Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Old Dog New Tricks

Coach Wayne’s Corner

Photo by Wayne Clark | My daughter’s 10-year-old Golden Retriever “Lennon,” reinventing himself and learning to watch over my twin grandsons when they were recently brought home from the hospital.


My grandfather once told me, “The only constant thing in life is constant change.”

A half a dozen years ago when my youngest child went off to college, I officially became an empty nester. Needless to say, after some 25 years of parenting, suddenly not having kids in the house was a major change in my daily home life!

Around this same point in time, I began to notice that the sport of pickleball was taking a commanding lead over tennis in the numbers of people on the courts. And just like as a parent no longer having kids in the house, after some 25 years as a tennis instructor, I was now finding myself an empty nester in regard to players attending my lessons and clinics!

The ever-increasing number of players converting to pickleball was suddenly creating a major change in my daily professional life as a tennis instructor.

Realizing that pickleball was growing in popularity, and the number of people wanting to learn how to play was sharply on the rise, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to continue a career in coaching, I needed to convert my skills as a tennis instructor to a pickleball instructor. So, I immediately sought out the best pickleball instructors I could find and resourced their knowledge and experience to learn the proper fundamentals, strategies, and methods of teaching pickleball.

While the transition of tennis instructor to pickleball instructor was kind of hand in glove, the transition of scheduling clinic and lesson time from tennis to pickleball was a different story.

The issue I encountered was with the timeframe of scheduling clinics and lessons. The facility where I was teaching only had nine pickleball courts. This limited number of courts was creating a conflict between players wanting to use the courts for daily rotational play and my needing to reserve courts for instruction.

At this same point in time, The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida was being organized at East Naples Community Park (aka, the pickleball capital of the world), and there is a good reason it has earned this title!

East Naples Community Park has a total of 64 courts. The rotational playing courts are sectioned off into a variety of player levels, allowing everyone to play during prime time. The Academy has five designated covered instructional courts which can be utilized for clinics and private lessons during prime time.

Since I had committed to a major change by reinventing myself and transitioning my tennis coaching skills to the sport of pickleball, I now needed to commit myself to a location where I could effectively reserve courts for my clinics and private lessons, which led me to another major change. I made the decision to relocate myself to Naples and join the team of professional pickleball instructors at The Academy.

As scary as it all appeared to me at the time at which it was occurring, it was a decision and a change which I have never regretted.

The moral to my story is: don’t hesitate or be afraid of making major changes in your life.

Even though my decision to reinvent myself from a tennis-only instructor to a tennis/pickleball instructor was a fairly easy and comfortable transition and relocating myself from Marco Island to Naples was not a long-distance move, both of these decisions were major changes in my life.

So, if you have been thinking of making a change in your life and taking up the sport of pickleball, don’t hesitate or be afraid. Go out and start playing!

The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida has beginner clinics to help get you started. My “Stay and Play” clinics on Saturday mornings are designed to give you the skills and confidence to begin playing and participating in social rotational play. 

You can log onto for information on clinic schedules and registration.

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years of 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 Naples Pickleball Center and Training Academy at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, or by or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.


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