We often practice our shots…thinking that perfecting our strokes is the key to winning. But if we don’t control the mental side of the game we will often come up short. Today, we’ll focus on preparing yourself mentally before a tournament.
Coming up Short
I don’t know about you, but perhaps the most frustrating thing is not being able to close out a match. We have all seen this, and most of us have been there. Two evenly matched teams, battle back and forth. The difference in the third game or the tie-breaker in a Gold Medal match. Nothing is more frustrating than knowing you can play better, but your brain and your body are not connecting.
Mental Side Practice
Just as you practice dinks, or serves….forehands or backhands….you need to practice the mental side of pickleball as well. In the end, your biggest competition is yourself. In preparation for a tournament, you want to do things that will prepare you for a winning mindset.
It starts with a few simple things:
- Take time to find out what ball will be used, and spend time practicing with it;
- Whenever possible, make a special effort to practice productively with your partner.
- Don’t just drill or play, but talk! Discuss strategy and court position before the day of the event. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page. Your strategy with one team may be different than with another. If you know who you will be facing, take the time to work out a winning strategy for each match. The last thing you want to do is walk into a match without a plan.
- Set your intention as a team…define your common goals.
But I Don’t Know My Opponent
At the “pro level”, we typically know our opponents. However, I realize that when you travel to a national event or attend a tournament out of town, you may not know many of the teams. Even in these cases, it is wise to construct a plan. You might plan to target one player to start…just to feel them out. If that appears to be a winning strategy…great. If not, agree ahead of time that you will communicate and switch it up to identify the weaker player.
You might decide to first test their dinking skills, then change it up and determine how comfortable they are with the hard game. You can enter a match with a strategy to feel out the other team during the first 5 or 6 points of a game. If you need to, call a time-out and discuss your observations, and develop a winning strategy together.
Your Mind is the Difference
In the introduction to my second ebook, Be the Best Pickleball Partner You Can Be, I wrote:
I believe in free will. I believe we have the ability to choose how to act. It may not always be easy. However, it is our choice.
I believe free will extends to our thoughts. We make voluntary decisions, choices every minute of every day which determines our perceptions, beliefs, and feelings. Our thoughts, like our actions, our successes, and failures, are not pre-determined. They are not controlled by some external force. They are controlled by each of us. Again, it may not always be easy. It may not be second nature to think a certain way.
However, with practice, we can learn to manage our thoughts. I believe if you learn to manage your thoughts and your actions on the pickleball court, you will be on your journey to Being the Best Pickleball Doubles Partner You Can Be.
As you prepare for a tournament, don’t overlook the mental side of the game. Like grooving a forehand, developing a winning mindset takes practice … before and during the game.