Pickleball is amazing! It seems anyone can play pickleball. As I travel across the country and stop by open play venues, I find people who have never played any sport and others who have excelled as Olympic or professional athletes. Regardless of your path in life, pickleball is an easy sport to play.
Pickleball and Tennis
Of course, we are seeing many former tennis players entering the pickleball ranks. And clearly, these players come with certain advantages.
- They already know the fundamentals of hitting a groundstroke;
- They are familiar with hitting a volley;
- They may have developed “court sense”…understanding how to cover the court, and the effect of angles.
However, one of the big things I learned early on was despite all of my tennis experience I had NO IDEA how to play pickleball.
The biggest benefit I got from my tennis background was being coached my whole life. I always knew to learn something or to improve at something I had to learn from someone who could teach me. I had various coaches throughout my tennis career. I had some coaches who were good players but were unable to teach me very much.
The best coach I had growing up was a 6′ 4″ Indian man who played Davis Cup for India in his day. Certainly, he was a talented player, but what was most important to me was he knew how to communicate to me. He explained to me the why’s and how’s, not only the what’s. Understanding why and how helped me understand the sport of tennis.
How to Teach
He basically taught me how to teach. What I think was most valuable was he had sons and daughters he taught.
He had to learn that women are different from men and he knew how to teach us differently. There was a time he told me he was all done with me. He took me as far as he could and that I needed someone to push me in a different way.
The next coach couldn’t teach me much more about technique but he taught me about work and drive. That is what I needed at the time and my prior coach knew this. He was willing to push me away to help me grow.
Coaching & Teaching Myself
As I reached adulthood, I had to do a lot on my own. After my back surgery in my early 20s, I could not longer hit a two-handed backhand like I had my whole life. I had to learn how to hit a one-handed topspin backhand. I remember it being the most grueling thing I ever learned to do in tennis. It was so foreign to me. It was a different grip, different footwork. etc. I remember hitting thousands of balls into the net and the back of the fence. It was so frustrating especially because I felt like I had no one that could help teach me or tell me how to change.
I had been a Head tennis pro at my club for a while so I knew I had to learn to do this. Eventually, it clicked and I learned to love it. But only because I was a teacher by profession and I had a starting point from which to make the necessary changes. I know my options for gripping the racquet, the correct contact point, and how to modify my footwork. I was educated on technique…so I knew the options to explore.
Anyone Can Play Pickleball
When I came into pickleball I wanted to learn how to do things well so that I could excel. I wanted to learn the game correctly. I still do. I still go out and try things and see if there is a way to better my game. I use the resources I have. The tough thing for so many players is there is not always people around that can teach you.
This is the difficulty in this sport we have a ton of players but not as many educators. We will get there one day. For now, we have videos and blogs and often players travel to better themselves and learn the game. Of course, not everyone has the resources to travel in this way. Anyone can play pickleball. But again, not all will master it.
Continuing to Improve
This game is evolving so quickly right now. I love how pickleball is changing and I want to better my game to keep up. I encourage those of you who want to better yourselves to avail yourselves of all the resources available. I assume that is why many of you are reading this blog now. No matter how much you know you can always know more.
I had a woman come to one of my clinics recently and she saw some of the players in one of my classes were rated 4.0. She said, “Why are they taking a lesson they already seem to know how to play?” I told her it doesn’t matter how good you are as every great player always wants to be better.
I think often players get worried about what people might think if they ask for help. I will tell you I have players from every level that take lessons and ask for help. There is integrity in asking for help. Whether it is attending one of my Academies, or a clinic or watching a video on YouTube. Remember anyone can play pickleball…the question you need to ask is, do you want to play or improve?