3 Real Ways Pickleball Can Build Character

Many of us grew up hearing, “Sports build character.” However, studies have concluded the opposite is true. Winning satisfies like a good steak. Character satisfies like Don Paschal’s kale salad. Like my dear friend Vegen says: “Sport doesn’t build character; it reveals character.”

I learn more about a person in one hour on the court than in enjoying a dozen meals together. I also learn about myself.

Victory sign

Winning’s not everything, but… it sure is fun! (Credit: Petr and Bara Ruzicka)

Why does winning still matter to me at 55-years-old? What longing is fulfilled through another medal or through winning a game at any level? Does 5.0 status make me a better person?  I certainly hope not. Some days I wish I was back at 4.5 level competing for golds with my good friend Ken Crocker.

I am still discovering that a good reputation is more valuable than a drawer full of medals. Don Paschal’s kale salad does satisfy. Consider three tips for gaining pickleball perspective on court.

Great pickleball shots

Concentrate on making good shots and a good game will follow (Credit: Chad Ryan)

1. Compete by making great shots. After all, that is all I control. Be satisfied by playing well and losing.  Congratulate opponents when they make better shots. Losing implies I had the opportunity to be on the court with better players.

2. Be the most complementary of partners. Pickleball is a social activity which begs for laughter and smiles. Fun banter and big smiles compensate for many poor shots.

Pickleball victory

We can all stand to be gracious in both victory and defeat (Credit: Chad Ryan)

3. I love to be around people who can pursue a goal with great intensity and discipline but are content regardless of the outcome. Perhaps there are moments where I can be that person on a pickleball court.

In life as in sports, I have benefited more from my losses than my wins. I think I will make a kale salad for lunch.

Kale salad

Delicious kale salad (Credit: Brandom Dimcheff)

What tips might you have on how to gain pickleball perspective?

– Glen Peterson

Pickleball: A Contact Sport?

Knocked down pickler

You’re not likely to get knocked down by a pickleball, but it doesn’t feel good to get hit! (Image credit: Chad Ryan)

Pickleball: A Contact Sport?

By: Glen Peterson

David McCallum from Pickleball Inc. and I were having lunch at Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle the other day when he mentioned that, shortly after Pickleball was invented, the kitchen line was moved back six inches to prevent Dick Brown, an outstanding football player who was 6′ 4″ tall, from being able to volley nearly every ball from the kitchen line. With his long arms, Dick could nearly touch the net with his paddle!

court diagramThat seemingly arbitrary decision to depart from badminton court lines and move opposing players another foot apart (from 13 to 14 feet) implies to me that the early framers of this sport understood the subtleties of how pickleball play would evolve.

Some of us prefer sports that don’t favor taller athletes. I am convinced this is one reason baseball has remained so popular. Smaller hitters have smaller strike zones.

My friend Scott Lennan once commented that very tall players who can volley every ball from the kitchen line will someday dominate pickleball. Unfortunately, I agree. But with one caveat: because they are also larger targets, they had better be cat-like quick!

More and more, pickleball is becoming a contact sport. Hitting an opponent is a winning shot … and often brings a psychological advantage. Taller, larger opponents make bigger targets. In 5.0 tournament play, the notion that hitting an opponent with a ball is unprofessional is gone.

While most of us still apologize for hitting an opponent with a hard shot toward at the body, this happens often. I would never aim for a person’s head, but I confess that in highly competitive tournament play I would place a shot directly at a the body. Are you offended or angry? Please understand that I am referring to 5.0 tournament play. Tim Nelson popped me with a hard shot in the neck a few days ago; it stung a bit; it was a great shot.

Ken Crocker and I experimented by playing a half court game one-on-one at the kitchen line and rewarding two points every time one of us hit the other player. We discovered it was too easy to hit the opponent. Of course I don’t dodge so well now as when I was in my teens!

Pickleball may become more and more like fencing or dodge ball where hitting opponents with the ball is far more common and a vital tactic in high level play. In many high level games today, several points are won or lost either because a person was hit or because they had to hit an otherwise out ball that would have hit them. Personally I love it. It favors smaller players. And it adds an element of fun just like hitting around the post.

