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Featured Pickler - Tom Helfrich

Wheelchair tips from Tom Tom Helfrich has been a pickleball instructor for 10 years, primarily at the New Port Richey Recreation Center. Due to recurring back issues, however, he has taught and refined pickleball players from a wheelchair during the past few years.

While he continues to work with able-bodied pickleball players as well, Helfrich recently shared a few tips about pickleball in a wheelchair.

Q. How did you get into being an instructor from a wheelchair?

A. The New Port Richey Recreation Center had a semi-sport chair. I started myself in the chair (back problems) and took on the challenge.

Q. What’s the coolest part about it as well as the most challenging?

A. The coolest part was to see players smile at the end of each session. The wheelchair is not that easy to play in. The biggest challenge is the chair itself.

Q. What are the most important aspects of teaching pickleball to others in wheelchairs?

A. The most important aspect of teaching is that the player needs to be willing to practice.

Q. What kind of feedback do you get?

A. Some of the responses are: Love the chair. You have taken me from the dark to see the light. This is work but I am having fun.

Q. What is the best way in which you motivate or encourage your students in wheelchairs?

A. Have fun. Don’t give up. Have patience. I played at a high level standing up. The chair will take at least six months or better to play at the level some expect to get to, so be patient

By Steve Lee Times Total Media Correspondent Photos courtesy of Hillsborough Community College

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