Mary Barsaleau is a pickleball columnist for Desert Sun, a news website serving the community around the western fringes of the Joshua Tree National Park, about 100 miles due east of Los Angeles.
We took a look at one of her articles back in July of last year, and now she’s back with a thought-provoking article about how we can support young players to make the best possible start with their pickleballing careers.
“Learn From Watching The Pros”
Mary describes how many of her students had attended the Carvana Tour PPA event at Mission Hills Country Club on the back of her article about learning from watching the pros.
She mentions that amateur divisions also featured, but she could not find the results. However, she did manage to find out more from two local junior players – Santiago González and Jake Presser.
Santiago has played in many of the round robins she organizes, along with his dad and his brother, Eduardo Sr. and Jr., respectively.
Santiago is a frequent winner of his division, but, more significantly, he also finished fourth out of 17 in the 13-to-14-year-old division at Mission Hills, winning four of his six singles matches.
He is in seventh grade at Palm Desert Middle School and has been playing pickleball for about 16 months. However, disappointingly, his school doesn’t have any pickleball courts at his school.
Pickleball After The Day’s Tennis Lessons
Jake is a 17-year-old high school junior who has been playing pickleball for about seven months. He has played tennis competitively since he was 5 and played his freshman and part of his sophomore year at Palm Desert High School.
He attended an elite tennis camp in Newport Beach last year, and he would play pickleball after the day’s lessons were over. He got hooked and now he’s also competing at tournaments of the caliber of Mission Hills.
Jake didn’t go into the junior tournament but ended up in the 8 to 34 age group at level 4.5. He performed brilliantly, finishing ahead of the other 15 competitors and snagging the gold medal.
He said how competitive the matches were, with several going into three sets. Now, Jake is thinking about starting a club at Palm Desert High School, and Mary wants to help by providing paddles, balls, and portable nets.
Getting Pickleball Into Schools
But how can other young players like Santi and Jake get the support they need? Mary has written several articles about trying to get pickleball included in school curricula, but now she wants to try something different.
Establish a club dedicated to pickleball, providing opportunities for students to engage in the sport during lunch breaks or after school hours. It’s essential to ensure the success of the club sports before seeking CIF sanctioning.
Organize indoor summer camps for pickleball, utilizing the existing badminton lines on gym floors and portable nets. Emphasize the convenience of staying indoors, especially during hot weather.
Collaborate with schools, recreation departments, or the athletic program to offer air-conditioned summer sports camps, with parents willing to pay for their children’s participation.
Partner with local organizations such as Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, the YMCA, or the Salvation Army to conduct youth pickleball camps during summer, spring break, Christmas break, or three-day weekends.
Utilize existing facilities to provide accessible opportunities for young players.
Introduce the concept of earning physical education credits through pickleball participation in clinics, drill classes, and tournaments. This approach appeals to players and parents, offering an alternative to regular P.E. classes.
Participants can engage in external pickleball training and validate their involvement in physical education credits.
Transform existing tennis courts by taping designated pickleball courts, particularly during the winter season between girls’ and boys’ tennis seasons.
Develop a competitive pickleball team or class, engaging in friendly matches with schools providing similar opportunities. Grant physical education credit for active participation, with the ability to accommodate four pickleball courts on one tennis court.
“Let’s Get Pickleball In The Schools”
Mary signs off by saying, “Let’s get pickleball in the schools.”
You can send her your thoughts and suggestions by emailing her at [email protected].
She is offering skinny singles at her round-robin tournaments that only cover half the court, and her Superbowl Pickle event is on February 11 at Fritz Burns Park in La Quinta.
For info, email [email protected] or call 1-949-939-4888.
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