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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Why Play in a Tournament

There have been many posts that discuss tournament results or future tournaments. But we have yet to discuss why anyone should choose to play in pickleball tournaments. Let’s first review why anyone should play pickleball at all.

Pickleball is first and foremost FUN. It takes only as much time and effort as you want to expend in order to play at the level you choose. It is a very social sport with a small court allowing verbal interplay among the players. The short games allow players to gather on the sidelines while waiting their turns to play. These gatherings also provide opportunities for social interaction.

Pickleball is active and healthy. It lowers blood pressure, reduces body fat, improves coordination and balance, and helps maintain mental acuity. While pickleball is an active sport, it is not overly strenuous due to the small court and short games.
Pickleball is competitive – at least as competitive as you choose. The etiquette of pickleball allows for both social play among those who choose to remain novice players as well as aggressive play for those who want to let their competitive juices flow.

So how does tournament play fit into those parameters?

If you are having fun playing with same 4-20 players
every day or week, multiply that many times when you play with 150-300 new people in a tournament. Recognize that all tournament players have the one thing in common – the fun of the game. That makes it easy to strike up conversations and make new friends from different areas. I have read that tournaments are like large self-help groups where the addiction is fed by learning from others.

Pickleball can get a little repetitive when you play the same people over and over. Everyone learns each other’s tendencies and strengths and weaknesses. Improvement stagnates as a result. In a tournament, you play somebody new, and win or lose, you learn some new things. After my last tournament, I posted a series on dinking because that was the differentiator between winning and losing. While I was an experienced dinker, the specific skillset of aggressive dinking was something I learned was needed to improve my game. Improvement can come from just observing other matches too, especially those of higher-ranked players.

Typically, pickleball activities last a couple of hours several times a week for most players. Then, the court times end and the next sport takes over. Imagine being completely immersed in a pickleball atmosphere for 2-3 days. Tournaments with men’s, women’s, and mixed matches tend to last that long. They also generally require traveling to a distant site and spending the night. You get to spend as much time as you choose hanging with the pickleball action, either playing, observing or interacting. 

Tournaments are all about competition. Don’t ever forget that players are there to win and will try their hardest to accomplish that goal. That means exploiting the weaker player and weakest shot. If this kind of competitive spirit isn’t in your nature, then tournament play probably isn’t for you. However, there is no better venue for those who have competitive natures than tournament play.

In the end, though, only one team wins the gold medal in each division. Congratulations if you can be that team. But winning isn’t everything with pickleball. Sure, winners and losers are recorded in each game and there will always be more losers than winners when it comes to medal count.  But everyone wins by improving their skills and making new friends who share our passion for the game.

So find a partner and go play a tournament. You will not regret it.

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