Saturday, June 12, 2021

To Be or Not To Be

Coach Wayne’s Corner

Both as a competitor and as an instructor I have often heard people say, “He or she is not a really serious player, because they do not compete in tournaments.”

So the question is, “Do you need compete in tournaments to be a serious pickleball player?”

And the answer is that it depends on your “competitive personality.”

Personally, at this point in my life, I choose not to compete in pickleball tournaments.

This decision is based mainly on the fact that my career-related responsibilities outside of pickleball do not permit me to commit myself (time wise) to what is required to successfully compete on tournament level play.

I have decided that I am completely happy and satisfied with playing my game, coaching/instructing, and having fun doing both!

With that being said, as a lifelong tennis player, I always found it difficult to be successful in tournament competition if I was also playing “just for fun.”

It’s kind of a “catch 22.”

While playing socially on a daily basis was good for keeping my strokes and skills sharp, my attitude and competitive personality (which I was required to apply when competing on tournament level play) were different as night and day from when I was playing just for fun.

As Alfred Hitchcock as it may sound, I actually have three distinct and separate “competitive” personalities.

First (and most frequently utilized), is my instructional competitive personality which requires me to remain competitive. At the same time, it also ensures that while I am playing points and practicing drills with my students, that I don’t get overly aggressive in my attitude. I make sure that my students feel that they are being challenged while I am encouraging them to succeed and win.

I find myself comfortable with this personality because I am in control of the situation and the results of the experience are always positive

Second, I have my social/recreational competitive personality. While I am playing to win, having fun is my main goal.

I find myself comfortable with this personality as well because even though I may (or may not) be in control of the situation, win or lose, the results of the experience are always positive.

Finally, I have my tournament level competitive personality. This requires me to put on my game face, take the gloves off, have no fear/take no prisoners, and “winning is everything” attitude!

I find myself not as comfortable with this personality for a couple of reasons.

First, the mental and emotional stress related to not necessarily being in control of the situation is at a much higher level, the results are not always positive.

Next, while I thrive on the challenge of the heat of competition, the high level/serious (game face) attitude which I must maintain to compete (and win) in tournament level play, seems to kind of (at this point in my life) take the fun out of the whole reason I am playing in the first place.

We have all heard of being either type A or type B personality.

I believe that our personality type directly impacts our competitive attitude.

I have found that an individual’s personality type (A or B) usually directly correlates with how competitive, or non-competitive, of player they are (or will become)

As a coach and instructor, beyond analyzing a player’s athletic abilities, I always analyze my students “competitive personality.” I determine at their current point in life whether they are either non-competitive, somewhat competitive, or very competitive.

My personality type, which I jokingly refer to as a B+\A-, remains as it always was. However, my “competitive personality” is different now than it was at other times in my life.

I also inquire as to what is a student’s current career, if they are retired, etc., because our abilities and capabilities of how we deal with job-related pressures and challenges directly relates to our abilities and capabilities for dealing with the pressures and challenges of competition.

From this analysis I determine how aggressive I need to be (or can be) with my instructional process.

Clearly, there are many factors involved in making a decision of being, or not being, a tournament player.

Consider the following if you are thinking of becoming a competitive tournament player:

  1. Tournaments are very time consuming and if you are traveling to compete, they can become financially consuming as well.
  2. Speaking of time, being a successful competitive tournament player requires a commitment and devotion of time to daily practice and drills, as well as off-court training and conditioning.
  3. Being a successful competitive tournament player also requires a commitment and devotion to your daily diet and lifestyle.
  4. Most importantly, the stress level of tournament competition is different and more extreme than it is in social recreational play. This gets us back to personalities. Unless we are good enough to qualify for the open division of a tournament, where prize money and player endorsements are being offered, we are basically competing to please our own ego.

The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to be fully committed to tournament competition to be a good player!

In addition to your recreational/social play, consider competing in league competition, a club social mixer, a round robin event, or your club member championship.

My simple, basic advice for all sports competition is that if you’re not having fun and don’t love what you’re doing… stop doing it!

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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