Pop! Pop! Pop!
The familiar sound of pickleballs ricocheting off paddles filled the pickleball courts at Palm Creek in Casa Grande, Arizona. The noise was a soundtrack to the hard-fought tournament in progress at the 2016 USAPA Nationals. The rapid back-and-forth of two teams competing their hearts out served as music to the ears of international gymnastic gold medalist-turned-pickleball aficionado, Seymour Rifkind.
“What a fantastic event,” exclaimed the author of 21st Century Samurai: The Secret Path to Success and Fulfillment. “The organization was outstanding, and the media coverage was instantaneous.”
With over 10,000 views and counting on YouTube, this year’s 2016 USAPA Nationals has been shared time and again. “The competition just keeps getting better… and younger,” Seymour says in a reflective tone.
During the 2015 National Tournament, pickleball coaches and players including Rifkind discussed whether the time was right to organize a formal teacher certification program. All sports have training camps and clinics which are used to cultivate talent. Standards needed to be set and adhered to, and teachers needed to maintain high standards.
This led to the birth of the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA). According to Rifkind the organization created “a curriculum of agreed-upon basic pickleball fundamentals [such as] identifying the correct strategies, shot selections and strokes for beginner through intermediate players.”
Five months later, on the heels of the US Open Pickleball Championships, the IPTPA was born. “We launched our website and formally started certifying IPTPA teaching professionals,' says Rifkind. Since its inception, the IPTPA has had over 200 people in various stages of the certification process, of which approximately 100 are IPTPA certified.
This isn’t simply a 'sign up and get on the list' scenario. The IPTPA takes their certifications seriously to ensure the future of the sport is in good hands. No stranger to success, Rifkind and company challenge the applicants to be their best. “We have a failure rate of 7.5% identified as individuals who did not pass one or more of the three tests required and have been asked to retake the exam at a later date after completing more study, practice and/or teaching experience.”
It's clear that Rifkind was feeling that passion that made him an Olympic-level gymnast. “One of the most important traits of a good coach is the recognition from the start that this is a selfless profession. It is not about me; it is about my students. You need to feel genuine satisfaction in helping your students achieve their goals.'
'All your planning, study and self-improvement should be directed to helping your students: How can I organize my lessons and clinics more effectively? What additional drills or suggestions can I learn to aid my students in learning the third shot drop? What are the most effective training tools other IPTPA members use while teaching? What can I do to motivate, recognize problem areas and, most importantly, correct the problems I identify with each of my students with each of my students?”
Prior to his involvement in pickleball, Seymour Rifkind traveled the world putting on peak performance workshops for major university athletic teams. He explained to coaches that peak performance was more than breaking down film. It was about reinforcing the basics, training harder and longer, and surrounding yourself with other coaching experts. At the highest level of competition, the mental aspects that each individual must train to develop is the critical factor to success and winning titles. Focus, commitment, and one’s belief system become paramount mental factors to success.”
In order to maintain member status as a certified teaching professional, it is required that each IPTPA member continue his or her education by earning 2 continuing education units (CEU) per year. This process will be emphasized and enforced in year two. IPTPA will offer extensive full-day workshops such as the one being offered on April 21 in Naples, Florida (which will fulfill the 2-CEU requirement) as well as monthly webinars and on-line video tutorials.
Members may also write articles, create videos and tip sheets for submission to IPTPA. If they are deemed worthy and published, members will earn CEU credit. In this way, a two-way level of communication is encouraged so that members and management are working together to fulfill their mission:
IPTPA will be the world’s leading organization of Certified Pickleball Teaching Professionals, viewed and highly respected as an organization of knowledgeable experts and industry innovators. IPTPA will deliver an ongoing program of workshops, seminars and other learning experiences to continually raise the quality of each of our members. Our intent is to raise the standards of pickleball excellence on a worldwide basis and to work in conjunction with the USAPA to help grow the sport of pickleball.
As Seymour Rifkind reminisces about all the progress made, he can’t help but look ahead to what the 2017 US Open Championships hold. He is excited to see which star athletes will become the next champions, breaking out of their molds to become superstars.
“In April 2017, we will be celebrating our first full year in operation. We will kick off our second year by introducing the first of many content-driven programs for our membership. The first IPTPA World Congress is scheduled as an all-day workshop to be held April 21, 2017, in Naples, Florida, in conjunction with the 2017 US Open Pickleball Championships.”
IPTPA members should visit their website and sign up for their inaugural IPTPA World Congress.
Prospective members may also be interested in checking the website as well, to learn more about the IPTPA such as requirements necessary for certification. Follow the IPTPA Facebook page for additional content and breaking updates.