Friday, August 29, 2014

Why Play in Pickleball Tournaments?

A number of years ago I took up the great and fun sport of pickleball.  As it turned out I quickly developed an affinity for it.  Most people who play one game of pickleball play two games of pickleball.  It takes two games to get you hooked, though some are hooked the first moment they step on to the court.  Then, of course there are some slow learners who take a bit more coaxing.

But, with my background in squash I also developed some skill in it, not nearly as much as I thought, mind you, but enough to make it interesting for me and for playing partners.

At the place I first played the game, Rincon Country West RV Resort in Tucson Arizona, I got in on the ground floor as it were.  We had new courts, and new paddles to use.  So, the possibility existed to become a big fish in a small pond.  Some of us did.  Others not so much.  But, we had fun, and to an extent got comfortable in our fun, not wanting to disturb it.

But, then I went home to London Ontario one Spring and lo and behold they were playing pickleball there. Suddenly, I went from being a largish fish in a small outdoor pond to a medium sized fish in a larger indoor pond.

That experience was not as comfortable in the short term, but was in fact rewarding and leads me to why I am inviting readers to sign up for a tournament.

First off if pickleball is not fun for you go do something else.  Secondly, if your idea of fun comes from how many games you win in any day, and the competition is what is most important to you, then you are much younger than me, since along with not remembering what I had for breakfast, remembering how well I did on any given pickleball day is gone after I step off the court.

But, humans have in them a survival instinct, which makes most of us competitive to one degree or another. With age it usually gets tempered by experience and humbling knowledge of our own mortality.

For many of us that competitiveness is more personal than directed outwardly.  By this I mean, that I, as a case in point, want to improve my game of pickleball for example, so I want to beat the me of yesterday by improving my skills and strategies.

Don't get me wrong.  I prefer to win games more than to lose them, but I do not lose one moment's sleep worrying over a point or game lost that day.

So, if you, like me, want to have fun, play pickleball and challenge yourself to get better, how best to do it?

One of our better players at Rincon had challenged a number of us to sign up for the Tucson Senior Games tournament at Voyager over the last few years.  We declined for at least two years, then last year one of  my favourite playing partners from Canada came to Rincon in his motorhome and we signed up for and played at the Senior Games.  We had so much fun, that we signed up for 3 more tournaments and then I played another one with another partner.

So, why play in pickleball tournaments?

Here are the best reasons I can think of.

1) Take the fun you have getting together with the same people day in and week out, and then surround yourself with maybe 150-300 people just like you, playing pickleball to have fun and meet new people, and then feel the electricity in the air, and see all the smiles, win or lose.

When 150-300 people with the same addiction as you are gathered in one place it is like a large AA meeting, except that rather than trying to overcome the addiction you are feeding it.  Consider it a large self help group.

2) Pickleball can get a bit stale, still fun though, when you play the same people with the same tendencies time and time again.  At a tournament you play somebody new, and win or lose, you meet someone new, and learn some new things.

After the first tournament at Voyager, my partner and I started to practice because we saw things we had never seen before, and we wanted to adopt them.  We won a couple of matches and lost a couple, even met some folks who invited us to play at their club later on.  We also watched some matches of the best players around and had wow moments when we saw how the game could be played.

3) Tournaments tend to last 2-3 days or so.  Imagine the fun you have playing for a couple of hours at your local club and make it day long instead of just a few hours.

You don't get kicked off the court after a couple of hours.  You can play and watch pickleball all day long if you want.

My partner and I were deluded by the people we were beating at Rincon into thinking we only had to show up to win a medal at Voyager.  What they and we did not know was that the best players at several clubs were going to be there and that they had had their egos stoked just like us.  So, in that tournament we won a couple of matches and lost a couple, but we had a GREAT time.

When we got back to Rincon, someone said to us that we got humiliated, so maybe that would put us in our place.  We responded that we had the best time ever playing and that we learned a lot.

So, then we started to focus on getting better.  Yes, we wanted to win more games at tournaments we entered, but winning was secondary to seeing the improvement in our game and meeting new friends, who shared our love for the game.

We never did win a medal last winter, but we won big time.  If I had any more fun, I would have to be twins. I communicate regularly with some of the folks we beat or lost to (can't remember the results) and am eager to get back down south to see them again and to see how their game has progressed since we last played.

Playing pickleball at your local club gets a bit repetitive.  Playing with new people puts a spring in your step, win or lose, unless wining is the most important thing for you.  Then, you go back to your regular club with a new attitude, new skills, and new friends outside your regular group.

If you are enjoying something and a new wrinkle would magnify your enjoyment, wouldn't that sound like a good idea?

Find a partner and go play a tournament.  You will not regret it.

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