4 Things to Make the First 5 Minutes Count

Effective coaches think carefully about their lesson plans. The consider what their focus of the lesson might be, as well as all of the great drills and fun games they will use to develop those skills. They may even think about how much time they will spend on each drill, and how they will rotate their players so that people get a variety of experiences throughout the session. 

But how much thought is given to the time before you start hitting balls? How carefully do we consider the first impression we make (whether that is because you are meeting your students for the first time or because it is their initial contact with you on that day)? In the same way that the first two shots of a pickleball point influence how the rest of it will unfold, we think that the first few minutes set the tone for the whole lesson. Here are four tips to make the first 5 minutes count:

1) Be Ready. If your lesson is scheduled to start at 10am but you aren't completely focused and ready to go, you are short-changing your student(s). And in our books, that is a coaching sin. Whether it is because you are returning from the washroom, still setting up the court, or concluding the last lesson, not being fully prepared to begin at the scheduled time, you are signalling that you are behind schedule, and that can be interpreted as not valuing your students' time.

Make sure you have a watch and you keep an eye on it. You may even want to arrange your schedule so that there is always a 5 minute gap between the conclusion of one lesson and the start of the next. That way you give yourself a little breathing room for when nature calls or you have that extra-chatty student who just has 'one more question'.

2) Greet Everyone by Name. People want to feel special -- even in a group setting. One of the easiest ways to make them feel like they matter is to use their name when you are talking to them. Whether it is a regular student or a new one, a genuine "Hi [insert name here]" can go a long way to making people feel wanted and important.

3) Have Your Court Neat and Tidy. Pickleball lessons can get a little messy with cones, balls, demo paddles and other things strewn about. And that is fine if they are being used. But in the same way that it is nice to come home to a tidy house, people will appreciate that their court is well-organized, at least at the beginning of their lesson. Nobody likes to work in other people's mess, so work hard to give your students a clean workspace when their lesson begins. 

Pro Tip: Many hands make light work. Make your life easier by requiring the previous group to tidy up at the conclusion of their lesson. It just takes a minute and if you set it a an expectation, they'll start to do it without you even asking.

4) Pretend You Aren't Tired. Whether it was because you've been out on the court all day or up all night with a baby, there is a good chance you will be tired when you start a lesson. But your students deserve to come to a coach who is energetic, engaged and ready to work hard.

Especially if you are being paid for your work, it is important that each of your students get the same high-quality effort from you. After all, the person taking lesson number eight that day is paying just as much as the one taking lesson number one. You owe them the same energy.