Life lessons come from all places – even unexpected places, like the pickleball court.
As the saying goes, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” In other words, being prepared is a key to success. This saying holds true for all aspects and walks of life, including on the pickleball court!
Whether you are playing recreational or competitive pickleball, there are things that you can do to prepare to prepare for play and give yourself the best chance for success on the pickleball courts.
Pickleball Lesson #4: Always Be Prepared
Being prepared starts off the pickleball court by making sure you have what you need before you hit the pickleball courts. This is true in recreational pickleball play, as no one wants to have to go home early from the pickleball courts because they need or forgot something; but this is especially true in competitive pickleball play. It is important to plan and be prepared for a long day of pickleball and a long day at the pickleball courts when playing in a pickleball tournament.
When preparing to play pickleball, of course you need your pickleball paddle, a pickleball, and proper pickleball court shoes. Maybe you are like me and you also need a hat, sunscreen, some snacks, and a bottle of water. It is important to understand what you may need on the pickleball court and anticipate what you could need. For instance, during the 2019 US Open Pickleball Championships, I was grateful that I also packed two additional items for the long day of competitive play—eyeglass wipes and electrolyte packets.
Add Eyeglass Wipes to the Pickleball Bag
The US Open Pickleball Championships is typically held in Naples, Florida, during the month of April. This means that players are playing pickleball in 90-degree heat, with humidity through the roof. It is a total slog—especially if you can last in your respective tournament bracket. Fortunately, in the 2019 US Open Pickleball Championships, I was able to last and make it to the medal rounds. However, by the end of the bracket, the weather certainly started to wear on me and my partners.
In the women’s pickleball bracket with my partner, Anna Leigh Waters, we played our way all the way to the gold medal match. In the gold medal match, the humidity started to kick it up a notch as we played in the afternoon sun. As the humidity kicked up, my eyeglasses were constantly fogged and dripping with sweat from the humidity, and were smeared with sunscreen. This made it difficult to see the court of play, even with trying to wipe my eyeglasses on my shirt. Thankfully, I remembered that I packed eyeglass wipes in my pickleball bag. Every time-out and hydration break soon included a new eyeglass wipe, so I could give myself the best field of vision, as well as Anna Leigh and I the best opportunity for success of the pickleball court.
Electrolytes Are Essential for the Pickleball Bag
In the mixed pickleball bracket with my partner, Seth Muse, we lost early, but fought our way all the way back to the bronze medal match. This resulted in a long day on the pickleball court for Seth and me. By the second game in the bronze medal match, I could see my partner, Seth, slowly fading away and slowly losing a step from pure exhaustion. While it seemed like we were about to runaway with a victory moments before, the opposing team slowly won point after point to eviscerate any lead that Seth and I may have had.
Seth and I finally called a time-out. I turned to ask our “fans” (i.e., my dad) to grab Seth a water with some electrolytes, as I unfortunately left my pickleball bag with the electrolytes at our tent, which was a short jog away. As a result, the one-minute time-out was not enough time for my dad to run and grab Seth a water with an electrolyte packet. By the end of the time-out, Seth had but a short second to take a sip of water, and he was remained hanging on the fence, trying to catch his breath. The referee quickly yelled, “Time in!,” which I then responded, “Time out!”
This was the only time I have ever called back-to-back time-outs in a match, but it was the perfect time. Seth had another minute to down the full liter of water and electrolytes. By the end of the second time-out, Seth came back to life before my eyes, standing tall, with a bounce in his step. This extra energy and extra bounce helped Seth carry us to a bronze medal.
Do You Have What You Need for the Pickleball Courts?
These two moments from the 2019 US Open taught me the importance of being prepared for play. Without the eyeglass wipes or the electrolytes in my pickleball bag, who knows what the outcome of the matches could have been.
Every pickleball player is different, so it is important to know what you personally require to be prepared or what you may need in a particular circumstance. Understand what you need to be prepared and be sure to pack or otherwise have what you need to be successful on the pickleball court. This obviously means having your pickleball paddle, a pickleball, and proper pickleball court shoes. But, this could also mean having the right accessories for the pickleball court—or, at least the right support team around you to help you in a pinch!
Be Prepared During Each Pickleball Point
Not only is it important to be prepared before you hit the pickleball courts, but it is also important to be prepared during each pickleball point. In other words, be ready on the pickleball court!
One of the most important concepts in pickleball, which is not taught or discussed enough, is the proper ready position on the pickleball court, which is especially important when you at the Non Volley Zone or Kitchen Line, or are transitioning up the pickleball court and entering into the “No-Man’s or No-Lady’s Land” or the “Transition Area.” This ready position consists of:
- Feet shoulder width apart;
- Knees bent and compress your body with your weight on the balls of your feet;
- Paddle facing 10 or 11 o’clock if you imagine that you are standing on a clock face (or 2 or 1 o’clock position if you are a lefty) – Your opponent should be able to read the face of your paddle, as you should be in a semi-backhand position. The reason for this paddle positioning is that, as you get closer to the net and your opponent, you will have less time to react to the pickleball. As a result, this semi-backhand position will give you faster reaction time for shots, while also still giving you a chance to flip your paddle and hit a forehand. However, try not to over-rotate to the 9 o’clock position (or 3 o’clock position if you are a lefty) because you will be too committed to only backhands. Stay in the 10 or 11 o’clock position (or 2 or 1 o’clock position if you are a lefty) with your paddle face; and
- Paddle forward and paddle head up.
We like to call this ready position “Pickleball Ready.” Be sure to always go back to Pickleball Ready after each and every shot. This is because you need to be prepared for the next shot and for your opponents to hit the pickleball back over to your side of the pickleball court. Never expect that you hit a winner. Always expect the pickleball to come back, and always be prepared by being in the proper ready position.
Lessons from the Pickleball Court
Read past blogs from the "Lessons from the Pickleball Court" series:
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Integrity Is Everything
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Go Down Swinging
- Lessons from the Pickleball Court: Read the Room (or 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.