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Collingwood coach travels coast-to-coast teaching pickleball

People of Collingwood: Mark Renneson, professional pickleball coach and founder of Third Shot Sports
2022-03-04 POCRenneson JO-001
Mark Renneson is professional pickleball coach and founderĀ of Third Shot Sports.

From tennis to pickleball, coach Mark Renneson has always had a love of teaching.

For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Renneson, 41, professional pickleball coach and founder of Third Shot Sports.

Q: For how long have you lived in the Collingwood area?

A: (My family) moved to Collingwood from Vancouver in 2014.

Q: Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Ottawa.

I went to university mostly in Toronto. Toward the end of university, I met my wife Laura and she was finishing chiropractor college.

We wanted to move somewhere with mountains and oceans. That took us to Vancouver. A two-year trial turned into six years, getting married, getting a dog and having a baby.

When our daughter was born, who is now seven and a half, we knew it was time to come back to Ontario where most of our close friends and family lived. We didn’t want to be in Toronto again.

My wife said to me, “You’d probably like Collingwood. Collingwood is the most B.C. you can find in Ontario.”

It sounded good. So I moved to Collingwood, pretty much sight unseen. It was a great fit.

I was on parental leave with my daughter because she was only six months old then. I joined the town’s Accessibility Advisory Committee and the library board. We got pretty involved with the community pretty quickly.

I started running the Collingwood Tennis Club. I was a professional tennis coach for about 20 years.

Q: Was that your job?

A: While still in Vancouver, I had made a plan to make the move to school teacher, because it wasn’t the tennis that I loved. It was the teaching. I had been a teacher in Vancouver for two years.

When I was in Ontario, I was waiting to get on the supply list. It’s a really long process.

While I was waiting, it made sense to run the tennis clubs.

That’s where pickleball started.

Q: When did you first hear about pickleball and what drew you to it?

A: Right after I moved to Collingwood, we were members at the YMCA. I dropped in with my daughter one day to check it out.

I saw a bunch of people in the gym playing this noisy game I’d never seen before. It was pickleball.

There were a bunch of grandmothers there and they were more than happy to hold the baby and I went to play. It was a lot of fun.

As I did some research, it seemed a lot of people in South Georgian Bay and beyond were playing pickleball. But there didn’t seem to be any real, professional coaches.

As someone who has 20 years of coaching experience, I thought there was a business opportunity there.

I started by watching a bunch of YouTube videos of good players to understand strategy. I would rent out space in local elementary schools, and I would offer lessons.

But nobody would come, even when they were free.

It was so new. There was no real history of people paying for professional coaching.

Eventually, maybe one person showed up. He had a good time. Then he would bring one or two others. The next week, they brought more.

About six months in, I got an email from a woman who said she saw my YouTube videos and she wanted me to come down to coach at a club in San Antonio, Texas.

That was really how it started.

Q: Now you’re a major force in pickleball coaching. Can you talk about what you do now?

A: I wear a few different hats.

The first is, I started Third Shot Sports. I travel around North American running pickleball events, like clinics or camps. We have a big online presence.

Another hat I wear is with Pickleball Coaching International. It’s the coaching wing of Third Shot Sports. It’s a way to provide resources and training for people who are interested in becoming pickleball instructors.

The third hat I wear is why I’m in Vancouver right now. About two years ago, I was hired by Tennis Canada. They saw what was happening with pickleball.

I work as Tennis Canada’s head of pickleball coach education. We now have a national coaching certification program. I’m kind of the architect of it, and I travel around Canada training facilitators to run these programs.

Q: How has the sport evolved over time?

A: It’s been a pretty wild ride. We really got into it at the right time.

In the last few years, the number of people playing has exploded.

The mainstream awareness has exploded as well. Eight years ago, I’d never heard of pickleball.

Now, the Kardashians play pickleball. (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau plays pickleball.

There’s so much more money coming in to pickleball on the professional side of things.

Q: Is there anything you like to do outside of pickleball when you’re not travelling, like hobbies?

A: If my wife were sitting beside me she’d say oh, not much.

Right now, it’s hard. There’s not much time with a seven-year-old and a three-year-old at home.

When I’m not travelling for work, most of my time is spent with them and doing things they like to do.

We love skiing. It’s one of the great things about living in Collingwood. We love camping.

Generally, when I’m home, I’m in charge of the food and cooking and I love being in the kitchen with my kids.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?

A: In Collingwood, there is the Small Business Enterprise Centre.

When I moved to Collingwood and was just getting started with this whole pickleball thing, there was a program for people with new businesses who needed support and resources to get it off the ground.

I got accepted into that program when our business was very much a baby business.

Being in that program was very much a real help. It helped jump start this business, and helped take it from something that was very local and narrowly focused to something that is now much bigger and international.

I owe a lot to having that good starting point.

For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email jessica@villagemedia.ca.