LIFE LESSONS COME FROM ALL PLACES—EVEN UNEXPECTED PLACES, LIKE THE PICKLEBALL COURT.
Most pickleball games are played to either 11 points or 15 points (win by 2). As players get close to the final winning point, a common obstacle emerges… the number 10 (or the number 14 for games to 15 points). Players can steamroll their way through a game - they could even be up on their opponents in a significant way, like 10-4. Then, the opponents may start chipping away and coming back… 10-5, 10-6, 10-7 and so on. The opponents could even wage a complete comeback and win 12-10.
All too often, pickleball players crumble at the number 10 and fail to finish the pickleball game. The last point is seemingly always the hardest to get. Why?
Anecdotally, the last point may be the hardest to get because you and your partner start playing tight and conservative (you may even start to get nervous or feel the pressure, especially as your opponents start to chip away at your lead that you built up), instead of playing the aggressive, free-swinging style of pickleball that got you to the number 10 in the first place. Or, sometimes, you and your partner could be going for the “hero” shot—in other words, going for way too much and over-playing—instead of staying steady and playing consistent. At the same time, your opponents typically have nothing to lose, so they start playing more aggressive and swinging freely.
As an aside, this same phenomenon is also playing out in the new pro pickleball format for championship play, which features best 3 out of 5 games (games to 11 points, win by 2). This new format of best 3 out of 5 games, replaces the usual format of best 2 out of 3 games (games to 11 points, win by 2). What you are seeing on the pro pickleball circuit is that one team will win the first 2 games of a match, and only need to win 1 more game. Then, just like the scenario of reaching the number 10, the opposing team will start playing more freely with nothing to lose and come back to win the next 3 games to win the championship. So, just like the number 10, the last game in this format can also be the most difficult to get and requires the most mental toughness.
How to Win the Last Point in Pickleball
The last point comes down to your mental toughness. Can you stay focused and play one point at a time, rather than letting the nerves creep in and make you press to get the last point? Can you continue to have your sense of urgency to win the game and continue to execute your shots and strategy?
The pressure of game point—compared to any other point—is something created in your mind. In fact, the pressure is really on your opponents—remember you and your partner are the ones at the number 10. So, keep your pickleball mental edge and finish the game. Do not let your opportunity slip by. Have a sense of urgency and slam the door to win the pickleball game as soon as you reach the number 10.
To help get passed the number 10, try the following:
- Stay relaxed and focus on one shot at a time;
- Avoid letting nerves creep in, especially if your opponents are able to rattle off a few points to close in on your lead—remember, you have the advantage and your opponents must get all the way to 12 points in order to beat you;
- Continue playing in the same manner that got you to the number 10 in the first place (with the caveat that, if your opponents changed their strategy, then you may need to counter and also change your strategy); and
- Put pressure on your opponents by playing “clean”—in other words, keep the pickleball in the court and over the net. Keep the pickleball “alive,” rather than giving your opponents easy points by hitting the pickleball out of bounds.
Remain mentally tough and conquer the number 10 out on the pickleball courts.
LESSONS FROM THE PICKLEBALL COURT
Read past blogs from the “Lessons from the Pickleball Court” series:
- Integrity Is Everything
- Go Down Swinging
- Read the Room (or the Pickleball Court)
- Always Be Prepared
- Referees Are Impactful
- Never Judge a “Pickleball Book” by Its Cover
- Encourage the Kids to Play
- Learn to Share “Small Spaces”
- Strangers Become Quick Friends
- Pickleball Culture to Workplace Culture
- A Second Chance with the Next Phase
- Turning Defense into Offense
- Be Patient
- Positivity Breeds Positivity
- Sportsmanship Matters
What lesson have you learned from the sport of pickleball? Share with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.