In any training environment, taking a few minutes to set up (as best you can) optimal conditions for learning will improve your students’ retention. We are a bit cynical about the whole retention piece, having been professional trainers in our consulting practice and elsewhere forever. Basically we believe that retention is pretty low. But we also believe that setting the stage (conditions) will improve retention. So how do you do it?
1. Have pre-work. We’d suggest that YOU suggest your students go to our page a few days before the class. Not all of them will, of course, but some will. This will put you ahead of the game.
2. Advise them as to footwear and bringing water. If you are conducting a true first-timers’ session insure you have adequate paddles.
3. Get there a half-hour early to set up. Have a card table or ledge you can put your materials on. If you have access to a portable loudspeaker don’t use it (surprise!) unless the group is over, say, 30 in number, which we hope for your sake it is not. A good size for a beginner’s group is 12-15 maximum, especially if you are training on your own. (Hopefully you can have multiple courts with multiple helpers but don’t stress it if you can’t…keep numbers down in this case as you really want this to be hands-on.)
4. Have folks arrive ten minutes early so you can start on time. Arrange the students so they have the best of the deal. If you are training on a court, as we suppose you’d have to be, put YOUR face into the sun (or wind).
5. Make your opening remarks about yourself brief. We recommend one minute about you at the most. If you are less than a National Champion Pickleball Guru, we could see 45 seconds being tops. We break this rule all the time, especially A.J., but we work at it.
6. Ask how many people have already seen or have even played pickleball. Perhaps everybody knows something about the game. If everybody or most everybody is affirmative about seeing or playing, cut your “history of the game” speech to almost zero.
7. Say something about the rules. We usually cover the underhand serve, the two-bounce rule, and that scoring is on the serve only. Everything else we bring in as we then demonstrate the game. Hopefully you have helpers, ideally you have four who at least have played a bit, and they can help immediately by playing a few points. We used to be really into having four good players play a demo match for five points but that was more of an ego trip for the players (we think) than it was value for the spectators.
8. Do a line check. Line up the folks and make sure everyone has a paddle. Show them how to “shake hands” with the edge of the paddle leading into the “V” between their thumb and first finger (in tennis, the Eastern Grip). Make sure they have proper footwear.
9. Say something about safety. No going after lobs (“Just look at the ball, and if it’s in, say ‘nice shot!’). If you have multiple courts, mention that anyone yelling “Ball on Court” immediately stops play. Don’t need any twisted ankles or worse with someone stepping on a ball.
10. Immediately get them into the lesson plan and start the first drill, which is usually dinking. From there on out, follow the lesson plan. They drill, they come together quickly, you ask them if they have questions (beginners are sure to at this point). You demo the next piece, send ’em right back out to drill again. Remember the three things that make a piece of real estate valuable? Location, location, location? In pickleball, it’s Hands-on, Hands-on, Hands-on. Get the idea of drilling into their heads early and you’ve got your next generation of 4.0+ picklers ready to grow.
11. Since you’ve started on time, end on time. One hour for a beginner’s lesson is certainly possible. We often achieved that goal. Those that are enthusiastic are welcomed (assuming court time is available) to stay and play some more. Depending on your schedule, whether or not you have to retrieve equipment or whatever, this may or may not be possible but it’s the funnest time in pickleball..watching beginners truly enjoying this great game before they go and take it all serious and stuff.
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