Pickleball Journey: Lessons From My Latest Tournament

I played in a Thanksgiving pickleball tournament last night. It was my first tournament in months, and I had a nervous energy pulsing through me as I approached the facility.

My teammate and I were ready to give it our all. 

And we came out hot.

We won our first six games with confidence and steady gameplay, advancing to the finals. 

Then everything changed in an instant. 

Before I knew it, we were down 8-0 in the championship game! The final was 11 to 2. While the other team won fair and square, there was no reason we couldn’t beat them–or make the game more competitive. 

As I critique myself, here is what I learned. Maybe you can relate!

My alter ego who is in much better shape, pursuing a pickleball journey of his own.

A Lack of Focus and Drive

For reasons unknown, I stopped caring at the worst possible time. During the time between games, my heart rate settled, and I started thinking about everything except pickleball.  

And this is the strange love-hate relationship I have with pickleball. 

I do it for fun and exercise and socialization. Do I like to win, sure! But I can’t seem to get to that same competitive gear I was able to find with tennis, baseball or other sports. 

I need to examine why because I care enough to analyze why I had to settle for a silver medal.

Too Much Empathy

I sometimes get too caught up in the narrative. With each pickleball game I play, I consider who I’m playing and how I will play against them. For example, I’m not going to shove the ball down a female player’s throat until she does it to me multiple times; I won’t exploit mobility issues to an extreme; I never pick on a weaker partner until I’m down in a match; and last night, I was over empathizing about the father-son duo we were up against and how meaningful a championship would be for them. 

While I am proud to be compassionate, I can’t let it cloud my killer instinct on the court. I have to remember to stay focused on my own performance and stay locked in to WIN.

They Wanted It More

In the championship game, the other team wanted it more…in that moment. Our opponents came out super aggressive and never let up. By the time I realized their strategy, I had already launched a few lazy lobs and arm-only shots that were quickly deposited down our throats.

Silver tastes bittersweet.

However, I did have a good time, talked to some great people, and got in my cardio. I left the court a winner (sorta!) since I will learn from this experience. 

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