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Friday, September 29, 2017

Play Well With Others

You reveal your true self when playing with others...

One of the 5.0 players on the Pickleball Forum, Daniel Joseph Howard, contributes a weekly post with pickleball advice. The advice is generally about playing strategies or techniques. I have saved a bunch of those for possible use here on the blog. But this week's advice is a little different and it is a topic I have been planning to write something about player rotation and playing up/down with others, but his post is something upon which I cannot improve on his topic. The only changes are fixed typos and format to better fit a blog.

Disclaimer - this post may ruffle a few feathers, but that is not the intent so please do not miss the point!

Myth: You only get better by playing with better players.

Answer: This is only partially true. While you CAN get better by playing with other players who are better than yourself, that is not the only way to improve, and the philosophy has its limits.

Therefore: Look to play with players similar to your level. Also look to play slightly up and slightly down. It is best to stay within half a point in either direction of your own rating level. For example, if you are rated around 3.0, look to play with players who are also 3.0 but make sure to get games in with players who are 2.5 as well as some who are 3.5. In any tournament you may play, you are bound to face players who are a little weaker or a little stronger than you are. It is wise to have practiced against each prior to encountering them in tourney play. This way you can't use the excuse, "well, they weren't that strong, but I'm not used to playing weaker players, so we lost, but we should have won."

Additionally: Playing too far above your level doesn't help you that much (unless they are giving you a lesson and coaching you, which is an entirely different scenario). In fact, it can completely overwhelm you and potentially discourage you. So, PLEASE, do not look to play too far up! And PLEASE, PLEASE do not label the players who are a full level or more above you snobs if they excuse themselves from playing with you! It is entirely possible they understand that playing too far above or below one's level isn't as fun or helpful for improvement.

One more additionally: While it may be necessary, and oftentimes commendable, for you to play down a full level or more, realize that when you do so, you ought to use it as an opportunity to help the weaker players rather than show them up or prove how superior you are. Keep your ego in check and view this as an opportunity to give back to the game and the players you are playing with. While we did not all start at the same level, it is important to be a good example for those who aren't to your level of ability yet.

Finally: Why do you suppose the USAPA and IPTPA have player ratings in place? One reason is so that you are somewhat evenly matched in tournament competition. But another very important reason that must not be overlooked is that it is much more FUN for all players to play at a level somewhat consistent with their own! Acknowledge this. Embrace this.


  1. sometimes its hard not to take it personally when more experienced players dismiss you.

    1. Three years six months later you finally get a reply. Yes, it is hard to not take personal especially when in fact it very often is personal. Some players simply think they are too good to play with certain people. There is a polite way and a rude way of declining to play with someone and sadly some adults still haven't learned. There is no easy fix to this situation. This is not unique to pickleball, tennis has the same issue.