How do YOU play Pickleball - are you playing to improve your Pickleball or to Just Trying to Win the Game?
Having played with players from around the world, there is one common and dominant factor in almost everyone’s game. Most of us play to win! Yes true – that’s because it’s fun to win – or is it.
Let me explain: Yes there is a small proportion of players that have a ‘win at all costs’ attitude and at the other end of the spectrum there is a small proportion of players that have a – ‘I don’t care if I lose attitude’, I’m just here for a hit and a giggle.
For the rest of us in the middle – we play to win because it’s fun to win. Winning however is not really an indication of improvement in your game particularly if you are not challenged. When 5.0’s play against 3.0’s the challenge really doesn’t raise a sweat. However, when 5.0’s play against 5.0’s or 3’s with 3’s the challenge is completely different. As a general rule, the harder or more competent or closer to ‘even standard’ the opposition are, the greater the challenge and the greater the feeling in an eventual win.
The unfortunate part for many ‘new start’ Pickleball clubs however is that the competency level is broad and segmented and it means that often a court of 4 players will commonly feature 2 to 4 different grade levels. And for the most part, the challenge of the game, not the WIN, is not really apparent for the top one or two players on that court in that game particularly if they are playing together against the two lower level players.
Yes you the reader, go on, challenge yourself right now to say this is not true!
So why do we play for this win if the challenge is not-threatening and the eventual win barely raises a sweat or releases any adrenaline? Because it’s fun to win obviously… Or, is it that we are frightened to lose?
Likely you are frightened to lose – why else would you continually hit the ball to the least resistance “player” – the lowest level rated player! The answer is because that is the path of least resistance – and best chance of winning the point and by default unfortunately the least challenge.
But isn’t winning all about the challenge? Sadly for many that I personally see and play with, they are frightened to lose, would rather win than be challenged and constantly target their returns to the lowest level player. Unfortunately this by default also offers little challenge and probably even less improvement in ones own game – if it could be measured.
Don’t get me wrong, this is great play when you are playing to win – in a tournament more so, but at club play, you’re wasting a great opportunity to improve your game by creating and upping the challenge.
The next time you play, why not target the best (or better) player on the other side? By default they will offer you the greatest challenge in their play and push you to be better than will the lower rated player. This in most instances will create a better game all round with the lower rated player not feeling that they are picked on all the time, the better player feels included in the game aside from just returning their serve and the other side will feel better when they win – be it the point or the game when they have challenged themselves against the better player.
But what if you are the best player on the court and still no-one hits to you. How can you up your satisfaction of the game in the context of a greater challenge. Well, depending on your partner and if they are both up to it and understanding of it, you could steel more shots which is one option. The other option – if this is not an option is to simply play with your opposing hand.
Believe it or not, I have found it to improve the challenge and my ‘normal’ game. It can take a few terrible games (at first) while you learn a new skill, not unlike trying to brush your teeth with the wrong hand, but rest assured, you quickly get good enough to play ok Pickleball that will surely challenge your own game skill and ambidextrous abilities.
You can then be master of the type of game you want nearly every time you step on the court with any level rated player.
So, how do YOU play Pickleball?
Other people who have read this page go onto read...