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Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Thumper Rule

If you can't say something nice...

Last Sunday's post was about playing with pickleball spouses. Today we will continue with the second in a series of Sunday posts about pickleball and relationships. If you're curious about the post title, here is a little trivia. The saying "if you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all" came from the rabbit character Thumper in the film Bambi.

I spent a recent morning refereeing a 3.0 tournament in The Villages. I enjoy reffing these players as typically folks are good-natured and you get the opportunity to call a bunch of foot faults. But this post isn’t about foot faults or refereeing.  Rather it is about what not to say to your pickleball partner!

Our contributing columnist Sarah Ansboury has written about how to be a good pickleball partner, and about communication with your partner. Today, I observed a few instances where a player clearly didn’t read Sarah’s book or post.

What Not to Say: “You Don’t want to Hit the Ball that High”

“Thank you, Captain Obvious”. I’m certain the player realized his partner didn’t intend to hit the ball 2 feet about his opponent’s forehand shoulder. Up until that point, the match was pretty close and there was no reason for his partner to want him to get pounded with the ball. I suspect he knew that his partner was already embarrassed or scolding himself for hitting the ball that high. What good could come from that advice?

What Not to Say:  “You Didn’t Cover the Open Court”

On another occasion, a male player ran over his female partner to attempt an overhead smash. His partner nearly fell to the ground as she was pushed off the court. Because of the collision, he didn’t really smash the ball…returning it so his opponent had an easy shot to the three-quarters of the court that was not covered.

Now, I don’t begrudge him going for a smash he thought he could put away. I’m not suggesting that there is something magical about the line on the center of the court that should not be crossed. However,  I really don’t think he was joking when he suggested to his dazed partner that she should have regained her balance and ran around him to the other side of the court. Keep in mind we are in a Villages’ tournament, these players were not 20 somethings.

What Not to Say:  “Due to the Spin He Puts on the Ball You Need To…”

This was said by one player to her partner, while her partner was attempting to return the ball. After calling “Point”, I nearly asked, “Are you attempting to give a lesson, or playing in a tournament?” Was she really expecting her partner to learn a new skill, in mid-shot, when the score was 8-6-2?

Perhaps I am overly sensitive to this point because I live with a golf professional. But I can’t imagine Denise telling me to kick in my right knee and turn my hip so I don’t sway as I am taking the club back to swing.

As I left the tournament this morning I laughed to myself. I recalled my mother telling me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say….”  Our mothers were right.


  1. Great points - it can really throw you off your game even more when your partner starts chirping at you...

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