Name: Frank Solana
Family: I’ve been married to my wife, Mandy, for six months. We have a Labrador retriever named Odin.
Years in the Golden Isles: I moved to Brunswick from Atlanta in the summer of 2012 after being recruited to become a lead tennis instructor at The Cloister, on Sea Island.
School: I was a tennis scholarship player at Jefferson State, in Birmingham, Alabama.
Occupation: Director of Pickleball and Tennis at Frederica Golf Club, on St. Simons Island.
Which sport is your favorite to play and why? Two years ago, my answer would have been tennis, since it’s been at the center of my life and career. But now, I have to say it’s pickleball. It’s a great sport – the fastest growing in the country. Once I learned how to play, it became almost an obsession and I’ve realized that I have a real talent for the game. I won gold in my first tournament (for 5.0 players) and have collected enough points in tournament play to get a world ranking of No. 40. I believe I can be a top-ranked player in professional pickleball. I also thoroughly enjoy teaching the game to players at any level. It doesn’t take very long to get the hang of it, and it’s a suitable sport for people of any age. For example, the person who taught me the game and went through the teaching certification process with me is 76-years-old!
What are some of the best things about living and working in the Golden Isles? This area makes you feel like you’re on vacation all year. And I never get tired of being surrounded by the marshes and the water. Also, the Golden Isles has become much more of a melting pot; people from all over the U.S. settle here. So you wind up meeting many interesting and accomplished people. And yet, there’s still plenty of Southern charm. I’m all for that.
What advice would you give to someone interested in playing pickleball for the first time? The cool thing about Pickleball is that it’s not like tennis or golf with a long learning curve. You can start playing on your first day if you learn the basic principles. So I would advise someone starting to take a lesson or two and get a good paddle.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? There is nothing more rewarding seeing students get better and better and becoming more dedicated to playing well. I feel like I am on the leading edge of a great new game and sport. This year, I will be formalizing my interest in teaching and growing the game by creating the Frank Solana Pickleball Academy. We will try to increase the availability of great instruction and substantially increase the size of the pickleball community.
Favorite spot(s) in the Golden Isles: Mandy and I love spending time on Cumberland Island. Whether it’s relaxing on the beach or a hike around the island, we really enjoy the natural beauty and unspoiled quality. We also enjoy dining out and checking out the restaurants here.
What are your main motivations for teaching and playing sports? I thoroughly enjoy teaching. In pickleball especially, I want to bring more and more people into the sport because it’s active, healthy, social and good for everyone. I am very lucky to make my living in sports because it’s something I love to do and keeps me feeling well.