Don't Step onto the Pickleball Court without these 6 Essentials

Like with most things, safety first in pickleball, too!

Six Essentials for the Pickleball Court Graphic

Don't Step on the Pickleball Court Without these 6 Essentials

Whether you're going to play 1 game or 10 games, make sure you have these essentials every single time.

1) Court Shoes

Make sure you wear proper court shoes (tennis shoes or pickleball shoes) with good lateral support when playing pickleball. It is fairly common for pickleball players to develop foot and other problems along the way including plantar fasciitis and other issues involving the Achilles tendon, ankle and/or calf.

We regularly grimace when observing flipflops, canvas slip-ons, hiking boots and running shoes on the court. Obviously, flipflops and canvas slip-ons don't have enough structure and support for quick start and stops as well as good lateral support for frequent shuffling and lunging.

Once I made the mistake of just hitting balls with a few my flipflops. I ended up collapsing my metatarsal arch (which I didn't even know existed) which made it nearly impossible to walk or play for months.

Many pickleball newcomers show up to lessons and clinics in running shoes. Running shoes are designed to go forward. Many pickleball falls can be linked back to playing in running shoes. And, hiking shoes are made for, well, hiking!

We can agree that breaking a bone, tearing a ligament, getting a sprain and/or suffering from a head injury would not be ideal!

2) Eye Protection

Just because we're playing with a plastic whiffle ball doesn't mean it can't hurt you! Please be aware that there are many (too many) stories of detached retinas and other eye injuries in pickleball.

Some people think you're only at risk for a pickleball eye injury if you play against players that hit the ball really hard. That's not quite accurate... Some eye injuries occur from your own paddle, your partner's paddle or from the ball quickly hitting off you or your partner's paddle.

Hats and visors can somewhat help, but they may be insufficient.

My pickleball partner invested in $600 sports safety glasses. Once, he got hit by a ball so hard that the frame exploded. I always wonder what would have happened if his eyes were "naked."

(By the way, there is a 'No Naked Eyes" movement directed towards pickleball players.)

There are many companies that make sports safety glasses. And, now there are paddle manufacturers that also sell branded safety glasses. You may need to test out several before finding the ones that work best for you.

3) Hydration

Water fountains and water refilling stations aren't always available or functioning -- and staying hydrated is a must. Always plan on bringing more water than you think you might need as we pickleball players can't resist "playing one more game" that may lead to a dozen more games...

Along the lines of hydration, might also consider packing electrolytes and a foldable water bottle for emergencies.

4) Sun Protection

If you're playing outside, get in the habit of using the following:

  • use sun block (on your face, arms, neck, chest, legs, etc.)

  • use SPF lip balm

  • wear an UPF shirt or sun sleeves

  • wear a hat or visor (and don't forget sunblock for the top of your head)

Many lifelong sports enthusiasts and tennis players later deal with thin skin which rips easily and melanoma issues. Remember, safety first!

5) Quality Carabiner

Whether you carry a duffle bag or backpack, make sure you can hide and/or lock your valuables (keys, wallet, phone, etc.) and get a locking carabiner so you can securely attach your bag to the fence. Unfortunately, as many facilities don't allow bags on the court due to potential liability issues, that can put your belongings at risk.

Although it doesn't happen regularly, there are reports of stolen bags and paddles as well as missing car keys...

6) An Assortment of Pickleballs

Experienced and competitive players tend to make sure they always have several pickleballs packed in their bag. They'll usually have green outdoor DuraFast pickleballs and optic-colored outdoor Franklin X-40 pickleballs. (There are other brands which have recently entered the market as well.) Many competitive players also tend to prefer the brighter balls versus the yellow hard balls.

Newer players often prefer to play with the soft outdoor balls because they are easier to control and keep the ball in play.

My personal opinion is that you might as well start with the hard balls because sooner or later, you will likely need to make the switch.

However, in some communities where residences are very close to pickleball courts, hard balls might be banned as they are noisier than the soft balls.

If you play indoors, you might want a stash of colored indoor balls as the provided ones may have lost their bounce, and you won't know which color will show up best against the walls and flooring.

ATTENTION NEW PLAYERS - PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: If you show up to drop-in open play with soft outdoor balls, indoor balls or a wooden paddle (or a very cheap paddle found on Amazon), you may notice that some players will shy away from playing with you. These items announce to everyone that you're new, new, new! And, I'm sad to report, some people just can't be bothered to play with brand new players. So, do a little homework to increase your chance of being welcomed with open arms.

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