How to avoid being hit? First, at most levels of play, you can simply ask aggressive players not to target your body. Second, bend your knees at the kitchen line to become a smaller target and be prepared to duck. And third, when you see your opponent wind up, play dodge ball!

Don’t be afraid of getting hit. It may sting for a moment. Congratulate your opponent on a well placed shot. And then get them back!  Incidentally, this is an example of where the softer Onix Pure I Outdoor ball will be preferred because it hurts less.

This is a sensitive topic for some who feel hitting an opponent is unsportsmanlike. If you strongly disagree – or agree – please comment!

Warm-Up Drills to Accelerate Peak Performance

Warm Up Drills to Accelerate Peak Performance

 By Glen Peterson

While some players can pick up a paddle and perform well with very little warm up, most of begin feeling comfortable after at least a couple games. Great pickleball requires rhythm and fluid coordination of the entire body, especially for effective third shots and blazing kitchen exchanges. Warming up muscles to perfect this rhythm takes time. If you are like me, you perform best after an hour or more of uninterrupted play. It takes that long for me to get into a zone where body and mind cooperate. This is the stage of relaxed focus between being awkward and fatigued. Alas, sometimes my legs give out before I ever enter the zone! And once in a while the only zone I enter is the non-volley zone with my two big feet!

Unfortunately for many of us who compete in tournaments, our critical matches arrive with little or no notice after hours of inactivity. I have spent hours on an airplane, passed a sleepless night in a hotel, then tried to compete with some of the best players in the nation at seven in the morning with ten minutes of warm-up. I try to convince myself that I am having fun and not working!

So necessity is the mother of invention!  I have discovered some techniques for maintaining the state of being in the zone for big matches without wearing myself out? Please consider these three suggestions:

  1. Play competitive half court singles with your partner for at least fifteen minutes just prior to your match. Keep score. By playing singles, you are hitting every ball rather than half the balls. Using the half court, either diagonal or straight up, simulates doubles. Keeping score gets you focused.

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  1. After your first match, never sit for more than ten minutes. If you are in a tournament, between games find an open court and play fun, relaxed pickleball. Don’t push yourself. Laugh a lot. If no court is available, just hit balls back and forth with a partner.

Brian Ashworth in action2

  1. Whether with or without a net, before each match, bang balls back and forth with your partner. Try to hit one another with the ball. Stand less than ten feet apart. This is a good way to put a sharp edge on your reaction time and get your blood circulating. Getting popped a few times in the chest with an outdoor ball always wakes me up.

If you are a recreational player and consider this topic irrelevant, sorry!  But you may just find yourself a bit stiff from sitting and find one of these tips helpful in preparing for a particular pickleball opponent.

Choosing Pickleball Shoes

Please consider these three guidelines when choosing pickleball shoes.

  1. Use tennis shoes outdoors and volleyball shoes indoors (wood floor).
  2. Go light!
  3. Good-looking shoes compensate for lousy play.

People ask me whether we offer shoes made specifically for pickleball. We don’t, because they don’t exist. When Asics or Nike discover the demand, they will introduce “pickleball” shoes. Yet while the markings will be different, the shoes will not. High performing tennis shoes from any manufacturer are perfect for outdoor play, while volleyball or racquetball shoes are perfect for indoor play on gym floors.

Too often players wear tennis or running shoes for indoor play. Tennis and running shoe soles are designed for wear on asphalt surfaces; traction on gym floors is poor. Volleyball shoes are designed for traction on wood floors.

Tennis Shoes

Tennis shoes should only be used outdoors!

Gym floors, especially when dusty, are slippery. Soft rubber soles provide traction. This is also a safety consideration. Additionally, soles used on rough surfaces like outdoor pickleball courts must survive lots of scuffing.  This requires unnecessary weight.

Remember the old adage for backpackers that a pound on your feet equals ten pounds on your back? While 3 pound boots were common 30 years ago, today you can find hiking shoes weighing less than 8 ounces. Studies have not shown that an extra ounce of weight on each foot equates one lost point in every game of pickleball, but I bet they would!

This seems to be more true now that I am in my 50s. I wear a pair of 16 ounce Babolat tennis shoes for outdoor training, and my legs feel the burden. When I played in the US Open a few weeks ago, I ditched the Babolats and donned my 10 ounce volleyball shoes and my did I fly!

