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. 🙂
But I’m not complaining. After all, a few hours playing pickleball, regardless of the elements, is always a good time.
My partner and I played in the men’s 3.5 double bracket, ages 29 – 50. It was round-robin style, and we played 4 matches.–winning all four and snagging a gold medal.
The biggest victory, however, was escaping without a pickleball-related injury. People were skidding all over the place on the floor, and errant balls from other courts were rampant.
I share these details to serve as a reminder that every tournament delivers a different experience. Rather than dwell on the negative aspects, keep an open mind and embrace each event as its own unique animal.
A few tips for those who are considering playing in a pickleball tournament.
Manage Expectations: Don’t expect center court at the US Open. Be flexible and make the best of your surroundings, whatever they may be. In the end, it’s about the competition and camaraderie.
Practice Under Pressure: Try some practice games with added intensity. Call your own lines, play for points, do situational drills. This will help simulate the stress of tournament play.
Play Within Yourself: Don’t overhit or take unnecessary risks. Keep a steady pace, make high-percentage shots, and let your consistency carry you through. Waiting for your opponent’s mistakes is often a viable strategy.
Watch Top Players: Study how the best players conduct themselves during matches – their pacing, shot selection, positioning, and mental toughness. Try to emulate their composure.
Stay Positive: Don’t dwell on errors or bad calls. Maintain an even temperament regardless of score. Bring the fire on big points without losing control.
Have Fun: Tournaments should ultimately be about enjoyment, whatever the results. Play hard, make new friends, learn some lessons. The rest will take care of itself.
While the RipIt tournament may not have been the stuff of dreams, it held many valuable experiences. I faced pressure, handled adversity, honed my game, and came away hungry to continue improving. That personal growth is what it’s all about.
So grab your paddle, find a local tournament, and make some memories on the courts! Just leave your expectations at home.