Unless you’ve been living in a bubble, or you haven’t yet reached the advanced stages of the pickleball addiction, you are probably aware that the 7th Annual National Pickleball Tournament will take place in Casa Grande, Arizona next week.
My wife and I competed in the first national tournament. (If you’ve read my book, you know that that’s where we got our behinds kicked!) The rest, as they say, is history. I haven’t missed a year yet.
I’ll be heading off later this week to teach and compete in what will be the largest, most competitive tournament yet.
If you think YOU put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform well, imagine if you had a following of thousands of people who know you as “The Pickleball Guru!” It could be a lot of pressure.
And, yet, as you know from the title of this post, I’m prepared to lose and I’m not afraid to admit it.
“The Guru” is going into Nationals prepared to lose??
What kind of mindset it that?!?
Here’s why I can feel 100% confident admitting that I’m not likely to take a medal at Nationals also feel 100% confident serving my VIP clients who pay thousands of dollars to come train with me…
It so happens that I am a very good player (if I do say so myself) and my current 5.0 rating in fact qualifies me as a top-rated player.
Up until about 3 years ago I regularly played, practiced, hit the ball, and shot the breeze with the best players in the country. I’d say that three years ago I had a decent chance at medaling in the open division of the national tournament (and indeed my wife and I did medal in our age group).
In the past few years, however, a new crop of players has arisen and, to be honest, I’ve been too busy traveling and teaching to even TRY to keep up with them. (Not to mention (ahem) that while the new players keep getting younger, I seem to be getting a little older year by year…)
Luckily, being an exceptional coach doesn’t necessitate being a top player.
Think about it. How many times have you seen a top basketball coach barely hit the 6′ mark?
The skill set to be an excellent coach and the skill set to be an excellent player are actually considerably different.
That’s one reason that I believe the old saying “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach,” is generally such a line of malarkey.
Yes, the time and energy involved in being a top-rated player usually excludes placing much of a focus on teaching, however the truth is, sometimes the best players are the WORST coaches.
Especially someone who’s a “natural.”
When something comes naturally to us, we often have a particularly hard time breaking things down and explaining it to others.
And just because you can DO something right with your own body (say, get in the perfect position to hit a perfect drop shot) does not mean that you can see, identify, and explain what someone ELSE needs to correct in order for THEM to get the result they want.
What You Win From Me Going to Nationals Year After Year
One of my favorite reasons for going to Nationals every year is to meet and play with “the new kids on the block,” who are usually the ones to take the game to a whole new level.
Sure I’d love to score some big wins and at least create a couple significant upsets, but do I serve you best as a coach, simply by beating the top players?
Certainly, there’s something to be said for being an inspiration. We NEED the Tiger Woods (pre-scandal) and the Federers and the Michael Jordans to inspire the next generation.
But I believe that I serve MY greatest calling, and the way that I serve the greatest number of people is by using my “keen” eye and analytical mind to observe the new playing trends, recognize patterns in the trends, and identify what players like YOU need to tweak to get your best results.
No medal is going to make me a better coach.
So then why bother competing? Why not just go to nationals to teach and spectate? What drives me to compete?
The 3 Reasons to Compete in Tournaments
#1: For the Love of the Game
Or in other words: Why play less pickleball when you can play more pickleball? And why play against worse players when you can play against better players?
#2: To Test Your Chops
While some people crumble in tournaments, others play better in competition than they do anywhere else. Tournaments are a great (if sometimes humbling) way to find out how you stack up against other players who are playing at their best.
#3: To Stir the S*** Within
You know how easy it is to be generous when you’ve got lots to share?
You know how forgiving you can be when it wasn’t a big deal?
At the risk of turning some people off, I will say that I have always been very spiritual and self-growth oriented.
Whether your religion, your parents or your inner moral compass drives you to “Love your neighbor” and “Do Unto Others,” the reality is, that when the s*** hits the fan, it’s much easier to do so under certain circumstances than others.
Pickleball, and tournaments in particular, bring up our internal s***. Because, as it turns out, our experience of pickleball is often just a microcosm of our experience in the world.
Have trouble standing up for yourself in real life?
Watch yourself get walked all over on the pickleball court.
Have anger issues at home?
Watch yourself get pissed off at your partner or your opponents.
Not feeling worthy of love, money or respect?
Watch yourself give away points, games and matches that were rightfully yours.
Feel like you had to perform perfectly to possibly get your parents approval?
Watch yourself win tournament after tournament and never feel quite fulfilled.
Think you are a calm, compassionate, patient individual?
Watch what happens when your partner blows the perfect set-up shot at 12-13.
Think you’ve come a long way toward loving yourself?
Watch your reaction when you miss 5 shots in a row in a championship match.
Playing in tournaments offers us all an opportunity to see where we still have room to grow as a person. It reminds us to “stay detached,” challenges us to “be in the moment” and reminds us where we can do more to love, forgive, acknowledge, or forget our past.
So don’t just compete in tournaments to win.
Don’t just compete to see how you stack up.
Don’t just compete to scope out the new kids.
Compete in tournaments to find out how you can be a better human being.
::and with that, he steps down from his soap box and back on to the court::