Well, it felt like it. By the way, while outdoor shoes ought not to be used indoors because of poor traction, the opposite rule does not apply.  My volleyball shoes lasted through the US Open and the soles were gone!

For indoor play, look for volleyball shoes under 9 ounces. For outdoor play, 13 ounces is a good limit. These weights are for standard size shoes, so use your judgment. Hey, I can now repeatedly detect a 0.2 ounce difference in paddle weight, and it affects my play.  So a full ounce on each foot must be important! Pickleball is a game of ounces (or grams for our international friends). My favorite brand is Asics for both volleyball and tennis shoes. And oh the colors!

Beat up shoes

As long as your shoes aren’t in THIS condition, you should be fine! (Photo: Mudstock – University of Arkansas)

Which brings us to the final point: If an extra ounce of weight on each foot might equate to one lost point, a corollary is that the brighter the shoe, the lighter the player. Flashy and colorful shoes create the image of fast and svelte players. I found that plain white tennis shoes work great for gardening. Not on the pickleball court!

Okay, I confess to being a bit disingenuous here. I was wearing nice golf shorts and my flashy Asics on the court the other day, and someone commented that I looked pretty fashionable. It occurred to me that great fashion and a big smile compensate for some pretty poor play.

What are your favorite shoes? Would you suggest PickleballCentral offer shoes?

Cure For Pickleball Potty Mouth

We love Brian Ashworth.  He works at PickleballCentral and is also one of the world’s best pickleball players. At the recent International Indoor Pickleball Championships in Centralia, Washington, Brian became so engaged in competition that a few choice words escaped from this mouth and landed in the young ears of sisters McKenna and Kendall Hastings. This is a serious concern; not only could cursing corrupt young minds but it can also result in a technical foul.

IFP Official Tournament Rulebook, Rule 14.M.1.

A player using objectionable or demeaning language directed at another person shall incur a technical warning or a technical foul, depending upon its severity. Once a technical warning has been issued, the second offense will result in a technical foul. Excessive profanity used for any reason shall incur similar action. The referee will determine the severity of any violation.

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In order to help Brian out the Hastings sisters composed, “The Hasting’s Guide to ….Words to Say Instead of Cursing:  Created to protect the minds of children.” We thought this guide might be helpful for other pickleball players that are facing this vocabulary challenge.

Words to Use in Place of the Sh- Word 

  1. Snickers
  2. Shoot
  3. Shucks
  4. Shoes
  5. Snickerdoodles
  6. Snoopy
  7. Phifel Sniffle
  8. Pooper Scooper

Words to Use in Place of the F-Word

  1. Fudge
  2. Fudgesickle
  3. Fudrucksack (Fud-ruck-sack)
  4. Foot
  5. Frog Butt
  6. Footrot
  7. Frack
  8. Fiddle Diddle
  9. Fart
  10. Fart Tart

Tips:

  1. Kids will be watching
  2. People will be watching
  3. Talk like your mothers listening
  4. Remember to use this guide

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Don’t Forget This Important Step Before Playing Pickleball

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of pickleball, but if you jump into a game as soon as you hit the courts, it may be more than your technique that suffers. Warming up is a big part of not only improving your performance, but ensuring you stay safe during play. Slogging through a series of stretches and 15 minutes of jump rope isn’t the only way to activate your muscles; instead try these simple tips.

Stretching woman

Stretching doesn’t have to be a pain!

Drills

If you have a partner to work with, practice dinking back and forth or focusing on other techniques that concern play up at the net. You can slightly bend your knees and rally the ball back and forth, making your way toward one side of the net and then the other. This will not only get your body moving, but help you work on accuracy and control.

Walking Lunges

This exercise is a great choice for pickleball since your knees should normally be bent in a “ready” position during play. Take a long step and then slowly lower yourself in to a lunge, then push up with your quad and repeat on the other leg. You can do this a few times by following the length of the court. Don’t just go through the motions; imagine that you’re having to stretch for a wayward pickleball every time so that your muscles really activate!

Jogging

This is usually more fun if you can run outdoors, but taking a few laps will get your heart pumping so that your body is prepared for fast action when the game starts. The warmer your body is, the more hemoglobin gets produced, meaning higher levels of oxygen in the bloodstream pushing you toward peak performance.

