Sunday, April 18, 2021

Find Your Niche


Players enjoying evening social play at the MIRC.

Players enjoying evening social play at the MIRC.

While the sport of pickleball has a lot in common with the sport of tennis, the main difference between the two is the format in which the games are played. Social pickleball is less structured than social tennis.

In tennis, if you participate in a social activity/event at your local club, there is usually either a draw, or some kind of team format, with a designated number of players and a structured schedule of play, with match times and court assignments.

However, in social activity/event pickleball the format of play is different. Pickleball players trickle in and rotate themselves onto the courts. Quite often there are more pickleball players than there are courts available to play on. Players will randomly rotate courts and change partners, on a game-by-game basis. This in itself presents an atmosphere of a social gathering. This is part of what makes the sport of pickleball so popular.

Pickleball/tennis player Missy Kaut enjoys playing socially at the MIRC, as well as at tournaments, such as the Minto U. S. Open Pickleball Championships. Photos by Jodi Pree

Pickleball/tennis player Missy Kaut enjoys playing socially at the MIRC, as well as at tournaments, such as the Minto U. S. Open Pickleball Championships. Photos by Jodi Pree

I love the traditional, serious attitude that is associated with playing competitive tennis.

Tennis players will give an occasional fist pump and a “Come on!” when they hit a winner or an ace, and you should always remember to compliment your opponent with “Nice shot” when they hit one, but for the most part there is not a lot of communication going on between opponents.



But as I participate in and observe pickleball competition, while players are serious about their commitment to the competition, the overall atmosphere is much more relaxed. It’s almost like being on a playground. There is a lot more laughter, talk and commentary going on during the competition, both by the players and by the people on the sidelines, waiting to rotate and play in. I call it the “Woo Hoo” factor! This ability to “Woo Hoo” for yourself, for your partner, for your opponent, or for someone who you are watching, while waiting for your rotation, is part of what makes pickleball so much fun to play.

Because of the growing popularity of the sport, pickleball has an unprecedented number of new players getting into the game.

Also, I am now seeing people (like myself) who have been tennis players for their entire lives converting into pickleball players and actively participating and improving their skills in both sports!

Because of the demographics in our area, I find that the majority of tennis and pickleball players of all skill levels participate more for the social aspect of the game, rather than the actual competitive gratification/thrill of tournament competition (although there are many local tennis and pickleball players who compete in tournaments).

So this brings us to the questions of, “Where do I fit in? Where do I belong? Where am I most comfortable and happy with my game?”

My recommendation is to find your niche. Figure out where you actually do fit in. Do you just want to play for fun and enjoy the companionship of friends, do you want to compete in tournaments, or do you want to do both? If you are a lifelong tennis player, give pickleball a try – it’s a great way to improve your net playing skills and make new friends!

The Racquet Center offers a variety of activities in both tennis and pickleball for all levels of play. I offer weekly clinics for both tennis and pickleball players. Our programing includes rotational pickleball play and tennis round robins in the mornings, as well as social play in the evenings. Contact any of our shop staff for information on our morning activities at 249-394- 5454 and contact Jodi Pree at 239-302- 9705 for information on evening activities.

Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. He has been the head instructor at The Marco Island Racquet Center since 2001. The Racquet Center offers clinics, private and group lessons for both tennis and pickleball. Coach Wayne’s Island Kids Tennis/Sports Juniors programs run year round, and offer classes for players ranging from kindergarten through high school. Contact Coach Wayne by email at or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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