I am glad I wear two caps — tennis and pickleball — because I am sitting beside myself on a courtside bench with excitement about the news I can report this week.
Let’s start on the local scene. Thomas Johnston, the director of tennis at Sea Colony — which is always in contention as a Top 10 United States Tennis Association (USTA) tennis facility — has announced that beginning Monday, Nov. 5, he will be giving pickleball lessons every Monday afternoon this winter at the Sea Colony Fitness Center from 1 to 2 p.m. Thomas will focus on technical instruction, court positioning and strategy.
Based on the notes I receive from Pickleball Points, there is a tremendous backlog of persons locally who want to learn pickleball, so this should be welcomed.
The cost of the clinics at the Sea Colony Fitness Center is $20 per session for Sea Colony owners or $25 per session for non-owners. There is a maximum of six people per session, and loaner paddles are available. Book your reservation in person at the Sea Colony Fitness Center reception desk or call (302) 539-4511.
On the national scene, the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) of tennis professionals, to which Johnston belongs, has entered a three-year agreement with the leading association of pickleball instruction, the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA). The USPTA will work collaboratively with the IPTPA to certify USPTA professionals in pickleball.
I spoke with USPTA Chief Executive Officer John Embree, a longtime personal acquaintance from tennis, and he explained that his association’s tennis professionals, during their sectional USPTA division conferences, will be offered four- to five-hour certification workshops conducted by the IPTPA. The process includes classroom, and on-court playing and teaching sessions.
These certification sessions will begin in January, and they expect a good reception since so many of their association members have been asking for pickleball certification.
Recognizing that tennis teaching professionals are already well-trained, the CEO of the IPTPA, Seymour Rifkind, emphasized that the sessions will focus on the differences between tennis and pickleball, and the IPTPA teaching methodology.
Rifkind’s track record is one of success as well, so I expect pickleballers are in good hands with this dynamic duo’s supervision.
Having taught and played both tennis and pickleball, I am delighted with this national development. The USPTA professionals are already well-trained in tennis instruction, and they are especially good in mentoring younger pros in their organization.
Embree explained in our phone conversation that he recognizes the need to provide serious attention and discipline to the differences between the two sports.
A natural fear of this old veteran of the rackets — especially considering the frosty relationship that has existed the last few years between both of these sports at upper echelons — is that tennis might unduly influence play. Knowing Embree, I believe he will do his very best to ensure that his USPTA members teach quality pickleball.
Embree and I share some common roots when it comes to the promotion of racket sports, and both believe all racket sports promote each other. As I said to Embree, when some of these youngsters play pickleball, they might discover how to be comfortable with the volley and improve their tennis.
Tennis and pickleball are both good-looking cousins, but they are different. Pickleball is not tennis on a small court, nor is tennis like pickleball on a large court. For starters, tennis has love, and pickleball has laughter.
To do my part for this new union, I am soon going to write about the rules of pickleball in a conversational format. I hope to save these new teaching professionals from having to answer some of the inevitable questions about pickleball scoring.
So, Mr. Embree and Mr. Rifkind, please dovetail the pickleball instruction successfully so I don’t have to wear a third — a dunce — cap for embracing this new agreement with such exuberance.
Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.
By Vaughn Baker
Special to the Coastal Point