Recently in a conversation over lunch, a friend was commending me for my Crazy Pickleball Lady blog. We discussed the challenge of continually coming up with ideas for topics, as well as the time it takes to write and edit each post. I invited her to write a post on a topic that my readers would be interested in and send it to me. I liked what she wrote, and I think you will too.
From the pen of Gloria Anthony…..
Keeping a Good Head
Those of us who came of age in the ’60s and ’70s are familiar with the phrase “Keep a Good Head.” Back then, when a friend told you to “keep a good head,” they were referring to a good, positive attitude. (Or–if you were partying too hard–they were giving you some probably much needed advice on how to get yourself together when you over-imbibed.)
Decades later, the phrase is beautifully applicable to pickleball. Whether playing tournament, non-tournament skill level, or “hit and giggle” pickleball, how do you keep a good head when you’re competing? We all know the outcome of a game–winning or losing–affects each of us in different ways. Some people seem to take a loss really hard. Some people seem to care not a bit when they lose–or are they just very emotionally intelligent and able to mask the self-loathing that sometimes accompanies a loss?
Intellectually, we all know, “it’s just pickleball.” Our goal is to put a plastic ball over a net so our opponent can’t return the plastic ball back over the net– simple and meaningless in the big picture. Whether we win or lose, every day on a pickleball court is a wonderful thing–especially if you’re a senior who is still capable of the kind of physical activity required by the game. Yet we’ve all had bad days/moments on the courts where our failure to perform as well as we think we can really negatively affects our mood or even aggravates us long after the game is over.
So a negative internal monologue begins, which can spiral into even poorer performance and/or reduce the “fun factor” of the game. Sometimes we even verbalize some of that negativity, which brings down the “good time” that the other three people on the court are enjoying. (Although some of the more sadistic players maybe get a kick out of your frustration and anger at yourself.) With the possible exception of John McEnroe types, there are few people who perform better while indulging in negative self-talk.
It’s said that competition brings out the best and the worst in us. If you are having trouble keeping a good head, I recommend the book The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey. Published in 1974, it’s a good and quick read that is basically cognitive therapy applied to the sport of tennis. If you are excessively ruminating while you’re playing–with a lot of negative self-talk–it’s worth checking out. There’s very little in the book about tennis technique–it’s all about keeping a good hea, d while playing, and defeating the negative self-talk, nervousness, and weird emotions/feelings that competing can fuel. The book includes “detailed mental and physical exercises to increase body awareness and improve concentration.”
The other thing you must always remember is that there are four people on the court and you are one-quarter responsible for the experience generated on that court. It cannot be denied, we are living in very troubled times. Add to that the natural stresses of day-to-day life, aging, etc. We need our outlets like pickleball to go well to produce the endorphins and the “state of flow” we are seeking to occur unimpeded. And, as the Crazy Pickleball Lady has addressed in other posts, if your negative self-talk turns into criticizing your partner, or treating your opponents disrespectfully, you really need to rethink your participation in the game.
‘Cause it’s just pickleball.
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