Helping Kids Develop a Lifelong Love for Pickleball

“Mom, I’m boooooored.” It’s a sound that puts dread into the heart of any parent. Thankfully, there’s an answer that allows you to keep your sanity and doesn’t require you to deal with the noise of a drum set or the carpet-destroying mess of slime. Hand them a kids pickleball paddle and help them develop a love for pickleball that will last a lifetime.

Why Should Kids Play Pickleball?

The first answer to why kids should play pickleball is that they will probably love it and love being part of the pickling community.

But just like sneaking vegetables into their favorite dishes, adding pickleball to their lives secretly gets them to do something healthy. They get great exercise but are having too much fun to notice. Pickleball is low-impact, so it’s healthy for growing bodies and joints. But it’s still a great cardio workout.

Pickleball also gets them away from their devices and interacting with other humans. Any time they play pickleball instead of video games, they do something to improve their health. Just keep that part to yourself when you talk about it so you don’t spoil the secret.

Pickleball is also easy to learn. You don’t need months of training and special lessons before you can enjoy yourself on the pickleball court. That means you won’t have to push them through weeks and months of frustration when the game isn’t enjoyable because they are awful at it. They can have fun and feel successful on their first day on the court.

That same “easy to learn” concept is also great for developing confidence. No matter their fitness level or natural athleticism, they can be good enough at pickleball to be competitive against other kids or family members, without months or years of experience.

So maybe the better question is, “Why wouldn’t your kids play pickleball?”

How Should I Get My Kids Started Playing Pickleball?

Because of the game’s wild popularity, it may not take more than a casual mention of the game to get them excited about playing. “We were thinking about trying pickleball this weekend. Do you want to join us?” may be sufficient to interest them. Kids are hearing about this incredible activity it seems everyone is playing. They want to be a part of it, too.

Of course, for many kids, anything mom or dad does is instantly uncool. If they have a cousin, uncle, or other adult figure they look up to, you could encourage that person to mention the game to your child. Better still, their favorite Aunt Petunia could invite them to join her in a game. When you mention pickleball, it’s an annoying parent thing. When she does, it’s an exciting, enticing adventure.

Try not to push. Even if you feel confident your child will love pickleball if they give it a chance, don’t be overbearing in your efforts to get them to play. Offer opportunities and leave it at that. Hopefully, they will come around. If you are pushy about it, it could cause them to dig their heels in even further. Their introduction to pickleball should feel positive and like it is their idea.

How Can I Foster a Love for the Game?

Okay, they finally agreed to try pickleball and had some fun. How do you increase the odds that they will have a lifelong love of the game rather than dropping it after a few tries?

Be relaxed about rules and formalities, especially at first. Explain the basics of the game and start with that. Initially, perhaps it makes sense just to alternate which side serves and to keep score by just tracking who wins a point rather than adding that third number to the score to designate which player has the serve. You can tell them that the official score calling and serve rotation are different, but you are keeping it simple for now. If they are interested, explain. If not, it’s fine to use family rules rather than formal rules. Focus on the fun of hitting the ball, not the technicalities of official play.

Give them a few essential pointers to prevent them from getting frustrated. These could include reminding them to keep their eye on the ball and follow through when they swing. You want to be helpful so they feel successful and have a positive experience. You don’t want to overload them with corrections to their grip and technical tips on their footwork. Those things can come later as they strive to improve their skills. Initially, just get them playing and give them enough coaching to help them succeed.

If they are playing with you, this is not the time to teach them life lessons about facing stronger opponents and losing gracefully. You can and should play down to their level while they are still exploring pickleball and deciding if it is something they want to pursue.

Find peers for them to play with. No matter how fun the activity is, few kids want to spend every weekend playing with their parents. Look into pickleball play dates with kids of similar ages and skill levels. That second part–skill levels–is critical. If you send them onto the court for their fourth time ever and across the net is the state junior champion runner-up, your child will be frustrated and embarrassed. If that doesn’t kill their love of the game, it may at least crush their confidence.

Finally, if they want to continue their pickleball journey, give them opportunities to improve. You can set up a portable pickleball net at your house. Look into getting them pickleball lessons. Help them find pickleball videos for beginners so they can improve their skills.

If you follow all these tips, you may quickly find that your kids grow to love the game of pickleball even more than you do. They can carry their enthusiasm for the game through all phases of life. Someday, they may introduce pickleball to their kids or play with their grandchildren.

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