Playing pickleball in Central Connecticut

This report was submitted by Margo Chase-Wells, USAPA ambassador in Connecticut. If you’re interested in connecting with Margo, please email her directly.
I started a pickleball program at the Tennis Center of Newington on February 27 without any idea what kind of numbers we’d get – since pickleball is notoriously absent from central Connecticut. To my surprise, on that very first day we had 28 players show up; 14 were brand new to the sport, although 6 of them had played a racquet sport before. The second week we had the Newington Pickleball program we had 10 of the original 14 beginners return (plus the experienced players).
I set up three courts for the more experienced players and gave them my “Round Robin Mixer” cards to follow. Two other courts were setup for beginners with enthusiastic instruction!
After an hour and a half of general introduction to dinks, groundstrokes, volleys, overheads and serves using student feeds as well as me feeding them, I introduced the scoring. All went pretty well, I think my past experience as an elementary school physical education teacher helped with the participants understanding the concepts. They picked up scoring quickly and then they played for 1 and 1/2 hours! WHAT FUN!
They were so excited even though we had to share paddles. I’m glad I brought my ball hopper with the 50 balls. There is no way could I have done this with just 12 balls!  I also rotated in some of my experienced players to help with court positioning and scoring. I actually had one player that picked it up so quickly I had to move him out of the beginner group to play with “the big kids.”
Many promised to return the next week, but I cannot imagine doing this without all the borrowing of nets, schlepping them to the club, and borrowing balls and paddles, too!
The advantages of playing at the tennis clubs are:
  1. Their courts are empty in the afternoon from 12 – 3:00. When we need another court set up, we can easily expand to an empty court (providing we remembered to borrow extra nets)
  2. There is a ton of room around the court – for those crazy around the net shots
  3. The ceilings are really high
  4. The lighting is great, and best of all…
  5. There are curtains between all the courts so seldom does a stray ball come on your court
I think all tennis clubs should incorporate pickleball into their programs. Since tennis is quite popular in Connecticut, maybe other clubs will see the advantages of starting groups at their location.

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