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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Playing Up and Down in Open Play

I am still searching for advice for managing play with varying skill levels. Sarah Ansboury has an article called Pickleball Open Play: Playing Up and Down. As always, Sarah has some good tips.

Pickleball Open Play: Playing Up and Down

Coming from tennis I wasn’t quite sure how pickleball open play worked. In tennis we set up our games and didn’t mix around a lot. I recall the first time I went to the courts near Surprise which were hosting one of my first tournaments.

My partner and I were trying to find a game during warm-up. Would someone let us in? Luckily I asked the right person, “How do we get a game?” And to this day she is one of my closest friends. She was so happy to let some new players in and she was a 5.0 player without a clue who we were.

Pickleball Open Play

Sometimes I will go to places and it’s not always easy to jump into open play. At times someone will invite me to play, but will intentionally exclude the person I am with.  I don’t like that.

I understand that we all want good practice and we want to keep it challenging. I realize that people feel that they will improve more if they “play up”. In fact, I play better when I play up. However, I believe you can do both…practice and play.

When I am at open or recreational play I am all about having fun and playing multiple players and I don’t really cares what level I am playing with or against. When I play a lower level player I want to give them the experience of playing with someone more consistent so they can play some longer points than they are used to. I don’t intentionally smash a high ball at them to intimidate them. Likewise, if the two players are of differing skill levels, I try to mix it up. I don’t avoid the stronger player and pick on the weaker player. Nor do I exclude the less experienced player. This isn’t a competition. We aren’t playing for a title or money…this is supposed to be FUN! I want them to see a stronger player reaching out to other levels that need more experience so that when a new person comes in they will welcome them into the group.

Open Play vs. Competitive Practice

When I want competitive practice, I set up a time outside of open or recreational play. It is usually a group of 4-6 and it is about playing back to back and maybe playing with a certain partner. We will intentionally look for courts that aren’t in use or a time when the courts are not used for open play.

From time to time, someone might wander by and want to join. I explain we are practicing but they can join us for a game or two. I’m lucky because the players I typically practice with are very welcoming of new players. However, occasionally, a player may groan a little or give me the evil eye. But I remember that I was once that player that players groaned at, and I remember exactly how it felt. I felt disrespected when a player would not play very well on purpose, or would be focused on a game in a nearby court that they found more interesting. (I also remember how good it felt when I as able to surprise them with my ability.)

My goal whenever I go to open or recreational play, is to have fun and to help the people I am playing with to have fun too. I am going to give the person in front of me the respect that everyone deserves.  We all love this game.  We all want it to grow.  Let’s go have some fun!

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