You have to have been living under a rock to not have heard about the pickleball craze.

I only played a few times before this year. Then, in February, while visiting my sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Florida, I played a few times, and fell in love with the game.

I’ve played tennis since I was a kid, almost always singles, and mostly just hitting with a friend once a week for the past 10 years. Pickleball was easy to get used to, and got my competitive juices flowing.

Now, about eight months – and many pickleball games – later, I was reflecting on the experience and realized not only how much fun it’s been, but also how much I’ve learned from the experience.

The fun:

  1. There are just a few rules and, other than getting used to the unnecessarily confusing scoring, it’s an easy game to learn, I’m guessing even easier if you have played tennis.
  2. Because it’s a small court, I can get to most shots. One of my favorite things playing tennis has always been getting to shots my opponent doesn’t expect me to get to. I have the same enjoyable experience playing outfield in softball. And, I suspect the small court is one of the reasons pickleball has attracted so many people my age and older.
  3. It’s almost always a team sport – like doubles tennis – and I love having a partner on the court to encourage, get encouragement from, celebrate with, teach, and learn from.
  4. I have met lots of new people. Almost every time I have played, it’s been with people I had never met before this year, and most of the time it’s been “drop-in” play where whomever shows up takes turns, changing partners, changing courts, and changing opponents.

The learning:

  1. According to reports, there have been many injuries to pickleball players – mostly sprains, strains, and overuse. I had a minor injury. It wasn’t something that happened suddenly. I just noticed one day that the back of one of my knees was sore when I bent it all the way, squatting for example, or even when putting on my shoes. I think what happened to me was going for every ball without understanding the game well enough, as well as playing every time I had a chance. Since then, I’ve been trying to not overdo things, which I have a tendency to do in many areas of life – like the time I started eating fish twice a day when I stopped eating poultry, and ended up with an elevated level of mercury. Cutting down to no more than once a day, and being conscious of the types of fish I eat, quickly got things back to where they needed to be, much like cutting down on how often I was playing pickleball (the famous “everything in moderation” saying) and being more conscious of what I am doing on the court, has led to lots of fun and success with only one more, brief, minor injury.
  2. Some people don’t want to hear anything about their game, especially during a game. I am open to learning and want to improve my game. Most people I have played with feel the same way. Some have asked me for help with their game, even during a game. But, I also learned to offer to help your partner only if they are open to help.
  3. It’s also important to be kind to your partner. All of us make mistakes. You may be better than a given partner, and in another game your partner may be better than you. I haven’t yet played with or against someone who played perfectly. Expecting perfection from your partner (or from yourself for that matter) is unrealistic, unhealthy, and not fun.
  4. Be willing to play against players who aren’t as good as you are. When I started, I was playing with people who already knew the game and were better than me, at least at first. Share that same kindness with others. I find every pickleball game to be a good experience. I learn something every time I play. A good way to approach a game against less-than-ideal opponents is to consider it a practice; a chance to try new things. In tennis I’ve always liked winning, but I also love playing against better players to learn; to up my game. I never thought about it the opposite way, that I can learn playing with lesser players, until now.
  5. The 5th of my Six Simple Rules is “Be a Lifelong Learner,” and I intend to continue to learn as long as I play this game. I’ve found it’s worthwhile to watch some very short pickleball videos on Instagram. Pickleball can be a fast-moving game, and newer players tend to hit the ball hard all the time, but what I’ve seen is most hits by the best players are gentle ones

Be well,