Life lessons come from all places – even unexpected places, like the pickleball court.
The door of opportunity does not swing open forever. When presented with an opportunity, it is important to make the most of it. For instance, in the game of baseball/softball (which was my first love as an athlete), when you step into the batter’s box, you only have three strikes to make something happen for your team and reach base safely. One of the worst feelings as a baseball/softball player is striking out without even taking a swing—in other words, striking out with your bat on your shoulder because you were hesitant, tentative, and scared to swing. If you have a good pitch—a good opportunity—you have to take a swing and go for it.
The same holds true for the sport of pickleball. The worst feeling on the pickleball court, in my opinion, is to lose a pickleball game when playing hesitant, tentative, or tight.
Pickleball Lesson #2: Go Down Swinging
My last pickleball tournament in 2020, before the shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was Simone Jardim’s Florida Grand Slam, which took place in Bonita Springs, Florida. I registered for three events—5.0+ Mixed Doubles, Women’s Pro Doubles, and Mixed Pro Doubles. On the first day of this pickleball tournament, during the 5.0+ Mixed Doubles event, was when I really understood and appreciated pickleball lesson #2… the importance of going down swinging!
My partner for the day was John “The People’s Champ” Davison. We were fortunate enough to make it to the bronze medal match. John and I started strong. We started playing pretty aggressively and were very focused and intense, which is our signature style, full of “YEAHS,” “LET’S GO,” and fist pumps. This led us to a game 1 victory, 11-5. We also had a lead in game 2 and even a match point. However, as we closed in on game 2 and closed in on the match overall, we started to increasingly play more conservative, while our opponents (and good friends), Olivia McMillan and Brandon Hubschman, started playing increasingly more aggressive. This change in styles led to a slow collapse of me and John in game 2, eventually losing 10-12, and forcing a game 3 in the match that was best 2 out of 3 games, each game to 11 points. This trend in play continued in game 3, as John and I went down 3-11. After an aggressive start, we slowly fell apart over the next 2 games, as our opponents played a stronger, more aggressive match.
The disappointment of losing this bronze medal match still sits with me and still stings. However, what I remember the most is what my opponents told me later that night. About halfway through game 2, when Olivia and Brandon were playing conservatively and tentatively, they called a time-out—just as all savvy, experienced pickleball players do, as time-outs are “use ‘em or lose ‘em.” During this time-out, Olivia turned to Brandon and said, “If we are going to lose, we are going to go down swinging and playing aggressive.” After that time-out, Olivia and Brandon were a different team. Their change in mindset and strategy completely altered the arc of the match, leading to their eventual victory. Olivia and Brandon even went on to win the gold medal for the entire bracket, which included a “double dip” victory in the gold medal match, as they had to beat the opposing team twice to win the gold medal.
Play Your Game Aggressively
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the number of pickleball tournaments that I have played since the 2020 Florida Grand Slam, in the few pickleball tournaments, and other competitive pickleball games, that I have played, I have committed to aggressively play my game. This doesn’t mean that you have to change your style of play and “bang” your way through every point. However, this does mean that you aggressively play your style of play and put pressure on your opponents when you can. For instance, when your opponents do pop-up a pickleball, put your best shot on the pickleball. Instead of playing afraid to make a mistake and afraid to lose, play to win and play without timidity. As Olivia said, if you are going to go down, better to go down swinging and giving it your all!
Photo Credit: Brittany Hubschman
As you venture out to play more pickleball tournaments and more competitive pickleball, we hope you adopt this mentality on the pickleball court and embrace pickleball lesson #2: step on the pickleball court with confidence, play your style (whatever your style is) aggressively and without hesitation, and go out there swinging!
Lessons from the Pickleball Court
What lesson have you learned from the sport of pickleball? Share with us in the comments below, or reach out to me personally via email at email@example.com.
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Since returning to professional pickleball this year, after taking a long COVID hiatus, Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters have been traveling the country for pickleball tournaments. But, one thing that that they have not done in a really long time is take a family vacation... until now. Learn about Team Waters' trip to Costa Rica from Leigh herself, which included as much, or more, pickleball than at home in Florida, monkey spectators, family bonding, surfing, and a lot of new friends made on the Costa Rican pickleball courts, which reminded them how much fun the great sport of pickleball really is.