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Pickleball Is Life

The first thing we take in this life is breath. Once it is all over, we cease to take in such luxuries. So, while you’re here be sure to pause before your stressful moments and breathe. Whether you’re a competitive player or a social one, sports provide your avenue to let it all out in the game. Most of us are not professional athletes, so your performance will not dictate any upcoming salary or getting traded to another city (unless perhaps you play for a company team). Play to have fun and get better! Play to work off some steam or test yourself. Play with intention. Live with intention.

When you step on the court or field, it is important to have a confident mindset. That can mean a variety of things for a few different people. For one athlete, that can mean he/she is simply having positive thoughts about playing the game. For another, they could be mentally talking trash to every opponent and on a mission to display why they are the best. In any sense, believing you can perform the task and compete is crucial to the play of the game. Your energy affects everyone around you. This is true on the court and in life. I once had an athlete who suffered from a lack of confidence and needed reassurance that she could play. She felt the need to tell everyone that she was new to pickleball. In one of our lessons, I set her up in a match to play with three random pickleball players we found on the court. Wanting to hide, she didn’t believe she could perform. We chatted and I gave her a pep talk like a boxing coach in her corner. “Let’s speak positive! You’ve got this!” To her surprise, she wasn’t the greenest player on the court. She ended up pickling the other team and found herself coaching others. It was a beautiful thing to see and a proud moment. Fast forward in her growth, she joins a league. She says, “I don’t know who my partner is so I’m going to tell them I’m new”. Knowing my athlete, I know this is an attempt to psych herself out and we can’t have that. To be completely honest, it isn’t fair to your partner to step on the court with such an attitude. When you express how new you are without anyone asking, it means either you’re amazingly talented to be so new and you arrogantly want to share that information, or you want to excuse your lack of performance without providing any necessity for improvement. It puts more pressure on your partner to lift you up and coach you through it. It makes them have to say everything is okay when they are uncomfortable. At times, we can build someone up, but over time it gets exhausting. If anyone has had to coach while playing, you know that you’re going to mess up on your next hit right after your advice. If you even think about how poorly your partner is performing, you yourself are about to be useless. It’s just not the mental space you want to be in to execute. Both players need to bring positive energy to the game. You both need to be able to make a mistake but forget about it because we have more pickleball to play, more fight to fight. More life to live.

Sports in general can be very reflective of one’s personality. As a young football player, I never truly understood what my coaches were telling us when they compared in-game situations to real life. “When the game is on the line, it’s 4th quarter, we need a stop, are you going to quit because you’re tired? Are you going to quit on your brothers? Your family? When your family needs you are you going to tell them, you’re tired?” Whoa Coach, I’m 17. I’m not aware of the responsibilities you’re alluding to, but he wasn’t wrong. As I reflect on my 18-year-old self in the Navy, trying to pass bootcamp, with a pregnant wife back home and during IT (intensive training) my RDC looks at me and says, “go ahead and tell your wife, America, that you can’t do it”, I realize I was molded to compete not only in sports, but in life. In football, you have 10 other players on the field to hide a struggling player. Sometimes one group of 11 compensates for the opposite side of the ball. In the Navy, you have your division, department, or command. Civilians have their work center or their department. In pickleball, it is just you and your partner. In life it is you and your partner or you and your bestfriend. The less players there are in a game, the more intimate a partnership is. Some couples will not play together because they have some real things to work out and it can be shown on the court. Many couples have been reunited by the court. Often my emotions are taken out of my play when I have a partner, I am not familiar with. When I play with the Mrs., IT’S GO TIME BABY!

If your character is to hide in the game, you probably hide in life. If you find yourself taking all your partner’s balls, you might be a little overbearing. What do you want to change in yourself? What do you want to change in your game? Do you want to develop patience? Do you want to take the right shots at the right time? Do you want to stay the same player when you have pressure on you, or you’re fatigued? Are you driving when you should dropping? Are you giving soft returns when you should kill it and get the point? Do you let others control the pace of your game. Champions are made in practice! Don’t be surprised when you ask the Lord for patience, and He gives you opportunities to practice. See yourself in your game! Improve yourself, improve your game. Simple. Whatever your intention, take deep breath and know, you've got this.

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