For veteran tennis pro Randall Bedwell, the transition from coaching tennis to pickleball was an easy one. He noticed that his younger students enjoyed greater early success and satisfaction with pickleball. They built confidence and skills faster.
While the game is difficult to master, it offers an easy entrance point to racquet sports for all ages and skill levels and provides opportunities for competitive intergenerational play. Pickleball quickly became a feeder for his tennis camps and private lesson practice, because those who learned it wanted to continue onto other similar sports.
After almost forty years of running municipal tennis programs and working with one of the largest YMCA associations in the nation, the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, his experience allowed him to identify a unique need among young people today. There was no camp teaching an easily-acceptable and affordable sport that allows children and teens to develop basic skills and knowledge quickly and begin playing right away.
Pickleball fit the bill while also offering the advantages of making it easy to incorporate lessons that focus on not only physical skills, but also on character-building, self-confidence, and other life skills.
- Building self confidence
- Making new friends
- Giving kids (and parents…and grandparents) a fun way to exercise
Players are physically closer to each other on the Pickleball court than they are the tennis court, making it easier to communicate with each other during a game. This leads to a game that encourages more socializing.
Pickleball is also a great sport for kids that don’t play many other sports. It’s one of the most beginner friendly games and is the most widely played inter-generational games.
Pickleball is also a great sport for all ages. It’s much easier to learn how to hit the ball and play the game compared to other racket sports such as tennis, racquetball and badminton.
Children enjoy my camps because they develop a sense of community, forge new friendships, and learn through first-hand experiences. My staff and I are trained, caring adults who help children feel loved, capable, and included. We all have teaching credentials, decades of experience working with students, and a true passion for racquet sports.
I also believe that our camp helps children grow by providing a supervised, positive environment that has safety as a primary commitment and fun as a main goal. Ask any parent whose kid is (or was) in the junior development program at Maryland Farms.
A good tennis or pickleball coach should have an enormous power in creating and conveying simple teachable moments . . . special memories when a child won a match or provided friendship and comfort to a fellow camper or discovered their own self-advocacy skills on the court or during our team-building exercise.
For me, the transition from coaching tennis to pickleball was an easy one: my younger students enjoy greater early success and satisfaction with pickleball, and the game is a great introduction to competitive sports.
The curriculum I created for character-building, increasing confidence, and conflict resolution at the Maryland Farms YMCA, is equally applicable to pickleball and I teach it as a part of my camps, and particularly with the children that I teach private or small group lessons to.
Our progressive learning system allows students to gain confidence, self-advocacy skills, and improve their physical literacy, which equips them to handle conflict within themselves and with others.
NBC News called it “the fastest growing sport you’ve never heard of,” and they probably are not wrong. Pickleball is the fasted growing court game in the United States, and it’s a trend that is just as popular with seniors as it is with children and teens. The advantages of this game over other racquet sports include little financial investment, an ability to get onto the court with little instruction and make contact with the ball, and, well, it’s a lot of fun.
The pickleball court is only about a quarter of the size of a tennis court, meaning it is easier to be in the right place at the right time and there are no long sprints to the other side of the court. We utilize badminton courts for our camps, with nets slightly below the height of a tennis net.
Pickleball paddles are solid and smaller than tennis rackets, making them a great size to carry in a backpack for a little practice or a pick-up game at any time. The game is played using a whiffle ball. It is part tennis, part ping pong, part badminton, part squash, and a great game all on its own.
Those who learn pickleball express early satisfaction with their abilities, increasing self-confidence, the desire to learn more and improve their skills, and overall enjoyment while playing the game.
No experience in any sport is needed for Pickleball Camp. In fact, this camp may end up being the first sports camp your child attends.
The recommended age is 6 up to 12 (my tennis camp starts at age 8).
- Comfortable athletic shoes
- Appropriate athletic clothing
- Tennis racquet or pickleball paddle (available at any sporting goods store or even Walmart)
- Water bottle(s)
- Dry shirt
- A positive attitude
Community centers, churches, and public parks have all jumped on the bandwagon and are offering pickleball. Many tennis courts are now being lined-off for pickleball as tennis players convert to pickleball enthusiasts.
Any flat surface (where a ball can bounce) can be converted into a pickleball court with nets (think badminton kits) that are readily available.
For younger players, using a paddle (which is smaller than a junior tennis racket) allows the child to more quickly develop hand-eye coordination, quicker reflexes, and better footwork. A smaller court (a quarter the size of a tennis court) gives them the opportunity to sustain rallies and feel more accomplished in their early success.
Unlike tennis, pickleball games are played to eleven points and matches are generally shorter in duration.
Pickleball is easier for children to learn and gain mastery than tennis.
In pickleball, the serve is underhanded and easier for a child to get the ball into play.
Pickleballs have less bounce than tennis balls and are easier to hit.
A pickleball court can be set up in a driveway or a gym, offering year-round accessibility.
Early exposure to pickleball (and the right coaching) is a great way to hone skills to progress into tennis.
All parents and coaches with Pickleball Kids USA go through our Certified Coach program and are vetted, trained, and insured. After you are certified, you can potentially teach pickleball at a local school, participate in running tournaments, and become a part of our youth pickleball community.
The benefits of pickleball (and tennis) are many. Getting children into the sport at a young age helps them develop physically, mentally, and socially. They learn lessons inside the lines of a court that they can apply to life outside as well. The game is an individual sport, but we teach it as a team sport so that kids learn how to get along and thrive. Add to those benefits an environment in which they can share everything with friends and teammates, and you’ve got the essence of Pickleball Kids USA.
Pickleball Kids USA is an official club team with the AAU. That means that we can host AAU-sanctioned tournaments and field travel teams to compete in other sanctioned tournaments across the country. Kids then get national and regional rankings, similar to the UTR (Universal Tennis Ranking) in tennis. I’m excited that we can build a cadre of competitive players who will represent Pickleball Kids USA at the national (and international) level.