I took my first one-on-one pickleball lesson this week to answer America’s favorite recent question, “What is pickleball?” I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the fastest-growing sport in America. It is clear that I have a ton to learn, but the 60-minute session left me confident that my tennis skills will translate well on the pickleball court. However, there were a few surprises for this brand new player. If you’re considering picking up a pickleball paddle, here are a few things that my instructor shared with me, as well as a few things that caught me off guard.
I threw my pickleball paddle.
Like an impetuous little cry baby, I tossed it into an empty bench.
It soared like a Frisbee, garnering several audible gasps from surrounding players.
I tell you this not because I am proud but because days later, I’m still embarrassed.
The catalyst? I went one and six in games against lateral competition and I couldn’t point to a single reason why. I reverted back to that 14-year-old boy who once smashed a tennis racket against the tree. But that was a hormonal rage brought on by girl trouble.
Decades later, and a much more mellow dude, there is no excuse for my pickleball frustration to be left on the court.
When I first started playing pickleball two years ago, I made a commitment to myself. A promise that I would avoid getting caught up in a marketing matrix that left me spending infinite dollars on pickleball gear.
I’ve been mostly successful.
Last night, it was business as usual at my “Advanced Intermediate to Advanced” pickleball league–until it wasn’t.
I was winning a doubles match 8-1.
I hit a wicked hard slice shot from just in front of the baseline.
The ball took a crazy turn and started to gravitate towards my opponent’s head. He just got his paddle up in time and hit a errant ball that sailed into the benches.
He wasn’t happy.
“Hey, I have to go to work tomorrow.”
“Never my intention to hurt anyone.”
We continued play, and I resorted to much softer tactics.
You can probably guess what happens next.
I lost the match 11-9.
On the drive home I was pissed at myself.
After almost two years of playing the sport, I still don’t know how to keep my pedal to the metal; I’m billing myself The Empathetic Pickleballer.
But that doesn’t show up in the box score.
I’m decent at pickleball but not very good at small talk!
As an introvert who loves playing the sport, I’ve had to push myself out of my comfort zone, often showing up at new venues and meeting new people.
And that’s soooo much more difficult than playing!
The social aspect of pickleball is a beautiful part of the game, but that doesn’t mean it comes easy to everyone. Sometimes, figuring out what do you say after saying hello is harder than hitting two ATPs in a row!
So, to help my fellow introverts, here are some tips for making conversation during pickleball.
“Let’s play cutthroat,” said the dude in the high socks, neon sneakers and Fila pickleball visor.
“Uh, sure,” I replied.
I then braced for impact. Was this dude gonna charge at me?
It was at this moment I was introduced to Australian Doubles, also known as Cutthroat, a popular pickleball variation that is perfect when you only have three players. The innovative game keeps everyone engaged when you are short one player and brings out players’ competitive sides. Learn how it works and why you should add it to your next pickleball outing.
Approaching Nassau Coliseum to play the Rip It Winter Invitational Pickleball Tournament felt like something special.
And then I entered the building, and reality set in.
I walked through a metal detector.
Was shown the makeshift concrete courts in the basement.
Endured start-time delays.
Not to mention the crazy distracting fire alarm that went off mid-match.
Let’s just say it was a learning experience. 🙂
Deep into my second year of playing pickleball, I proudly report that I have not experienced a sophomore slump! However, some lessons took longer to sink in than I would have hoped. Today, I share those with you, hoping you learn from my stubbornness and evolve your game quicker than I did.
As pickleball’s popularity has exploded, so have injuries, mainly caused by repetitive motion, awkward positions, and quick lunges.
Personally, I have found the sport much easier on my body than tennis. But that doesn’t mean it’s not without it’s aches and pains. In fact, I have another browser tab opened right now wondering if I tore my rotator cuff. But that’s a conversation for another time!
If you play the sport regularly, you will want to have a dedicated cross-training regimen off of the pickleball court that is designed to enhance overall fitness to meet the sport’s physical demands.
Pickleball players tend to fall hard for the sport.
The path to addiction is so quick that friends and families are often caught off guard.
There’s a reason many of us often hear, “Pickleball, again?!”
And it’s not said in the nicest of tones.
Well, I’m not sure about you, but it occurred to me recently that pickleball is my “third place.”