It is no secret that the sport of pickleball has absolutely exploded in popularity within the U.S. over the last 10 years, and even more so since the pandemic in 2020. While one of pickleball’s many strengths is its ability to be played by those of older age, the younger generations are equally excited to learn a new sport and grow in their skills. Whether it’s the physical activity, the competition, or simply the social aspect, kids of all ages are quickly latching onto the game of pickleball.
This is exactly why the Rec-Plex in St. Peters, Missouri is hosting its first ever youth pickleball clinic this fall. Held on five consecutive Saturday morning at the recreation center, this youth clinic will serve as an entry point for kids ages 8 to 15 years old and provide participants with the opportunity to learn the basics of pickleball in a non-competitive environment. James Boyd, the Recreation Superintendent at the Rec-Plex, says participants “can expect to learn the basics of the game, such as proper [form], how to keep score, [and] serving methods.” Learning these skills will leave kids in a great position to then be able to participate in open play or continue to advance their skills and compete at youth tournaments. Offering kids the opportunity to learn rudimentary pickleball skills in a non-competitive environment will help give them confidence to continue playing the game outside of a structured clinic.
When considering hosting this youth clinic, Boyd noted that the Rec-Plex’s “open play pickleball hours [had] been attracting younger players, [so he] wanted to offer an entry level clinic to teach the younger generation the basics of the game.” As a recreation center’s open play consistently fills up, it can be a good sign that the community is hungry for more structured pickleball play and lessons. For the younger generation especially, it can be important for them to have an outlet to learn pickleball since most schools currently do not offer pickleball as a sport.
One key feature of the Rec-Plex’s youth pickle clinic will be the element of fun. Boyd says the clinic days will incorporate “learning skills through fun, interactive games along with match play.” While drills and repetition are important for growth in any skill, kids generally need enough freeplay within the structured time to keep them engaged in what they are doing. Including match play in the clinics will allow kids who are new to the game of pickleball to see how a typical game is carried out and what challenges might arise throughout the match.
As far as instructors go, Boyd looks for three key things when selecting instructors for the youth clinic: energy, experience, and passion for the game. These three characteristics come together to form a well-rounded pickleball instructor that is especially equipped at passing on a love for the game to the next generation. One of the most important things a participant can take away from any youth pickleball clinic is a passion for this unique game. The Rec-Plex’s youth pickleball clinic will begin in early November and conclude in early December, giving participants just enough time to develop a solid appetite for the game.