Staying Safe While Playing Pickleball

People often view pickleball as “tennis lite” due to the small court size, slower ball and manageable paddle sizes. While it’s true that pickleball is easier on the body compared to tennis and most other racquet sports, it’s dangerous to presume that you can’t get injured at all playing the game.

As with any sport, there are risks involved. Thankfully these problems can be minimized with proper precautions and self care. Here are a few ways to ensure you stay safe so you can continue playing pickleball for a long time:

Don’t rush for shots

You know how volleyball players will throw themselves into dramatic dives to return the ball? Don’t do that!

Skinned knees, smacked elbows and possibly even broken bones are not worth saving a single point. While it’s understandable that you might be tempted to leap for a ball that’s just out of range, you don’t want to put off play for weeks on end because you pushed yourself too far.

Let the ball go instead of doing lasting damage to your body.

Volleyball dive

Don’t run backwards during lobs

Similar to the point above, too many players end up scuttling backwards when they see a high shot and end up tripping over themselves.

Take a moment to fully twist your hips to the side and let your feet point in the direction you’re moving. You can keep your eye on the ball, but if you feel yourself losing balance, take a moment to reacquaint yourself with your position on the court.

Avoid pickleball elbow

In many cases, prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to pickleball elbow. Choose a paddle that’s the right weight for you so you don’t strain your tendons, and don’t play so much that you put undue stress on your body.

Properly warming up, stretching, wearing braces and adding some weight lifting into your exercise routine can also help prep yourself for play.

Elbow brace

Wear the right shoes

We recommend using a good tennis or volleyball shoe for pickleball depending on whether you’re playing outdoors or indoors.

Make sure you’re not wearing anything with slippery soles so you don’t lose your balance on the court, nor anything too “grippy” so that you don’t trip over yourself during faster movements.

Pay attention to your body

If you’re feeling tired, winded, dizzy or simply drained, give yourself a break! Pickleball games tend to be short and your partner and opponents will likely appreciate the rest period as well. Your health comes before play.

You may think it could never happen to you, but some players have experienced heart attacks after playing pickleball, and you should be wary of the warning signs. Pay attention for pressure in the chest, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and pain along the arms, back, neck and jaw.

Communicate with other players

Especially if you’re playing doubles, make sure you’re calling “mine” or “yours” and have an established method for determining who goes after what ball. Talking to your partner will help you avoid accidental collisions, which can be as minor as a smacked hand or as dramatic as running into each other during a lob.

Don’t be afraid to talk with your opponents, either. This can be particularly relevant if you’re playing against more aggressive players who use tagging (hitting the ball into the body) to score points. This is an accepted part of the game, but casual games don’t need to be held to the same standards as those in tournaments.

Pickleball is safer than many sports, but you should still be cautious and ensure proper care of your body. Are there any unfortunate situations you could have avoided with a bit more awareness?

 

Meet The Pros – DeeAnne Davison

Meet the Pros DeeAnne Davison

Dee Davison

DeeAnne Davison

DeeAnne “Dee” Davison leapfrogged from competitor to tournament organizer and full time pickleball instructor in a relatively short period of time. You have to respect a person who starts out giving back in a big way. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2015 — USAPA Nationals — 4th Place Mixed Doubles 35+ with Rob Davidson
2012 — Grand Canyon State Games — Bronze in Mixed Doubles 4.5 with Troy Horton
2012 — Grand Canyon State Games — Bronze in Mixed Doubles Age 35-49 with Troy Horton

What paddle do you play with and why?

I play with the new Selkirk AMPED S2. The paddle has great control, power, consistency… with a beautiful touch! As an International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA) Certified Instructor, I teach in indoor and outdoor venues.

I use a variety of pickleballs available on the market today. I believe this paddle neutralizes the ball controversy! Therefore, I can forget about the extreme property differences of the balls (too soft, too much bounce, too hard) and just concentrate on perfecting my stroke pattern and approach to the ball.

What s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

In September 2011, I moved to Sun City Festival in Buckeye, Arizona. That is where I discovered pickleball. My passion for pickleball was ignited when my community hosted the USAPA Nationals in November. In February 2012, Troy Horton invited me to partner with him for the Grand Canyon State Games in Arizona. We medaled in both events and I was hooked.

Just playing the game was not enough! In 2012, I started the player development program at Sun City Festival with a group of 40 ladies, meeting twice a week. Today, I’m proud to say, we have a strong player development program for all skill levels. Next, leveraging my business management experience, I solicited and coordinated volunteers for the 2012 & 2013 USAPA Nationals at Sun City Festival. Fast forward, I started my own business, Pickleball Dee and became an IPTPA Certified Instructor. I am currently the Co-Tournament Director of the Coeur d’Alene Classic and  the Pickleball Pro tournament at Victorium in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Whats your preference — playing indoor or outdoor?

I love both because the challenges are different. For indoor play, you have to deal with facility variances like multiple lines, color schemes and floor surfaces. For outdoor play, you are dealing with the elements – sun, wind and temperature.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I prefer to play doubles, as it is a team effort, but will practice singles to improve my game.

Whats your favorite place to play? Why?

Dee Davison, Shonda Davidson, Tonja Major and Lynn Syler

Dee Davison, Shonda Davidson, Tonja Major and Lynn Syler

Anywhere there’s a pickleball court and people ready to play!

Whats your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

I asked my friends to describe my secret sauce… they said: Sweet & Spicy (Sweet Dee delivers the Spicy Spin) or the Naughty No Look! And my tips for players:
Tip 1: Have FUN!
Tip 2: Always work to improve your game—one skill at a time!

Whats your day job?

Teaching pickleball!

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

My office is a pickleball court. I have a GREAT calendar! I average 40 hours a week, split between teaching and social play.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

Visualize success.

Do you have any pickleball goals youd like to share?

My goal is to medal at the USAPA Nationals Tournament.

Anything else youd like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

Pickleball is a perfect avenue to travel and meet people. My pickleball family continues to grow!

Pickleball Drills for Beginners to Pros

The beauty of pickleball is that people can start playing at any skill level. However, the specifics of the games are nuanced.

This is what creates the need for different skill levels in pickleball tournaments. With the right mindset and enough dedication to your practice, the sky is the limit in terms of realizing your full potential.

One of the keys to becoming a great pickleball athlete is practice. While nothing rivals on-the-court experience against another player, it’s important to take some time on your own to hone the fundamentals you’ve already learned. The best way to do this is through pickleball drills.

Drills are a great way to figure out what your weaknesses are on the court and work out those kinks accordingly. Through repetition, drills drill (who would have thought?) consistently good habits into your repertoire.

If you’re looking to step up your game, here’s a list of some of the best instructors to follow and some insights on what they have to offer.

Sarah Ansboury

With a 2015 National Open Doubles Championship along with a 2016 Open Doubles and Mixed Championships under her belt, Sarah Ansboury knows the ins and outs when it comes to the sport of pickleball.

In the drill below, Sarah addresses one of the most important moves on the pickleball court—the dink:

What’s so useful about this video is that Sarah doesn’t only explain how to dink, but illustrates where you might be going wrong. This video is ideal for beginners, but also valuable for those looking to hone such a significant skill.

Joe Baker

While pros have firsthand knowledge of the intricacies of a sport, sometimes spectators can offer a fresh viewpoint. After all, with an objective point of view and a keen eye for detail, spectators can become great teachers in turn. Case in point, Joe Baker, who specializes not only in pickleball strategies, but golf and ballroom dancing.

In the video below, Joe shares backboard wall drills for pickleball:

What’s so convenient about backboard wall drills is that they allow you 7 to 10 times more opportunity to hit the pickleball than you would have in a typical doubles game. The only way to get better at pickleball is to hit the pickleball more. Participating in backboard wall drills will help you find your form, create consistency and give you valuable court-time experience.

CJ Johnson

When you’re looking to better yourself on the pickleball court, look no further than a website called Betterpickleball.com. Run by CJ Johnson, as the name suggests, they strive to make you better at pickleball!

As CJ explains in the video below, “If you step onto a pickleball court, you know that being a little bit faster you will have a bit of an advantage of the other team.” The drill in the video will help you with hand-eye coordination and improve your reaction time:

What’s interesting about this video is that this drill doesn’t happen only the court. It begins with a simple eye test using a magazine. This is an effective drill for strengthening your focus. From there, CJ takes you onto the court to apply what you learned. This video is a fun way to break up the monotony of typical drills.

Primetime Pickleball

Ready for the Primetime? Primetime Pickleball was founded by two 5.0 rated IPTPA certified pickleball coaches, Nicole Havlicek and Jordan Briones. With such high placements, it’s obvious that these two have honed their skills.

In the video below, the twosome work with U.S. Open and National Champion, Marcin Rozpedski in helping you find your sweet spot on the pickleball court:

This is a unique drill as Marcin holds the paddle like a pencil while using the round edge of the paddle bottom to hit the pickleball. Doing this will help your eyes get used to tracking the ball. Creating such pinpoint precision on a small surface will lead into the follow-up with a much larger target zone of a properly held paddle. There you will find your sweet spot!

Deb Harrison

Deb Harrison, or Picklepong Deb, was awarded Pickleball Athlete of the Decade, having won 15 gold medals over a 10 year period at the Florida State Senior Games. With a decade’s worth of experience, Picklepong Deb has been kind of enough to share her knowledge with pickleball enthusiasts via her YouTube videos.

In the one below, Picklepong Deb teaches about footwork and walks you through a drill that involves simulating play. It’s fun because it allows you to use your imagination and let loose a little:

What makes this drill so effective is that Deb breaks down the art of footwork and offers real insight into the steps. It’s also an intense workout that can help you get some cardio in. Lastly, since you’re not really playing, you don’t need to be on the court to practice!

These drills will give you plenty of new concepts and techniques to work with so that you can improve your play outside of games. Are there any videos that have been of use to you in the past? Share them with us!

PickleballCentral Acquires PickleballTournaments.com for Easier Tournament Management and Success

In September of last year, PickleballCentral and PickleballTournaments.com became affiliate partners through the creation of products to help tournament directors run a successful event. Since then, PickleballCentral has also started using the PickleballTournaments.com system to help manage and run tournaments for our sister business, Pickleball Station. We just finished running our 7th tournament in the last 6 months.

A Continued Partnership

As both of our companies have found success in this partnership, PickleballCentral is pleased to announce that PickleballTournaments.com is officially joining the PickleballCentral family. On February 9, 2018 both organizations announced publicly that PickleballCentral’s parent company was acquiring PickleballTournaments.com.

We want everyone to know how excited we are to bring Melissa McCurley, the president of Pickleball Tournaments, into our family. She will be president of our Tournament Operations Division which is responsible for operating PickleballTournaments.com and other tournament-related businesses.

Melissa will remain based in Arizona along with much of her team and will continue to lead these efforts with the same drive and energy that makes her one of the most powerful forces in pickleball!

Melissa PBT

PickleballCentral has always taken a very serious approach to customer service and support. Our 40 employees already work with over 100,000 pickleball players, and we work hard to make sure our various websites and businesses run smoothly. Last year alone we sponsored almost 300 tournaments and provided support to over 1,200 clubs.

Pickleball Tournaments’ Success

These factors made joining forces with PickleballTournaments.com logical from both an operational and strategic perspective. This unification will allow for even more resources to be made available that will immediately benefit tournament directors, players and partners of PickleballTournaments.com.

Pickleball Tournaments’ meteoric growth has been nothing short of spectacular. Originally founded in 2004 by Bob and Jettye Lanius, PickleballTournaments.com has provided software, services, advice and on-site operational assistance to over 1,000 tournament. As they were “retired” and wanted to say that way, when the business took off they sought a way to have some serious “pickleball people” take over the company.

In 2014 Bob and Jettye sold the business to Melissa McCurley and her brother, Greg. Melissa and Greg were both I.T. professionals and Melissa was becoming a very good player. They continued the grass roots commitment to supporting tournaments of all types with Melissa traveling around the United States from event to event making sure things ran well for the tournament directors.

Grand Canyon State Games Medalists

Miles and Mike Martin, bronze medalists from the Grand Canyon State Games… which is run through PBT! (Credit: Michael and Sherry Martin)

To give you some perspective on how far things have come since just 2014, in 2015  (their first full year of operations) Melissa and Greg helped tournament directors operate over 150 tournaments with over 22,000 participants. Compare that to what is planned for 2018 where they expect to support over 550 tournaments with over 60,000 registrants!

New Opportunities

So why is there such synergy with PickleballCentral? What many of our customers and readers of this blog may not know is that the partners in PickleballCentral have over 70 years of software development experience in their background, and these skills have helped PickleballCentral.com (and its related properties) become the largest company in the world exclusively devoted to pickleball.

These skills have served our customers well as we have designed and deployed 5 websites to support our business including Pickleball.com and the USAPA’s online store USAPAStore.com.

As frequent users of PickleballTournaments.com’s software, PickleballCentral will assist Melissa in nurturing this incredible software platform with upgrades that will benefit the growing number of tournament organizers and players using the system. Stay tuned for more details as we intend to make another announcement about this topic soon.

With the addition of the resources available from PickleballCentral, Melissa plans to use this additional bandwidth to spend more time “in the field” in order to help make events successful and focus feedback from users back into new software features that will benefit tournament directors.

The Best Pickleball Competitions in One Place

PickleballTournaments.com can be used for both casual and USAPA-sanctioned tournaments in the handling of player sign-ups, organization and structure. No matter the size of the tournament, having all associated data stored in one easy-to-use web database allows for easy management and sharing of brackets and results.

The PickleballTournaments.com software is already used to operate over 90% of the major pickleball tournaments around the world including the USAPA Nationals and Regionals, the US Open Pickleball Championships, Tournament of Champions and the International Indoor Pickleball Championships.

USAPA Tournament Logos

The management team here at PickleballCentral is truly humbled by having someone with Melissa’s reputation join us. We are already home to some of the sport’s very best players, instructors and product development professionals including Peter Huduchko, Brian Ashworth, Glen Peterson, Tonja Major, John Cowley and Jimmy Blue.

Continued Growth

This event is part of PickleballCentral’s continued evolution as a company devoted to meeting the needs of players around the world. In 2015 we acquired PickleballPaddlesPlus.com, and in 2016 we acquired Pickleball Inc. (the company which originally introduced pickleball to the world and continues to produce popular products like the Dura Ball and Champion Paddles.)

In 2017 we launched Pickleball Station, the Pacific Northwest’s premier pickleball athletic facility.

Brian and Peter at Chicken-N-Pickle

Pickleball Station’s Brian Ashworth and Peter Hudachko competing together at a Chicken-N-Pickle Tournament

We hope to continue unifying the world’s best pickleball organizations and businesses so that players everywhere will benefit from these wonderful services.

If you have any suggestions for features you’d like to see included on PickleballTournaments.com, please let us know in the comments or email us at info@pickleballcentral.com!

Meet The Pros – Lynn Syler

Met The Pros – Lynn Syler

Lynn Syler

Lynn Syler

Lynn is a terrific competitor, an awesome doubles partner and on top of all that, she is a really nice person, both on and off the court.  Enjoy! 

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2017 International Indoor Women’s Doubles Open – GOLD
2017 State of Oregon Games – Mixed and Women’s Doubles Open – GOLD
2017 Coeur d’Alene Classic- Mixed and Women’s Doubles Open – GOLD
2017 US Open Women’s Doubles Age 35+ – GOLD
2016 US Open Mixed 40+ – GOLD
2016 US Open Women’s Doubles 40+ – Silver

2016 US Open Mixed Doubles - Brian Ashworth/Catherine Parenteau vs Lynn Syler/Jack Oxler2016 US Open Mixed Doubles Open - Silver

2016 US Open Mixed Doubles – Brian Ashworth/Catherine Parenteau vs Lynn Syler/Jack Oxler2016 US Open Mixed Doubles Open – Silver

What paddle do you play with and why?

I play with the Selkirk 20P-XL Epic Composite.  It has amazing touch and power.

What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I was introduced to pickleball in High School in WA State.  It was a Physical Education Class combined with Badminton.  Picked it back up 20 years later at the local community center about 5 years ago.  I started competing in tournaments for fun and exercise.

What’s your preference: playing indoor or outdoor pickleball?

Since I live in Washington State, I play indoor about 8 months and outdoor about 4 months out of the year.  I’m working on my outdoor game as often as I can.  I appreciate PickleballCentral for building Pickleball Station . . . it’s an indoor facility with 4 outdoor surface courts.

Intl Indoor Pickleball Tournament – Lynn Syler

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I like doubles.  It’s how I learned to play.  If you play singles you’ll also know why: singles is super tough.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

I enjoy playing at the local venues outside Sehmel Park in Gig Harbor and Lake Tapps because we get great groups of people together to plan.  I also enjoy the indoor play at the local Lakewood Community Center and YMCA’s.  I enjoy travelling for pickleball tournaments.  Some of the best places outside Washington are: anywhere in Arizona, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and Bend, Oregon.

What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players? 

Have fun while you’re on the court.  Move your feet and watch the ball!!!!

"Move your feet and watch the ball!" Good advice Lynn!

“Move your feet and watch the ball!” Good advice Lynn!

What’s your day job?

I work at RBC Wealth Management as a Financial Advisor/Wealth Mananger.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I play about 12 hours a week.  It’s almost a part time job.  I play a couple evenings a week and try to play Saturday and Sunday.  I play hard 3-4 times a week and take 3-4 days off a week.

Do you have any pickleball goals you’d like to share?

I’d like to continue to grow as a player both physically and mentally, maybe break a few (swing) bad habits on the court too.

Anything else you’d like to share about your experience being one of the best pickleball players in the world?

I feel blessed every day to have the ability to play.  I’m looking forward to being able to play into my 80’s . . . or even 90’s.  I think this sport will help keep me young physically and mentally as I age.  I’ve made so many great friends from recreational play.

Pickleball Station 5.0 tournament: Lynn Syler, Tonja Major - Silver, Irene Mah/Irina Tereschenko GOLD, Takako Tourangeau and Miok Lee - Bronze

Pickleball Station 5.0 tournament: Lynn Syler, Tonja Major – Silver, Irene Mah/Irina Tereschenko GOLD, Takako Tourangeau and Miok Lee – Bronze

What Makes a Good Pickleball Partner?

Doubles is even more popular than singles in pickleball, and there are plenty of great reasons why. Teaming up with a partner helps you play longer and more safely since you only need to cover half the court. The game also becomes more exciting and tactical when you have a partner covering your back.

You share the wins, the losses, and best of all, the fun!

Many players enjoy partnering with a friend or family member, and while this is a great place to start, you may be surprised to find that tensions can run high even during casual games.

Everyone wants to be a supportive partner, but at times it can be difficult to remember the original reasons you decided to play when you’re down several points and caught up in the moment—especially if you’re in a competitive tournament.

Here are a few ideas to keep in mind to support your partner on and off the courts:

Consider Your Partner’s Goals

Is your partner actively looking to improve their game, or do they just use pickleball to blow off steam at the end of their day? If they are interested in learning new skills, do they appreciate constructive feedback during games or prefer to hear from you in a more relaxed environment?

It’s important to find a balance between your own goals and those of your partner. Most players certainly want to win games when possible, but everyone has a different level of competitiveness and shouldn’t be forced to constantly evaluate their play if they’re just looking to smack a few pickleballs.

If you and your partner have largely different reasons for playing the game, it may cause trouble down the road, so it’s important to ensure you both have the same goals in mind. Otherwise, try to be considerate of what they’re looking to achieve and how you can support their aims.

