It is natural to want to get better. Perhaps one of the reasons pickleball is so addicting is because one can learn to play and often find they improve quickly. But is there a key to continuing to improve?
3 Keys We Can’t Control
When we learn pickleball as an adult, there are things we can control and others we cannot. While all of us want to improve quickly, there are some things we just can’t control. For example, many of us did not grow up with a tennis racket in our hand; running around a court under the supervision of a trained tennis professional. We have not developed the swing mechanics or the court sense that seems to come so easily to the former tennis players that are have joined our ranks.
Of course, we have all run into a player that seems to pick up a paddle on Tuesday and are able to beat us on Friday. Some people are just gifted athletes! They are faster, stronger, more balanced…they seem to be better at just about everything.
Finally, we can’t stop father time. Certainly, we can work to manage our weight and exercise to remain as fit as possible…but there will always be a younger whippersnapper nipping at our heels.
3 Controllable Keys to Improve Quickly
During my extended layoff, I have spent a good deal of time watching pickleball. While there are likely more, I believe I have identified 3 keys that a middle-aged or older, non-racket sport playing, non-jock can adapt to improve quickly:
- Continue to Learn: Every really good player I have met is a student of the game. They have invested in pickleball lessons, they watch players play, they study YouTube videos. They realize that prior experience and innate talent will only take them so far. If they want to improve more or improve more quickly, they need help.
- Willing to Be Uncomfortable: I have met many tennis players that have taken up the sport. Most progress very quickly. Some stall after a few months and never get better. Yes, they can beat the players they usually play against by smashing that forehand down the line….but when they take a step up they lose. They may have become a 4.0 quickly…but moving up to 4.5 or 5.0 doesn’t happen. More skilled players can soften their drive. More skilled players won’t hit the ball that is heading beyond the baseline. Those players that aren’t willing to be uncomfortable, to try different things and possibly “fail” before they succeed will stall.
- Be The Best They Can Be: Something struck me when I read Sarah Ansboury’s interview with Sherri Steinhauer. Here we have a former professional athlete who has become a 4.5 player within 2 years of taking up the sport. Clearly, she has athletic ability, has invested in professional instruction and is totally addicted to the game. But when she spoke about what she loved most about the game, she said: “… I have a long way to go to be my best self. I have no idea how far I will get in this game, but I will continue to work hard to improve.” I was struck by the phrase “my best self”. Sherri is working to get as good as she can be. Pickleball ratings, like golf handicaps, are a number…but not her measurement of improvement.
So, if you are feeling stuck or feel like you want to improve more quickly consider making some changes. To improve quickly you might want to invest in yourself, accept getting worse before you get better and change how you measure your own success. You might even find you enjoy the game even more…and isn’t that the best improvement of all.