Encouraging open communication to allow players to express their thoughts or ask questions or queries without any backlash
- Setting an atmosphere of learning and providing constructive feedback even while celebrating player achievements
- Adapting to individual needs with the knowledge that different players could have different styles, abilities and even what they expect from playing the sport
- Leading by example the virtues of sportsmanship, respect, enthusiasm for the game along with patience, empathy, and a genuine passion for helping others learn and grow in pickleball
- Implementing a safe environment by ensuring the courts and equipment are properly maintained
- Encouraging peer support, collective growth and the need to help each other
Teaching Techniques and Drills
Moving on to the sport itself, it’s important for those learning pickleball at a very young age to understand the various technical aspects of the game. And to then use them while playing the sport.
The way to do that is break down pickleball into its various technical aspects. For starters, what are the different shots that can be played – serve, forehand, backhand, and volley.
Each of these shots need to be taught separately with their own step by step instruction guide and fun drills to ensure they become easy to understand and inculcate.
It’s also important to ensure the right technique is used from a very early age to play this shots or lest it runs the risk of a wrong method becoming a part of muscle memory, causing technical or injury issues at a later stage.
The coach could also provide a variety of fun and engaging pickleball drills to reinforce these skills and improve coordination.
Once this is done, a coach could also talk about some of the best pickleball strategies a beginner could use to improve his/her game.
Adjusting for Beginners and Kids
It’s one thing to coach adults or those who have already had their time on a pickleball court and are looking to pick up the more nuanced skills. Teaching pickleball to beginners and kids requires a different skill-set which needs the coach to address the specific challenges they may face.
Depending on the skill levels and age group of those learning pickleball, a coach would need to offer modifications and adaptations to ensure the learnings are absorbed quickly and used for practice.
It’s also important to strategize in a bid to keep the sessions engaging and age-appropriate.
For instance, different people could have a different way to grip the pickleball paddle. It’s important it’s not a case of one-formula-fits-all while starting out coaching a kid or a young beginner.
Incorporating Game Play
Once the pickleball basics have been taught, the beginners have gone through their drills and reached a stage where they are comfortable playing it and a solid foundation has been developed, it’s important to introduce the role of game play in the sport.
This would include various tactics that are associated with pickleball during match situations.
For instance, how does one block power shots in pickleball?
What is poaching and the pros and cons associated with it.
And so on.
Coaches can start off with less complex drills to incorporate these tactics and with time, increase the level of difficulty.
The coach can also offer tips for organizing friendly matches and mini-tournaments as a way to sharpen the young beginner’s game-play, in turn helping one realize which are the areas the individual needs to work on.
Inculcating Safety in Pickleball
While pickleball isn’t quite a dangerous sport, it’s important for a coach to highlight the importance of safety precautions during pickleball sessions. Some of the factors to be aware of include:
- Ensuring a proper warm-up and stretches routine is followed
- Using the proper footwear while training and playing matches. Discouraging playing bare-footed or with a footwear not meant for pickleball.
- Being aware of what’s happening off the court as well to prevent collisions and accidents
- Wearing protective eye pieces while playing pickleball
- Avoiding playing in the rain or on wet courts
- Ensuring the need to remain properly hydrated before, during and after the training
- Using the right sun-protection including caps, sun-screen and taking breaks in the shade
- Teaching injury-prevention techniques
- Using proper communication between doubles players to avoid clashes and collisions
- Handling accidents and emergencies by being prepared with a first-aid kit in advance.
- Having the emergency contact details of the kids
Encouraging Continued Practice and Progression
It’s one thing to kick-start the journey towards learning a sport like pickleball. Quite another to continue training, and continue improving at that, moving from being a beginner to an intermediate player to beyond.
This is where a good coach would be able to motivate the young beginners and get them to practice pickleball on their own as well.
This is also where the coach would be able to drill into them the love for pickleball, making it possible to them to push on even on days when they aren’t motivated enough to train harder.
Coaching isn’t just about looking after the physical side of the game but to ensure there’s enough done for the mental aspect of the game.
It would be good to fffer resources for further learning, such as online tutorials and pickleball clubs.
Final Words on Teaching Pickleball to Kids & Beginners
If you are a coach or a parent who is looking to get a young kid into pickleball, it’s important to always allow him or her to have fun playing the sport. As the kid grows into somewhat of a better pickleball player, the inculcation of discipline and seriousness can happen.
At an early stage it’s more vital to impart the basic knowledge of the sport, the techniques and the game-play but none of them should come at the expense of letting the kid have fun in his or her own way.
That is the best way to grow the sport.