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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Communicating with a Partner - Off the Court

All of us have relationships with other people - like spouses, children, co-workers, or friends. As a result, we all know how important good communication is to maintaining a healthy relationship. A pickleball partnership is no different, regardless of whether the partnership lasts only one game or extends for years. Good communication strengthens the team and leads to better results.

On-court communication seems obvious and will be discussed in a separate post. But good communication starts off the court with pre-match discussions about what will happen on the court. This is true for all competitive matches and especially true if the partnership is new or in its early stages.

With 2 people on the court, both can’t start in the right court and both can’t serve first. Basic discussions such as starting positions and service rotation are necessary before going onto the court. An honest discussion of each player’s strengths and weaknesses can help determine who should start where and who should serve first.

Beyond the starting lineup, a basic game plan should be discussed. If the opportunity presents itself, games with potential opponents should be watched with an eye toward assessing their strengths and weaknesses. That should be followed with a discussion of how and who should be targeted. Should a player's backhand or forehand be targeted? Are they exposed with a short or long shot, or a dink or volley, etc.? Should the return of serve be deep down the middle or should it always be hit at a weaker opponent? Should a server target a backhand or just it hit deep? All of these questions and more should be discussed before hitting the first ball.

Then, there is the discussion of your own game. Who takes the ball down the middle? Is one partner better able to track down lobs or have a stronger overhead? Honestly assessing your own relative strengths makes these discussions helpful when play starts.

But the most important communication aspect might not be about what happens between the sidelines, but between the ears. The pre-match conversation should create an air of confidence between partners. Players should support each other and avoid any negative thoughts. Such discussions help to build winning attitudes that will move from off the court to play on the court, where a different level of communication is needed…and will be discussed in the next post.

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