When Pickleball Frustration Turns Into a Paddle Smash

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.

Especially when it comes during recreational league play.

Rather than psychoanalyze my immaturity, I’d rather look at the reasons that led me to such frustration. I’m not making excuses, but I do want to look at a few ways the game has changed over the past year that has forced my game to somewhat plateau. I love the sport, but sometimes, pickleball sucks.

pickleball frustration

People are obsessed with the sport and they are playing more than ever.

It seems like everyone and their mother has started playing pickleball. The demand is so high that new pickleball facilities are popping up all over town. And the diehards are playing pickleball every chance they get – I’m talking 4-5 times a week if not more. I just can’t keep up with that level of obsession. I have a job, family, and other responsibilities that keep me from devoting all my free time to pickleball. So while others are getting better and better through sheer repetition, my game is stagnating.

Younger, more athletic people are getting into the game.

I’ve noticed a huge influx of young, athletic people picking up pickleball over the past year or so. Folks who used to play tennis, volleyball and other active sports are now bringing their athleticism and competitiveness to the pickleball courts. These are people in their 20s and 30s who are naturally quick and energetic. When I’m up against one of these young guns, I try to match their speed and stamina, a fool’s game, of course. The athleticism gap is real, leading to pickleball frustration for folks with more miles on the engine.

Be sure to make sure you are not suffering from pickleball burnout.

Players who used to avoid power have embraced it.

Pickleball used to be a finesse game focused on control and placement. But lately, I’ve noticed more and more players actively trying to crush the ball as hard as possible. Players who used to avoid power shots are now relishing them. They’ve gotten caught up in the arms race for paddles, balls and techniques that maximize speed and force. Many are sacrificing control for raw power. And it’s working. The folks who (unfairly) labeled and judged me as a BANGER a mere year ago have embraced the aggressive style.

People are taking more lessons, classes, and are drilling like crazy.

From private lessons to group clinics to hardcore drilling sessions, it seems everyone is taking their pickleball learning a lot more seriously these days. The number of certified pickleball coaches has exploded. Meanwhile, I’m still relying on the skills I’ve gradually picked up from simply playing games. More people have become students of the game, watching pickleball matches on YouTube or even on national TV. Maybe it’s time I invest again in real lessons and training so I’m not left behind.

Where is my killer instinct?

Make no mistake, pickleball has gotten intensely competitive lately. So many players have developed a killer instinct. They play with fiery motivation to crush their opponents point after point. No ball goes unpunished. I’m just not wired that way. I like to compete but don’t feel the need to destroy someone. I don’t obsess over wins and losses or beating certain rivals (at least not often). At some point I simply stop caring whether I win or lose the match and my game suffers. To get to the next level, I need to work on my own killer instinct. But honestly, I’m not sure I want to. I guess I value friendly fun over competitive dominance. But then why ever toss a paddle?

While it’s true the overall pickleball skill level has risen, that’s no reason to lose perspective. If I’m honest, much of my frustration stems from within. I put pressure on myself to win, to prove something. But to whom? And what’s the point? If I can relax and remember it’s just a game, then those confusing losses won’t sting quite as much.

The joy of any sport is found by being fully present in each moment.

Maybe it’s time I have a friendly chat with that 14-year-old still hiding inside me. To tell him to chill out, keep perspective and enjoy the ride. Losing a game or two or six is not the end of the world. Simply put, pickleball frustration is silly. True growth comes not by smashing paddles but through patience, purpose and finding the fun again.

Leave a Comment

Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner