Wrapping Things Up
Well, here we are. This is the twelfth and final edition of For the Coaches. Over the last 11 months we have talked about technique and tactics, group management and the business of coaching. We’ve looked at how to deal with challenging students and even touched on how what you wear can impact how easy or difficult your coaching life can be. We’ve covered a lot of territory.
In this final edition of For the Coaches I’d like to explore things coming to an end. Whether it is a particular teaching point that needs to be wrapped up, or the lesson itself, how you finish things off matters. This is true when you are concluding a series of lessons and the players are moving on, but also true if you are moving on to something else. How should you leave things? How should you finish off?
I’d personally like to thank all of you for being members of PCI. I hope that you have found it valuable and that it has been a resource you have returned to over time. But before we get into this week’s theme, I want to make sure you know how you can move forward with us.
Renew Your Membership. If you are reading this it is because you have the Intermediate or Pro plan. Among other things, this has given you liability insurance to help protect you when you are coaching. You can renew your access to PCI materials and get a year of insurance for just $99.
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Mark Renneson, CEO Pickleball Coaching International
The PCI approach suggests that your lessons take a play-practice-play format. That is, start with a real game, introduce and practice a skill, and then play a real game while trying to implement the new skill. If you use this methodology and have good time management then every lesson — at least the on-court portion — should end with a real game of pickleball. This is important. Why?
End on a high note. When people leave your lesson it is often the last thing they did that will make the biggest impression. Collecting balls, working on a drill with limited success, or listening to the instructor drone on is probably not the last impression you want your students to have. Finish the lesson with a game, on the other hand, and your students will end by having fun. That’s the way to do it!
Even better, your students will have a chance to implement the skills that they have been working on over the course of the lesson. Whether it was returning serve deep, playing a low third shot, or not panicking when in a dinking rally, the game will be a chance for your players to try to implement what they have been working toward. And if they can do it in a game — even just a little — they will feel a sense of accomplishment. That’s good for them and for you.
It is not uncommon for students to forget what they learned at the beginning of the lesson. After all, you taught them so many awesome things! It is important that after the final game is over that the instructors bring the players together to review what was worked on. In education circles, this is known as consolidating learning.
This phase of the lesson shouldn’t take long or be boring and we recommend getting the students to do as much of the talking as possible. Say something like: “Wow. You did great today. Who can remind us of some of the things we worked on or talked about during the lesson?”. The players (hopefully) will share various key concepts or teaching points. You can then fill in the gaps to make the point clear. For example, if someone says: “Put away high balls!”. You might respond: “Right. When we are up at the kitchen we are looking for something above net level to hit hard and down. If you don’t get that ball, be patient and play a dink. But when you do get a high ball, it is time to smack it”. Adding some context to the player’s thoughts is a great way to keep them involved and reinforce what you taught.
Remind them of the journey
Whether it is a group of intermediate players or a bunch of novices, remind the players just how far they have come. Especially if you have been working with a group consistently, there is a good chance that you’ll be better positioned to see their arc of improvement than they will. Let them know about the difference between where they are now and where they were before.
Say something like: “Do you remember when we started this whole thing? 4 weeks ago you came in here not knowing how to play pickleball and many of you were intimidated to step on the court. And now not only are you playing and having fun, you’re using strategies and making your opponents work hard. That’s a huge improvement!”
The path forward
It is important that you help your players get a clear picture of what might be in store for them next. Is there a league they can join? Are there certain days that players of their level should drop in? Are there new group lessons that you can direct them to? While a few people might have just stuck it out only because they committed to the lessons, it is far more likely that you have a group of people who are keen to show of their new skills. Help them have a clear picture of what would be best for them. And if such a thing doesn’t yet exist, create it yourself!
In addition to helping your players know what they can do next, there is an opportunity for you to help your coaching business as well. Imagine the difference between saying to people: “Alright, thanks for coming to my lesson. See you around.” versus “Congratulations! Since you have completed this class you are now eligible for the next level which starts in two weeks. Oh, and are you playing the tournament we are hosting at the end of the month? It is perfect for players of your level.”. It is a good idea to use the success of your past lessons and to parlay it into successful future activities. While it might feel like you are ‘upselling’ them, if you did your lessons well they will be thankful for the information.
Whether you are trying to grow a coaching business or are just teaching for fun, come to your final lesson with a clear idea about what your students can do next as well as the details they need to make it happen.
Sending an email following your lessons is a good idea and shows you go the extra mile, but this is especially important after the final lesson you do with a person or group. It doesn’t need to be long but it should thank the person for attending, remind them about some of the key points that were covered, and help them see the path forward. And if you are able to throw in something personal, that’s an extra nice touch. Here is a sample from a session all about starting the point effectively:
Thank you for coming out to our pickleball lessons. I had a great time working with such an enthusiastic group of players. You have come a long way from where we started and I hope you are proud of your improvement.
I have put together a short summary of what we talked about and worked on. But before we get to that, I’d like to remind you about a few things:
1) We have a tournament next week. There are a range of levels and I really think you’d enjoy it. You can get the details here.
2) We have new clinics starting next month. If you liked what we did this time, you’ll love the next session: it’s all about causing trouble for your opponents. You can sign up by clicking here.
3) We discussed the new e-book that is great teaching pickleball to kids. You can find the website here.
Please let me know if you have any questions. Here is the summary:
Return Deep. A deep return makes it harder for the serving team to attack. Whether it is with a higher and slower ball, or a low and fast one, try to make the other team make contact from behind the baseline.
Serve with Intention. Use the serve as a way to tilt the odds in your favour. The goal isn’t to hit an unreturnable serve, but to find a way to make the receiver’s life just a little bit harder.
Return with Backspin. A little spin can make their third shot harder. Remember that it is a high-to-low swing with a slightly open paddle face.
Serve with Topspin. By adding a little spin you give yourself more margin for error. The low-to-high bruching action is key to making the ball spin over the top.