How Self-Care Practices Can Improve Your Pickleball Game

5 self-care practices that also transfer over to your pickleball life...

How Self-Care Practices Can Improve Your Pickleball Game

How Self-Care Practices can Improve Your Pickleball Game

Here are some self-care practices that transfer over to pickleball:

One. Practice Presence

Mental distractions need to be minimized in pickleball.

This means that you will need to learn how to focus in the midst of chaos, loudspeaker announcements, music, trains, planes, balls coming onto your court as well as people talking and moving around.

Most of us have experience doing this when the stakes are high enough. For instance:

  • People choose to focus their full attention on a conversation at their table when dining in a loud restaurant or at a party

  • People choose to tune out noise when they live near railroad tracks or under a flight path

  • People choose to intently follow conversations during important video-based business meetings in the midst of conflict and chaos in the background

It's unlikely that you'll be able to control external factors outside of your home, but you can control where you place your focus and attention. This means that, with dedication and practice, you can learn to practice presence at the flip of a switch.

Putting this into practice on the pickleball court involves immediately letting go of the last point and focusing on the next rally.

It may be helpful to get into the habit of reminding yourself to focus on THIS point. And, sometimes we'll remind our partner who is focused on the last point or issue by saying, "let's let that go and focus on this point." The next point, after all, can give us the opportunity we need to turn things around.

Two. Rehearse Intended Outcomes (Visualize)

The reason so many people from all walks of life visualize is because it works. (If the word visualization doesn't work for you, replace it with practice or rehearse in your mind -- same thing)

You can mentally rehearse specific shots or steps, certain scenarios and plays that you set up for yourself and execute. When you imagine yourself successfully executing the shot, steps, scenario or set play repeatedly, you'll find that one day it just happens as you imagined. Try it!

Three. Reframe Negative Messages

Shift the negative self-talk into present-tense positive self-talk.

Here are some examples:

  • From "I always hit (shot) into the net" to "Next time, I will clear the net when I hit (shot)"

  • From "I can't play the soft game" to "My soft game gets better with practice"

  • From "I miss my serves when I rush" to "When I take a deep breath in and out, I nail my serves"

"Believe you can, and you're halfway there." -- T. Roosevelt

As soon as you hear yourself saying or THINKING negative messages that start with I can't, I don't know how, I never, I'll never, I always," STOP and reframe in a present-based positive manner. And, pro tip, smiling when you reframe it into a positive message will help anchor it.

“The greatest fear in the world is the opinion of others, and the moment you are unafraid of the crowd, you are no longer a sheep, you become a lion. A great roar arises in your heart, the roar of freedom.” ~ Osho

Photo by Ava Sol / Unsplash

Four. Relax with Breathing Techniques

Sometimes the simple practice of drawing in breath for a few seconds and releasing breath for a few seconds is enough to calm us down. Many players who used to struggle with serving use this technique to ready themselves to focus on their serve.

A variation of this could be to go even slower. Breathe in for 4-5 seconds, hold it for 4-5 seconds and breathe out for 4-5 seconds.

And, it doesn't hurt to partner this up with a positive message.

Five. Set Incremental Intentions

Finally, you can set a specific intention before setting foot on the court. You can set intentions for a game or for the whole day. For example you can set an intention to:

  • Look for opportunities to practice certain shots or placements

  • When serving, attempt to set up certain plays

  • Increase the number of winning shots by

  • Keep the ball in play longer than you normally do

  • Try to get a Golden Pickle if you're the first server

  • Hit as many shots with your backhand as possible

  • Sustain dink rallies and resetting instead of attacking to practice patience

  • Work on moving your feet and court positioning

  • Focus on form when dropping or driving

  • Minimize the number of unforced errors (try to reduce number during each game played for a greater challenge)

Goals graphic - The Pickleball Broadcast

Photo by Clay Banks / Unsplash

With experience, these self-care practices will become easier over time. Make sure you give yourself complete permission to experiment in order to fail forward. It'll be worth it in the long run.