Once again, I want to welcome a guest blogger – Kevin Douglas from Sylvania, Ohio. Kevin is a member of several pickleball clubs in the Toledo area. He is often seen playing in high level games, but also with beginners and intermediate players, always helping them as they learn the game.
Am I the only one who has noticed that many of the area’s higher skilled players don’t often show up to regular club play and open court times? Is it just because they prefer to play with others of similar skill or are there other reasons for this? One of the most important reasons why pickleball has flourished is because people of different genders, ages and skill levels can all play together and have fun. A healthy pickleball club is inclusive of all players and well balanced in skill level. Yet, it’s not hard to notice that the best players are not participating in regular open play.
Here’s a few tips that would help clubs become more inviting to higher skilled players.
- First of all, simply invite experienced players to come and play during your open play sessions. Don’t prejudge or worry about whether or not they will get good matches, or be challenged. They have plenty of opportunity to play with other higher skilled players. As long as there is a desire for them to be included they will have fun playing during open times.
- Next, and most importantly, when playing against players that are more experienced and skilled, HIT THEM THE BALL! This is likely the primary reason you may not have many of these players showing up regularly at designated club times, or even becoming members. Their time is just as important as everyone else’s, and they don’t want to waste it watching their partner get the large majority of the shots. Hitting to the better player is the quickest way to improve your game. Weaknesses will be exposed that show which shot development and strategies are in need of attention. Make an effort to hit to both doubles opponents and focus on hitting shots that will create openings, instead of just to the weaker player in hopes that they will make a mistake. We all want to win. There is nothing more satisfying than proving ourselves against a good opponent, but what have we really accomplished if we are hitting 75% of our shots to the weaker opponent? Most skilled players have no interest in trying to dominate or slam the ball at players who are less experienced than they. They know how to dial it down and are quite content to do so.
- Finally, take advantage of a higher skilled player’s knowledge and experience, as this gives added value to our clubs. They would be happy to spend time helping others improve their game. They didn’t always play to their skill level and most understand the value of the help they have received from others as they were learning the game. Get them involved by inviting them to help out with teaching clinics. When playing with them during open play ask them to give any feedback and answer questions.
The #1 priority for any level of player during open play should be to make sure everyone on the court has a good time. This starts by making sure everyone is included in the game.
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2 thoughts on “If you won’t hit the ball to me, why should I play with you?”
Great article and very valid point. Sadly to some people it is all
About winning, even in Rec Play! Practice to develop not to win!
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I play with a lot of different level players. I find when I play with lower level players, they seem to learn more when I look for holes to hit into, instead of overwhelming them with the intent to beat them. They will often vocalize their mistake like, “I should have moved to the middle to cover that” or “I needed to hit a softer shot” Simple mistakes that they recognize immediately and can begin to work on.
One thing I will add to Kevin’s thoughts…….when you get the chance to play with a better player, Don’t boast if you beat them! Recognize that they will probably working on specific shots to help you and their own game, and not playing to win. Laugh, enjoy the moment, and celebrate that you made some smart shots!
And……take the time, after the game to ask what things you could be working on to get better. Take advantage of their experience and knowledge.