Richard Movsessian came to Bonnybrook about a decade ago as a tennis player with sore knees. Today he is known as Coach Mo, the King of Villages pickleball.
And now he’s going national.
Coach Mo, 73, holds clinics here twice a week: Mondays, 3 p.m. at Pimlico Recreation Center and Thursdays, 3 p.m. at Big Cypress Recreation Center. He has been teaching here for years and has also sold thousands of copies of his instructional DVD.
You can see a video clip of Coach Mo at the link below:
Now the Coach is taking his pickleball act on the road. He and his assistant, Matty Klein, have either done or scheduled clinics in Michigan, North and South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware and New York, as well as throughout Florida.
“I just love teaching,” said Coach Mo, a retired physical education teacher and tennis and hockey coach from Lunenburg, Mass. “It just makes me feel good when I see players improve.”
One of the most dramatic improvements came with Matty Klein, who extolls the pickleball virtues of his mentor.
“I played for years and I wasn’t even close to my potential until I worked with Coach Mo,” said Klein, one of the top pickleball players in Central Florida. “He’s a kind, giving person and a wonderful teacher. He has the most passion for the game I’ve ever seen. And he cares about people.”
People like Kathryn and John Van Cedar from Toronto. They like to vacation in The Villages and happened to attend one of Coach Mo’s clinics. Now they’re hooked on the game. The couple recently drove here from Toronto to spend a couple of weeks in Coach Mo’s pickleball court classroom.
“I’m not an athlete but I’ve learned a lot from Coach Mo,” Kathryn said. “He teaches you the finer points of the game and you don’t have to be an athlete to understand what he’s saying.
“I love pickleball. It’s social, fun and the whole family can play. I want to play it right and that’s why I listen to Coach Mo.”
So does her husband, John, who worked as a teacher.
“Coach Mo is able to break things down and explain them in a way anyone can understand,” he said. “He taught me the ‘soft’ game, which means you don’t have to hit the ball hard to win in pickleball. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an experienced player; a guy like Coach Mo can make a difference in the way you play.”
“We want Coach Mo to come to Buffalo,” said ardent pickleball player, Mo disciple and Villages snowbird Ron San George. He recently held a pickleball party with Coach Mo giving tips to about 20 Buffalonians. “They loved it,” San George said.
Liz Lehmann lives in Duval and has been playing about a year.
“I met a couple of people who played pickleball, so I started playing,” she said. “Coach Mo is fabulous. He teaches you strategy and gives you confidence.”
Bob Clough of Winifred also appreciates the lessons.
“Not everybody who plays pickleball can teach the game,” he said. “Coach Mo can. He tells you the basic fundaments and explains what they are all about.”
It’s all part of the job for the Coach. He lives with his wife, Jeanne, and they have two grown children, Debra and Richard. Coach said his wife, “plays pickleball but she just plays for fun.”
One of the biggest problems tennis players have when moving to pickleball is trying to hit the ball too hard. “Most new players want to crush the ball,” he said. “This isn’t a game about power. This is like a chess game. You want to be patient; hit to the middle and dink the ball.”
Translation: take it easy and use your brain instead of your muscles.
During the clinic, Coach Mo held court in a calm voice with a touch of a New England accent. He seemed like a big, cuddly, pickleball teddybear who wore an oversized bright red sweatshirt, black gym shorts and a white cap. Coach Mo moves with grace and style on the court, always anticipating an opponent’s next shot. He is patient with his students and invites questions and offers advice. He stressed trying to keep the ball in the middle of the court and to aim at an opponent’s left foot. And hit it easy.
“The idea of the dink (soft shot) is to keep it alive,” he said, while hitting the ball back and forth with Klein in a demonstration. “You frustrate your opponent when you keep it alive. I remember on point, I had 31 hits. I won the point and that was the turning point of the match.”
If player is still determined to slam the ball, “be patient, keep dinking and wait for one you can put away,” the Coach said.
He suggests a wise use of time.
“Hey, when you’re young you can practice three hours a day,” he tells his Villages students. “I don’t have that kind of time anymore; I just want to hit the darn ball.”
Klein is muscular, youthful and athletic. He can soar in the air to hit a ball. “My feet haven’t left the ground in 20 years,” Mo cracked.
Pickleball is one of the hottest sports in The Villages. Coach Mo, who has a Web site at PickleballCoach.com, estimates there are close to 10,000 players and about 150 courts, with new ones being built all the time.
“It’s getting more popular,” Coach Mo said. “Older people can play; it’s quick to learn and it’s a lot fun. I just want people to play the right way. As long as they want to learn, I’m ready to teach.”