What Makes a Great Coach?

One of the goals I had for coming to Surprise, Arizona during winter 2021 was to develop my pickleball coaching skills. I wanted to meet someone who could offer candid feedback, tangible improvement suggestions, and help me become one of the best coaches and teaching professionals in the sport.

And would you believe it? I met that individual just four days after I arrived in December 2020. Her name? Kathy Pederson. Coach Kathy.

Kathy is a 5.0 rated player and a Level 2 Certified Teaching Professional and Rating Specialist through IPTPA, the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association. She is also a Certified Teaching Professional with PPR, the Professional Pickleball Registry. Kathy has a 50-year background in tennis, both playing and coaching. In addition, she was an educator before retiring, teaching kids and adults with disabilities.

I immediately bonded with Kathy because of our shared backgrounds and passion for helping people improve skills and performance. I had the opportunity to observe Kathy in action as she worked with clients and students at two venues in the area. I also had the opportunity to experience her approach to coaching as she prepared me for the 4.5 IPTPA rating test (which I passed) and as we worked together on the design and development of The Coach Mark and Coach Kathy Workout© (to be released April 2021).

So, what makes Coach Kathy special and what did I learn about her approach to pickleball coaching, instruction, and skill development?

First, Kathy left her ego at home. That is, she never dwelt on her 5.0 rating or her credentials with me or any of the players I saw her coaching. The focus was 100% on the needs and goals of students and clients. It was never about her. This “outside-in” attitude was evident in her total focus on the student and client.

Second, Kathy connected with people. She has an “emotional barometer” that enabled her to read and understand the needs of people. She checks in when players look confused and repeated or rephrased comments as necessary. She offered positive reinforcement and supportive, encouraging comments, even for the smallest of improvements.

Third, Kathy made learning and improvement a fun process. She introduced a variety of tools, learning aids, and drills that constantly engaged players. Her sessions were high energy and never boring. As testimony to this, I overheard one of her beginning students exclaim at the end of a session: “I had so much fun today. Why couldn’t I have met you sooner?”

Fourth, Kathy is flexible and adaptable. She was always well-prepared for her sessions, but could adjust the lesson based on the needs and capabilities being demonstrated at the time. Kathy never seemed upset or ruffled by anything or anyone. She just focused her positive energy and stayed right on task.

Fifth, Coach Kathy shared with me some of the techniques and ideas she utilizes with her students and clients. She also gave me feedback and ideas for growing my pickleball coaching practice. As a result, I learned new ways to present concepts, engage the different learning styles of people, and have fun while helping women, men, children, and youth master this crazy game.

I was very lucky and so fortunate to see first-hand the traits and attitudes of a world-class coach. I now see why Kathy is extremely (and I mean extremely) busy during the spring and summer months at her home base in Park City, Utah. I also see why many “snowbirds” in Surprise, Arizona look forward to returning and seeing her each year.

So, I owe a big, big, big thank you to Coach Kathy Pederson for the feedback, tips, support, help, coaching, collaboration, and …. friendship! My 2021 Winter Trip to Arizona would not have been nearly as successful or rewarding if I had not met Kathy Pederson on that sunny Sunday afternoon in December 2020.

I now have an inspiring role model for the type of pickleball coach and teaching professional I want to be for my clients and students – today and in the future.

Coach Kathy Pederson and Coach Mark Livingston, March 2021, Surprise, Arizona

Published by Coach Mark

Coach Mark is a Certified Pickleball Coach, Teaching Professional, and Rating Specialist at Coach Mark LLC.