Stop Playing to Win


Stop playing to win… If you want to become a better pickleball player, you must stop playing to win.

We all want to win; I mean who really likes to lose? To become a better pickleball player you must be willing to lose to get better. The best players achieved their success simply because they lost more games than you.

One of the biggest mistakes’ players make in social play is they play to win the game rather than improve their skill set. What are the areas of your game that you would like to improve? Use each game as an opportunity to practice that skill set until you feel confident that you can consistently place that shot.

There are so many things to think about when hitting the ball. Which side of the court should you hit to, should you hit the ball hard or soft, should the ball go deep, or would a shallow drop shot get better results? Where are the opponents on the court, where the heck is your partner? How can anyone calculate all these algorithms on the court at the same time and return the ball with any sense of direction?

Remember driving a stick shift car for the first time? Your left foot had to push down on the clutch then release slowly upward at the exact time you pushed down with your right foot on the gas pedal. As if this balancing act was not enough you had to shift gears at the same time.

If you were off just a little you popped the clutch and stalled the car or worse, you heard the gears grinding and screaming to be released simply because your timing was off. Left foot down right foot up, right hand shifting, it was like doing the Hokey Pokey. Then you had to make sure you did not run anyone over as you drove away.

You had to really concentrate but soon you were shifting gears with ease, smoking a cigarette with one arm out the window, changing the radio station and talking to your friend on the cell phone.

At first changing your strategy on the court from winning the game to improving your skill set will have the same affects. It might take effort at first. It might be painful for a bit. Soon it will all be effort less and your motions and shots will come with ease without you thinking of what to do. You will just do it. Stop hitting the ball just to return it over the net.

Every time the ball reaches your paddle you should be asking yourself “Where do I want this ball to go?” Where would you like the ball to land? Which side of the court are you trying to place the ball? Do you want the ball to land deep in the opponent’s court or shallow?

What I am saying is “Hit the ball with purpose” Do not just send it back over the net. Become the player that hits with a purpose.

Become a player that is willing to lose more now so you can win more later.
Brett Noel is 3x National Gold Medal winner and an Engage Professional Pickleball Instructor.

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