Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Back to School and Back to Sports?

Coach Wayne’s Corner

As a kid growing up, I played as many sports as I possibly could. I spent my summers playing baseball or flag football in the backyard and shooting hoops in the driveway. When summer vacation ended and school began, that meant organized school sports would begin. Along with all my buddies, who I had competed with during the summer months, I would go out for the team and have a chance to compete in whatever sport was being played at that particular time of year. I literally played some type of sports twelve months out of the year!

Unfortunately, nowadays, I see fewer kids participating in multiple sports, either on their own or in organized school athletics.

Outside of organized school team sports, one sport which has grown in popularity since I was a kid, is soccer.

As a former kid, a lifelong athlete, a professional coach, as well as a dad, I believe that there are the two main reasons why soccer is such a popular sport.

First, is the ease of which younger-aged kids can conquer the fundamentals of the sport. Second, is that the smaller field size and fewer players on teams promote an atmosphere and opportunity for lots of points to be scored by all players.

In line with that scenario, the sport of pickleball is a perfect matching for today’s generation of kids, because, just like soccer, the fundamentals are easy to conquer, the court is small in size, and it’s a fast action, high scoring opportunity game.

In addition to those facts, the social aspects involved in pickleball, are like no other sport I have ever played! The format of pickleball creates an opportunity for players to partner with and compete against a wide variety of players, which naturally sets up an atmosphere of friendly camaraderie.

Photo by Wayne Clark | Academy students Morgan Brown and Alec LaMacchio work on “Skills and Drills.”

Win or lose, kids learn not only how to be good competitors and good sports, but they laugh and have fun with smiles on their faces in the process.

The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida’s Juniors Program provides kids of all ages the opportunity to learn the fun and joy of pickleball from some the best instructors in the sport. The instructors at The Academy have raised the bar and are setting the standards for what a Pickleball Juniors Academy should be!

The Academy is located at Veterans Community Park, 1895 Veterans Park Drive. Classes are held Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 6:30 PM. Program pricing is $20 per daily attendance. You can register online at

Students who are attending The Academy spend the first hour learning fundamentals and strategies, doing “Skills and Drills,” and competing in team-oriented fun and challenging games. They then finish the day with actual match play competing with their fellow students, as well as with the coaches.

I wish when I was a young athlete that the sport of pickleball had been as popular as it is today; if it were, I would have been all over it as a fun and competitive game that can be played on a year-round basis.

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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