Pickleball instructor David Bejko

A January 2023 APP Pickleball Participation Report shows 14% of Americans 18 and older played pickleball between August 2021 through August 2022, equaling 36.5 million pickleball players, making it the fasting growing sport two years in a row.

A San Diego startup decided to make it easier for members of the community to find affordable lessons in learning the sport and allow athletes to earn income teaching a sport they love. They began launching training sites in the county, including two in La Mesa, one in Spring Valley, and another in Santee. With TeachMeTo’s interactive map, it is easy to find a pickleball instructor at a nearby facility.

TeachMeTo CEO Nick O’Brien said with the growing number of people wanting to learn how to play pickleball, he decided to create a website where instructors can easily create a profile, so students can learn who they are, where they teach, view their schedules and book a time.

“We are growing like weeds, and it has been a lot of fun,” he said. “We are trying to tell our story to the broader San Diego community.”

O’Brien said TeachMeTo launched in February 2022. He said his decision to start the company came when he was trying to take golf lessons.

“The experience was so painful,” he said. “I had to browse 10 to 15 web pages that all had different layouts and designs. I could not find pricing information, reviews, contact information, and I had to pick up the phone and call a lot of different instructors. Overall, it was much more of a hassle that I am used to in the modern era of the online consumer where I can go online easily to a website like Airbnb and book a stay in a couple of clicks. I felt like it was time for a platform like this in the sports lessons world and upon further research, no one else had developed this. That, coupled with coming out of COVID, and people wanting to get outside and learn in person rather than through a screen, there is a lot of interest in meeting local instructors in your community and learn new things from them.”

O’Brien said he started out with surfing and golf, and launched pickleball a few months later, which has now become its fastest growing platform and the largest focus for the company.

“Over 36 million Americans tried pickleball last year and San Diego and Southern California as a whole is one of the hotspots,” he said. “We happened to be at the right place at the right time and we are actively growing both our student community as well as our instructors across San Diego and beyond.”

O’Brien said it offers bulk discounts which are approximately $60 per hour, which is quite competitive to country club rates, and tries to provide lessons that are accessible as possible to everyone while making sure instructors are earning enough to make it worthwhile for them.

“If you are going to a private club, you typically pay up to $100 to $130 hour per lesson, so we come up to about half of that.”

O’Brien said its instructors are “their own entrepreneurs” and build relationships with locations, then bring more locations online as they grow on the platform.

O’Brien said pickleball, like tennis, is a racket sport, which originated in the state of Washington that has spread “like wildfire” across California, through the Midwest, and up the east coast.

“Because it is an accessible and low impact sport, it attracts people of all ages, so you have kids playing it in their PE classes, seniors playing it in retirement communities, young athletes competing at a professional level, and now, major league pickleball has investments from LeBron James, Kevin Durant, who are working on expanding the sport into the national limelight. You have a national pickleball tour that was in Phoenix, Arizona a few weeks ago. It really is a sport for anyone and that is why it is growing so quickly.”

La Mesa pickleball instructor David Bejko works at several venues, but since he also works in La Mesa, he teaches at the La Mesita Park, Callier Park, and personally plays at the HUB Pickleball Clubs in Spring Valley. Bejko said he began doing tennis lessons with his own small business with about 13 to 15 clients over the summers while he was back home in Texas, during the years he was attending San Diego State University. Bejko played tennis through high school, then played club, tournaments around the Houston, Texas region through USTA Tennis. Then he began playing pickleball and began playing pickleball tournaments.

“Since then, I have kind of transitioned over from tennis to pickleball. Since I have graduated, I have been playing a lot more pickleball. There are a lot more communities playing around the La Mesa area, and I found myself applying those teaching skills that I learned from tennis to pickleball,” he said. “I have the niche of working with people with the things they want to improve, so I thought it would be a cool idea to start giving lessons.”

Bejko said though he works another full-time job in La Mesa now, he does not have the time he had as a tennis coach to do all the marketing and outreach to get clients.

“But when I found TeachMeTo, it connects local pros with students, it was a much easier process to get into that teaching role and getting clients coming to me as it handles much of the advertising and marketing,” he said. “As a student, if you are looking at learning pickleball at whatever level, we have these guys in our system that are good longtime players that can show you the ropes. TeachMeTo will bring me the clients.”

Bejko said it makes his coaching schedule easy to work around his work schedule, he is able to get more exercise, and still help others with pickleball, as well as getting to meet many other people in the local community, and help people get to that next level in their play.

“I have a keen eye to be able to explain and help understands where people’s faults and weaknesses are, and help them continue to work on them,” he said. “It is more of an observant eye of doing so many years of tennis lessons. It is really about finding out where people can improve. It is understanding how people play and giving them direction from there. Whether it is explaining all the rules and the basics, and giving them help at getting better at the game, even if they are at a higher level.”

Bejko said pickleball is understanding where the other player is on the court, having solid hand-eye coordination, and a quick reaction time.

“Learning that quick reaction time and making those changes based on how your opponent is playing is super essential in pickleball,” he said. “I am able to communicate whether it is at the very basics all the way to higher level techniques and the strategies you need to beat that opponent. Tennis is harder to get to the higher level, but with pickleball it is something you can pick up pretty quickly, and then start tweaking things a little bit. That is what is really cool about pickleball, just about anyone can play.”

Bejko said pickleball is for all age groups.

“It is still fast paced. Many players play close to the net. I requires a lot of patience and diligence and technique,” he said. “When it comes to singles there is quite a bit of running involved, but for the most part, I have seen up to 85-year-olds playing this game and they are far better than many of the 25-year-olds that I have seen playing because they have more experience in understanding the game and they are quick on their feet. It does not have that excision on your muscles and your joints. It can be a very lax sport as long as you understand how to play it correctly.”

For more information or to find a pickleball instructor near you, visit www.teachme.to/pickleball.

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