Pickleball Rocks – Meet the trainers

Picklers practicing their strokes at Paula and Jerry’s drills

Picklers practicing their strokes at Paula and Jerry’s drills

Flo Van Volkom

Robson Ranch has some of the best pickleball players in the west. The reason? Our fabulous trainers! The Robson Ranch Pickleball Club is lucky to have a talented group of high-level players who give generously of their time to make the rest of us better. Besides the many hours devoted to training, each of them spends additional time volunteering in leadership roles within the club.

Take Steve Arthur, who can be found Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:00 a.m. to noon herding his pickling ‘prentices through the basics covering scoring, serving and dinking. One can feel his towering presence looming over the court as he yells at hapless newbies to “Get to the line!” Steve works with beginners because he would like to give back, feeling fortunate that he had so many mentors when he was starting out. Asked about what advice he would like to give to his trainees, Steve paraphrased General Patton saying, “Wars are not won by dying for your country, it’s making the other b@#%$rd(person) die for his. Same general rule applies, just keep the ball in play and let the other team make the mistakes.”

Once a player has mastered some of the basics they can improve by attending drills conducted by 4.0 rated Jerry and Paula Steger (Tuesdays, 12:30-2:00). The couple has been playing pickleball since 2006, and they are fortunate to travel the country at least six months a year playing pickleball everywhere they go. They are both USAPA Ambassadors: Paula for Robson Ranch AZ and Jerry At-Large. Their objective is to grow the sport, and they believe that the more players know the better they play and the more addicted they become. To that end they focus on refining the strokes and introducing game strategy. Drills are repeated until every player has successfully hit the shots. Then the skills are incorporated into games where each point is analyzed. In addition to the clinic this pickling pair gives many hours to the club as tournament department heads and volunteer referees.

For 3.5+ rated players, Larry Kraus (4.5), a self-described pickleball junky, conducts a more advanced clinic on Tuesday 12:30-2:30. Larry’s advice is to stay focused on the soft game. Almost everything they work on in the clinic revolves around dinking and third shot drops. Besides playing pickleball seven days a week, Larry runs the Men’s 4.0 and Mixed 4.5 intercommunity games along with the Tuesday ladder and the 3.5 clinic. This year he became an Ambassador-At-Large for the USAPA and encourages players to join the organization that supports the game we’ve all come to love. Larry is also the club treasurer and has served on the Board of Directors in varying capacities.

Some common themes emerged after talking with the trainers and others I have met on the court. Whether you’re social or competitive it’s fun and a great way to meet a lot of wonderful people. And you hear the word “addictive” an awful lot!