Ready for a Jog

Suit up for a quick run

Swinging Motions

You know how you can end up flailing a bit when reaching for tough shots? Well, this warm-up technique is like that, but more controlled. Moving your arms in big circles or “windmills” will loosen up your joints and muscles so they’re ready to swing for pickleballs later on. The more prepped your arms are, the more flexible and resilient they’ll be.

Rock Your Ankles

Be careful moving into this position, but if you can comfortably get on your hands and feet, try linking one foot behind the other and gently move your grounded foot up and back. You should feel a stretch along the back of your calves. This motion can also improve your balance. Keeping your ankles safe during play is very important since it can be easy to trip by moving too quickly.

These are just a few ideas to get started, but if you want to continue playing pickleball for a long time to come, please be sure to properly care for your body before and after play. What are some of your favorite ways to get your body ready for pickleball?

Is It Me or My Paddle? A Definitive Guide

A lot of pickleball players will jokingly say that they must be using the wrong paddle when they miss a shot, hit out of bounds or otherwise trip over themselves during a game. As much as we appreciate this humble sense of humor, sometimes it really is your equipment at fault! But how can you tell if it’s you or your paddle? Allow us to help you decide what needs fixin’ below…

Missed Shots

This issue is about a matter of degrees. When you miss a ball, do you find that you’re just a hair’s breadth away, or are you a few good inches apart? If you’re not that far off, it may be the case that the paddle you’re using is simply too small or slender to accommodate your play.

This is why we frequently tell new players to use wider paddles, so that they have more surface area to work with. Alternately, you may want a paddle with a longer handle so that it’s easier to perform groundstrokes during games.

If you’re in an entirely different location than the ball when you miss, then unfortunately it may just be you. The best way to ensure you’re moving the right way during a return is to watch your opponent and not just the ball. Looking at their movements and the way they angle their shot will allow you to predict which way the ball will go instead of having to react once it’s already left their paddle.

Returning a pickleball

Can you return most shots, or are you scrambling across the court? (Image credit Michael Martin)

No Control

Are you always hitting out of bounds? Smacking the ball near the baseline instead of dinking into the kitchen? Or perhaps it’s the reverse. Your serve may end up short of the net, or you can only tap the ball onto the court instead of putting it away with a slam.

You could fix this by controlling the power of your hits. Reign things in if you’re slamming too often or work on improving your strength if your shots lack “oomph.” But usually it’s easier to find equipment that suits your strengths rather than catering to your paddle.

If you’re hitting too hard, then you should try a medium to lightweight paddle made with softer materials, such as a composite face with a polymer core. This will help to temper your strength and provide more control.

If you have a light touch, then use a middle to heavyweight paddle or pick materials that have a tough, “poppy” surface like graphite. The added mass will add more power to your swings and help ensure you can give the ball a good smack when needed.

Can’t Add Spin

Let’s face it, spin can be tricky. A large part of it is about how you angle your paddle, the motion with which you hit the ball, and being able to read the direction the ball is coming at you. It takes time and practice to learn. But this also isn’t tennis—there are no strings to help grip the ball or allow it to “sink into” the surface of your paddle.

The USAPA has cracked down on textured paddles to some extent, though there are a few remaining options that can help you literally “get a grip” on pickleballs so that they’re easier to spin. If you’re having trouble learning the technique, they may help. A few good textured options are the Apex, 30P-XL and Graphite Z5.

Working on spin

Does the thought of spin leave your head spinning? (Image credit Tanner Jackson)

Soreness

Most players can quickly tell if their aches and pains are simply from pushing their body during a game or due to a paddle. Pickleball has its own version of “tennis elbow,” as the muscles and tendons associated with hitting a ball can become strained. It may be the case that you have arthritis or older injuries contributing to problems with your swinging arm as well.

While physical therapy may help, and you could simply struggle through the pain, your health definitely takes priority over a favored paddle. We usually recommend a balanced middleweight paddle to players with joint problems, as going too heavy can stress the problem, while a light paddle will force them to use more of their own strength to get the same amount of power. It’s all about finding what feels best for you and understanding your body’s needs.

A good player can make any paddle work for them, but it’s also true that certain paddles will complement your strengths better than others. Have you ever switched paddles after thinking the problem was you, only to find a “night and day” difference?