Stay Positive

Remember that every game is a learning opportunity, even when you’re losing. Try to consciously take in as much of the action as possible so you can replay the points in your mind later. Doing this helps discover areas for improvement and come back even stronger later on.

Sometimes players can get frustrated when they’re at a clear disadvantage. At times like these, it’s important to remember why you started playing pickleball in the first place. Even for those who are competing at high levels, we’re all engaging with the same game… and the goal is fun!

Don’t let an “off” day bring you down. The fact that you’re getting to run around on the courts in the first place is cause enough for celebration.

Smile

(Credit: WithoutFlns)

Also consider how your mood affects your partner. When you’re frustrated, they’ll likely pick up on this and their attitude or play can end up suffering as well. On the flipside, if they’re getting down, a kind word or two can do wonders to bring a smile back to their face.

Know Your Team’s Strengths and Weaknesses

We all have our natural strengths. Maybe you have a powerful serve or can out-dink opponents for days. The same goes for your partner. Consider what they’re good at and how you can best leverage their play style. Depending on how your abilities mesh, you can work together to come up with tactics that play to both of your abilities while shoring up any weaknesses.

It can be helpful to read up on tactics like stacking and poaching when you’re ready to give more advanced techniques a shot.

Communicate

Communication makes a huge difference for everyone involved. It’s nice to be heard! Whether it’s as simple as calling “mine” or “yours” during a lob or center shot, or you’re examining ideas off the court, make sure you’re constantly keeping your partner in the loop.

While the best teams seem to share an almost telepathic connection, you can bet that many hours of practice and discussion have gone into smoothing out their play. You should be allowed to rely on your partner as much as they rely on you, so make sure you go to them if you have any concerns, whether it’s regarding your play or just feeling tension before a game.

Picklers playing together

(Credit: Chad Ryan)

Remembering these points will not only help you stand up to the competition, but have a wonderful experience playing pickleball every time you tackle a new challenge. Your partner will thank you and everyone will walk away happy.

Through the Falls: A Norwegian Exploration of Pickleball

Last year our Director of Sales, John Cowley, took part in a sister city program between Kent and the Sunnfjord area in Norway.

It’s a beautiful place home to “artists, handcrafters, folk musicians and dancers” and is called the home of waterfalls due to its beautiful landscape streaked with over 50 waterfalls tumbling over mountainsides and into Norway’s deepest fjord, the Sognefjord.

 

Sunnfjord Waterfall

 

Being the pickleball fanatic that he is, John decided to bring pickleball supplies along with him on his trip to introduce the sister city members to our favorite game!

The result was a rousing success, especially since fellow participant Inge Larsen was already involved with the recreation center in Sogn og Fjordane where John stayed. Both the kids and adults took to the game easily and enjoyed getting in on the action.

 

Sunnfjord Pickleball Courts

 

In addition to his pickleball play time, John got to try freshly-made beer tapped directly from a birch tree (which he said was fantastic) and explored the gorgeous surroundings with new friends.

A particularly amusing story is that of Stigen, an area on the western side of the fjord where two farms sit just above some extremely steep paths. The name comes from the Norwegian word “stiger,” meaning ladder, because once you reach the highest part of the hill ladders must be used to reach the farms.

 

Stigen

Stigen – we wouldn’t want to make that climb!

 

In older times when the church’s men would travel around the area collecting tithes, the clever farmers of Stigen would grab their ladders and make themselves scarce, preventing the tax collectors from taking their hard-earned coin!

John had a wonderful time and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend others explore sister cities and other ways to share pickleball across the globe. As we’ve found again and again as pickleball reaches international locations, people love its simple rules and addictive gameplay just as much as we do.

 

John and Norway Group

 

Check out this quick video John shot of some Norwegian players learning the ropes!

And maybe relate to that moment when you’re ready to slam a winner and end up driving the ball into the net instead of the opponent’s feet…

 

 

Have you ever gone on a sister city trip, or would it be something you’re interested in? What opportunities would you like to spread pickleball internationally?