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Friday, July 8, 2016

Comfort…Your Key to Better Pickleball

I am about to embark on scheduling a bunch of tournaments for the rest of the year. I will be entering some tournaments without a partner and asking for the tournament organizers to find me a partner. I have only done this one time in the past and it had good results with a gold medal in Hilton Head. But the comfort level of playing with a complete stranger is something that concerns me. This article from Sarah Ansboury came at very good time for me.

Comfort…Your Key to Better Pickleball

We all play better when we have fun!  We have fun when we are comfortable … with ourselves and the people we are playing with. So it seems, comfort is a key to better pickleball.

A woman told me this weekend she doesn’t want to waste her money on tournaments to get a random partner she doesn’t know because they never seem to want the same things or maybe don’t care as much as she does. My first thought was she was missing out on opportunities to play with different types of players. Of course, I like having a set partner for most of my events. However, I would not trade in all of the tournaments I was partnered with someone I didn’t know or someone I never played with before. I have learned so much from every player I have played with, regardless of our relative skill levels. I learned that I will never get what I want out of a partner unless I communicate with them. I learned I need to be comfortable on the court when I am playing so I can make the decisions I want and not let a match just happen to me.

Partner Communication a Key to Better Pickleball

The worst thing that I can do going into a new partnership is not communicate my expectations. Before playing a competitive match, I will take my new partner aside in a warm-up game and say
  • “These are my strengths and weaknesses.”
  • “If I am on this side, I will hit these shots.”
  • “I prefer you go to the net when I hit my third shot.”
Then I will say, “I want you to feel comfortable telling me if something isn’t working, or you have a better idea.” I often ask what I can do to make my partner feel comfortable and confident? We discuss our strategies and I will say, “I trust you to do your job and I don’t want to get in the way of that.”

Of course, sometimes I do get in the way. I attempt a poach too far into my partner’s side of the court or I forget to call something and it goes floating through the middle. We will always make mistakes! When I make a mistake I will ask myself;  did I miss that because of a good shot or did I miss because I was doing things I shouldn’t have been doing?  I have a partner I play with sometimes who is a good friend of mine. She knows me outside of pickleball as well and when she feels I am not trusting her, with her shots, she tells me right away. She’ll simply say, “Trust me, Sarah.” I know that to be a good partner I need to take her seriously and make the adjustment right away. In pickleball, you don’t have time to be stubborn about something.

I see partners arguing who’s call was who’s three points prior and it’s still affecting them! That is wasted energy and wasted ego! No matter who you are playing with you should have the same end goal; to win the match and to have fun doing it.

To do that, you need to communicate with your partner throughout the entire match. You constantly need to check in with each other and get on the same page. By communicating regularly with your partner you will feel more comfortable.

Being Comfortable is a Key to Better Pickleball

To make good shots, to make good decisions, you need to be comfortable and confident in yourself as well as your partner. Sometimes you need to remind yourself it’s about two people, not just one.

Am I saying or doing things that are affecting my partner negatively? Keep in mind your actions, the inflection of your voice will be remembered long after your partner has forgotten the words. Always remain positive!  Say, “Nice shot” or  “Good try.”   Tap their paddles as a reminder that you are both doing this together.

Nearly every tournament you will see a team that on paper aren’t as good as their opponents. But if they work better as a team, in that moment, they will end up winning the match.  Being a unit, having the same goals and effectively executing your strategies will take any team far. I believe partner communication and comfort are the keys to better pickleball.

I’ve written more about communication and being comfortable in my new eBook called, Being the Best Partner You Can Be.

--- Sarah Ansboury

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