Whether you’re someone who dreams about taking a clinic from a professional pickleball instructor, but has never had the opportunity OR you’re a self-professed pickleball junkie who has taken advantage of any and every learning opportunity that’s hit your way, if you show up to a clinic, you’d probably like it to be a positive experience. I know that that’s what I would want, and it’s what I’d try to deliver for my students, as well as the people who who help me organize a local clinic.
But I also know that no longer are my clinics “the only game in town.” The reality is that as the sport grows, there are more and more people hosting clinics with less and less experience. Now, I certainly understand and appreciate that there’s a strong learning curve, and I also realize that I have a head start on many new pickleball instructors going down that path.
That’s why I’ve put together this list of shortcuts to help ease the clinic-hosting process for new instructors and the volunteers who are trying to help them get their first clinics going. While there are myriad solutions out there for any problem, I’m going to focus this article on the tools, strategies and resources that #TeamGuru uses or has used in the past.
#1: Don’t Do Anything Manually
At least, not anything that can be done automatically. With the technology available nowadays for little to no cost, there is no reason that any part of the registration or scheduling process should be done manually for your clinic. Services like Paypal, Stripe or Square make receiving money easy, but they do NOT make it easy for you to get a comprehensive list of who has registered for the clinic, particularly if you have more than one clinic offering, such as two levels of clinics or private or semi-private classes. There are TONS of tools available out there to use in addition to those payment processors which make the process easier, more streamlined and more accurate for everyone involved.
We use Eventbrite.com to manage our ticket sales. They charge a percentage of each ticket sale, and while it’s higher than we’d like to pay, we have tried several other ticket management platforms and have inevitably found that they are a bigger headache than Eventbrite.
You can eliminate the hassle of negotiating back and forth about lesson times by creating a schedule in advance and letting participants select & reserve the class time that they want (all while you sleep, have a cuppa joe or (let’s be realistic) while you play “one more game”…)
#2: Be Clear About Your Expectations
Whether you are the instructor teaching the clinic or the pickleball enthusiast who is helping the instructor organize the clinic, it’s always a good idea to get clear (as early on as possible) about who is doing what, who is NOT doing what, and when things should be done. If you’re the instructor, here’s a checklist of what to provide the organizer (If you’re the organizer, then use this checklist to request this information from the instructor):
- Who is Handling Event Registration & What System are You Using? (See above for our answers)
- How will people learn about the clinic? Is there a website information page? Will all the info be sent out via email? (We provide the information webpage and provide email verbiage by request. We also provide a printable flyer by request.)
- Who is Responsible for Reserving Courts? (Working with local and city rec centers is often one of the biggest headaches for #TeamGuru when it comes to booking an event, and it’s something we often rely on our local contact to help with.)
- What, if any, costs are associated with reserving the venue? (These can be totally across the board…)
- What, if any, portion of the proceeds will be given/shared with the local venue and/or pickleball club? (This varies for us…)
- Who will provide balls/nets? (I usually don’t but will when needed.)
- How many, if any volunteers are needed? (I usually request 2 minimum)
- Who Will Respond to Customer Service Questions? (This is something #TeamGuru typically does)
- Who will be promoting/marketing the clinic and how? (This is usually the #1 task of our local contact person organizing the clinic, but I’ll say more in a minute…)
#3: Be Honest, Under-Promise & Over-Deliver
If you’re a brand new instructor, it’s OK to say that. Sometimes it takes the pressure off you and helps people be more forgiving when they know it’s only your first or second clinic. If you check out my “Praise” page, you’ll see that it goes on and on and on… And I’ll tell you, that list is YEARS in the making… after EVERY private lesson, clinic, or tour stop, I have asked people for feedback, and over the years it has snowballed. But what makes it valuable is that every bit is true. Those are REAL people, giving REAL feedback.
Wherever you are in your pickleball instruction career, play the long game. Don’t try to exaggerate your abilities or fib about your references. Not only is it bad karma (or such), but it will probably come back and bite you sooner than that. Err on the side of being conservative with what you are offering, and people will be surprised, delighted and THRILLED to share their enthusiasm about you. Err on the side of stretching the truth and you’ll end up with the opposite.
Likewise, if you’re helping an instructor organize a clinic, be honest and conservative about what you are promising them. Don’t tell them “Oh yeah, we can definitely get 60 people to show up” when the reality is you’ve never done it before and you may only have 24. If you’re feeling like the instructor is asking too much of you, then let them know ASAP so they can make other plans. Saying “Yes” to something you don’t want to do or unable to do does NOT serve you or anybody else. (Think about it, you’re just setting the instructor up to expect that from clinic organizers in the future, so if it’s hard to say “No” for yourself, at least say “No” for the next person down the line…”)
#4: Give Credit Where Credit is Due
I have emails from students and ambassadors from all over the country who tell me they are teaching classes, running trainings or offering drills modeled after my book, and I love it.
In my opinion, there is no greater form of praise than to share freely with others the resources that have been powerful for you.
That said, there is also no greater form of dishonor than to plagiarize someone else’s work.
Now, we are all learning from someone, and it’s hard to say at what point to call something your own that you learned from someone else. (Dan Gabanek, Billy Jacobsen, Dave Weinbach and “Coach Mo” are some of the people who have strongly impacted my body of thought when it comes to playing & teaching pickleball and I’m constantly trying to figure these things out…)
Whether you are using my material or someone else’s, whether it’s in what you’re teaching, how you’re marketing, or anything else, keep these 3 tips in mind:
Ask for Permission – I’ll probably say “Yes, but…” and if I get multiple requests it tells me that people like what I am doing and that there are probably other ways I can help you, which gets me thinking about new ways to solve challenges you may be facing, which is good for all of us. If you never tell me that you’re using my stuff, not only does it catch me off guard when I hear through the grapevine that you are, but it keeps me from being able to serve you & the people YOU want to help as well as I might…
Give Acknowledgement – This might be mentioning the person’s name at the beginning of your session, adding a link on your website, or sharing their book when you’re done. Let’s keep the good juju flowing by sharing our appreciation and not passing anything off as our own that isn’t actually our own!
Make It Your Own – And obviously, I don’t mean CALL it your own. I mean MAKE it your own. Add to it, change it, give examples, find exceptions, find over-arching themes, see what unique perspective YOU have to bring to the table. The idea is to share YOUR unique gifts and to keep evolving the body of knowledge.
I’ve gotten many emails from people who have read my book and come up with unique and useful drills that they share with me, and that I then can share with others. What I teach is not the end-all, be-all and pickleball. Playing and teaching strategies will evolve long beyond my last day setting foot on a court. So don’t just copy what someone else has done. Add to it.
That said, be as clear as you can about what is original versus what you have added, tweaked or evolved. (There’s nothing worse than hearing that someone is “teaching from my book” and telling people to do the opposite of what I actually recommend…)
#5: K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Sunshine
This is something we are constantly striving to do better at in our own business, but to the best extent you can, keep everything simple.
If you’re an instructor, keep it simple for your organizer. If you’re an organizer, keep it simple for yourself. Whatever you do, try to keep things as simple as possible for your participants.
Keep the registration process simple. Keep the payment process simple. Keep your offerings simple.
Don’t offer 17 different choices. Offer 1, 2 or at most 3 choices. Don’t ask 15 questions when 3 will suffice. And most of all, don’t try to teach 12 different points when your students will only be able to absorb 2 or 3 in a day.
It doesn’t serve ANYONE.
Not you, and not them.
Just Keep It Simple, Sunshine.