For me personally, in all sports, I have always preferred to compete with players who are a little bit better than I am because I feel that such a challenge requires me to play at the top of my capabilities, and whether I win or lose, I am always learning. This theory allows me to understand and accept the parameters of both my abilities and my limitations, and helps me to realize when I may be getting in over my head, aka, out of my comfort zone.
A fundamentally sound offensive strategy, in any sport, is to make your opponent have to play beyond the normal limits of his/her abilities/comfort zone. If we are able to accomplish this task, it will hopefully cause our opponents begin to make more errors.
Once we are able to dominate them strategically in a physical sense, they will begin to lose confidence in themselves and in their game; at which point we need to continue to apply pressure and attack their weaknesses, as well as their strengths and put the match away.
As evil as the premise of this “have no fear/take no prisoners” strategy may sound, it is essential if we intend to compete and win on a high level of competition.
Which leads us to the main focus of this column, finding our comfort zone.
If we are planning on competing (and winning) in tournament level competition, we must be emotionally and mentally prepared to apply this strategy, as well as accepting the fact that there will be occasions when we will be on the receiving side of it all, aka losing.
No matter what other sports we may have previously competed in, when first introduced to the sport of pickleball, most players enjoy what I referred to as “hit and giggle” pickleball. These players may have bad fundamentals and do not really understand the strategies of the game, but they’re out there playing and having fun.
Once they are hooked on the sport, there are some players who are happy just playing for the fun, the exercise and the social camaraderie.
Other players want to take their game to the next level, which requires them to venture into deeper waters and swim with the big fish.
Some players really get into it and begin to compete in tournaments.
Let me reemphasize that the common denominator in all of this is to make sure you stay within your comfort zone, and to understand and accept the parameters of both your abilities and your limitations.
With all of that said, whatever level you want to take your game to, the only way to achieve your goals is through a combination of qualified proper instruction, lots of practice and drills, along with match play experience.
The programing, activities and events at East Naples Community Park, aka, ENCP, home of The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida and The Minto U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, provides the opportunity for players of all ages and abilities to take their game to any level of social play or tournament competition.
With a total of 54 courts, the facility provides daily recreational play for anyone and everyone. Each level of player has their own designated bank of courts, for their specific level of competition. So whether your a beginner, a 3.5, or a championship tournament level player, you never have to be concerned with different level players mixing in with your group. The wide variety of players, on all levels, provides an environment of competitive challenge to fit your game.
In addition to daily recreational play, ENCP has organized intra club and traveling competitive leagues teams.
The Pro Shop offers a full selection of demo paddles, as well as Academy logo apparel.
The instructors at The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida are available for individual private and group lessons, along with daily clinics, covering a full spectrum of instruction. All coaches at The Academy are International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association certified instructors.
So challenge yourself to achieve whatever level of play you feel is best (most fun) for you. Set your goals as high as you want, but remember to stay in your comfort zone. It’s good for your game, it’s good for your health, and it’s good for your happiness!
Coach Wayne’s Quick Tips
If people on a higher level of play ask you to join in and compete in their group, don’t be afraid to say yes. They obviously already think you are good enough, or they would not be asking you to join them in the first place!
On the flip side of that, higher level players should have the patience and the skills to challenge and encourage the abilities of the new player to the group, while also having the courtesy of not showing any disrespect to the limits of their abilities.
Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. Contact Coach Wayne by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.