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Pickleball and the Dreaded “P” Word

Pickleball and the Dreaded “P” Word

Remember when you first started playing pickleball? Each day, each game, even each point provided a new learning opportunity. After a very short time you notice vast improvement in your game, and the needle continues to point upwards for several months as the pickleball honeymoon continues.

And then…plateau.

Suddenly, it seems everyone around you is improving and possibly passing you by while you have your first real negative experience with a game you love with passion. The smiles and laughter from others as they accomplish new things on the court is now lost on you because you’re stuck. God forbid, you may actually begin to regress a little and it becomes a real “thing,” setting up camp in your head rent-free.

Fear not, pickler. You are simply experiencing one of what could be many rough patches in your game. So if you feel your game flat-lining a bit, remember it may just be the natural course of events any time you have a sport in hyper-growth mode. Why does that matter? Glad you asked:

  • Pickleballers are nuts – Have you ever in your life seen people dedicate so many hours and resources to a sport? Everything is new – you discover leagues, clubs, tournaments, videos, tutorials, and professional players that probably didn’t exist to you three years ago. Let’s be honest, there are people who have dedicated their daily lives to pickleball. If you’re a casual player, don’t get frustrated by the maniacs playing 3-4 hours every day.
  • The Learning Curve – I mentioned the pickleball “honeymoon” phase. This is that glorious few months when you are in pure learning mode, eager to absorb every nuance of the game. You might have a daily epiphany that immediately changes your game for the better. All of this is part of the sport – pickleball is incredibly accessible and easy to learn. But for those who want to compete at a high level, the incremental gains are replaced by grinding; drills, practice, strategy sessions and film study are all part of improving your game past a 2.5 level of play.
  • Embrace the Basics – Yes, it’s incredibly frustrating to see people progress faster than you have been able to do. Are you willing to take a step back in order to improve? Go back to the fundamentals; check your grip, study court positioning, practice the basic shots needed to compete, hire a coach or someone who will give you constructive feedback on your game. Maybe you were able to rely on athleticism or experience in racquet sports to quickly advance but haven’t modified your style to be specific to pickleball. 
  • Find Open Play – You can find a court anywhere it seems. Look for open play opportunities and play with a new group of people unfamiliar with you or your struggles. You might find yourself actually enjoying the game again when you’re not concerned about how your peers may judge you. Play down a level, get into some friendly dink battles, teach others some of the lessons you’ve learned and be an ambassador of the game. 

The final advice is simple. Hang in there, this too shall pass. I’ve heard many a struggling pickleball player vow to give up the game, curse its existence and diminish their own skill set only to return to form a month later. It happens to all of us to a certain degree. Remember why you loved the game to begin with and revisit that happy place. 

Live, Love and Play, Pickleball!


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