5 Things to Look for In a Coach
As pickleball grows and more people want to improve their skills, the number of people willing to coach or instruct is exploding. Some people coach as volunteers, others -- including yours truly -- do it professionally. And whether you're paying for your lessons or not, there are a few things you should probably look for when deciding who to trust with your game....
Do they ask questions? Good coaches don't make it all about them. Instead, they find out from their students what is important to them, what they want to learn and why they want to learn it. And while the coach may have to guide or redirect those desires, they are serious about understanding the needs of their students.
Are they focused? Whether you're paying for your lesson or getting it for free, good coaches bring their full attention to their student(s). For the duration of the lesson, coaches should be fully engaged with their players. And unless it is being used to record video (with consent, of course), there shouldn't be a cellphone in sight!
Are they enthusiastic? Pickleball is a game and games should be fun. The same is true for pickleball lessons! Good coaches make you feel like they are excited to be there with you and should seem genuinely keen to help you and other players improve. If your coach is smiling, cheering, encouraging and generally happy, that's a good sign. If they look like they'd rather be somewhere else, they probably should be.
Do they explain things fully? When you are told that you should return serve and run to the net, do they explain why? How about why a third shot drop is important? High quality coaches have a thorough understanding of the game and should be ready and willing to share the whys behind what they are asking you to do.
Do you feel supported? Taking a pickleball lesson can be risky. You are acknowledging that there are limitations to your game and you are trusting someone to expose them and help you to overcome them. This can be hard.
Good coaches should be supportive of your efforts to improve. And while they may be demanding of you, it should always come from a place of compassion and care. If you feel embarrassed, demoralized or ashamed during your lesson, your coach isn't doing a good job.
Mark Renneson is the founder and Head Coach at Third Shot Sports. He has 21 years of coaching experience and runs pickleball clinics, private lessons and drill sessions across North America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.