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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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