How Pickleball Impacts MY Relationship
As you may know, my wife, Wendy, and I learned to play the game at the same time, and we were both immediate fans of the sport. We played together, traveled together, competed together and are now in the pickleball business together. (Heck, we wrote the book on pickleball—together!)
While we are lucky enough to get along extremely well together in most of those domains, I’ll be the first to admit that she’s threatened “pickleball partner divorce” on me more than a few times when we play in tournaments. (Evidently even being “The Guru” I’m not quite as patient with my wife in tournament play as I am with my students…)
On the days when I go play by myself, she tells me pretty clearly, pretty quickly when she’s heard enough of the “shot by shot” analysis of my morning of play. (Happily, when we do go play pickleball together, she will usually re-hash shots with me ’til the cows come home…)
Overall, I’d say we’re both pickleball fanatics but not equally so. Between my work, my passion for the game, and our growing family, I definitely spend a lot more time in what we affectionately call “Pickleball-Landia” than Wendy does.
So that’s a quick look at the nature of OUR relationship as it relates to pickleball. But of course, we are just one example….
How I’ve Seen Pickleball Impact Other Relationships
Some couples seem to compete together in tournaments with less conflict than we do (though I have to wonder if one of them isn’t secretly wearing earplugs and THAT’S the true secret to their success).
Others have learned that it’s best for their relationship to avoid playing together in tournaments altogether. And we have all heard the biting remarks from a couple who probably SHOULDN’T be playing on the same court together, but haven’t figured that out yet…an awkward and uncomfortable situation for everyone on the court.
TIP: How to improve playing performance with your tournament partner
And those are just a few of the variations of couples where BOTH partners play.
We’ve had plenty of times when we go out to dinner with a pickleball friend and their non-pickleball-playing spouse. It’s a true challenge to keep every topic of conversation from turning back toward pickleball.
“Oh, you spent six months in Costa Rica when you were in college? Don’t they run a pickleball tour to Costa Rica now?”
“Ouch, you strained you back painting the house last weekend? I strained my back last year and I couldn’t play pickleball for six weeks straight—it was hell!”
“Wow, who would believe that those basketball players make that much money nowadays… I wonder if there will ever be that much money in pickleball…?”
“Do I like ballet? I love ballet… people sometimes joke that it looks like Prem is doing ballet on the court when he plays pickleball…”
I swear, there isn’t a topic that exists that can’t be brought round to pickleball one way or another!
And yet, I have seen how this tendency can quickly lead to a new friend who is sitting at the table with eyes glazed over, daydreaming about something—anything—other than pickleball…
It seems that there are a couple variations of these spouses. There’s the calm and benevolent partner, who interacts with the afflicted loved one with a high degree of patience and understanding. (Much like they might treat a well-loved, aging dog with incontinence issues…) 🙂
But then there are the spouses who are, understandably, driven a bit mad themselves. [Read a confession from a non-playing spouse: A House Divided]
They are still mourning the loss of their beloved partner. Perhaps they are reflecting on the days when weekend breakfast was a leisurely time of shared companionship, rather than a quick peck on the cheek while grabbing a granola bar and and shouting a brief, “Love ya! See you later, Honey!” They are struggling to make peace with the foreign, new addict they are now sharing a bed and a home with, perhaps even resenting this person who lives, breaths and talks pickleball morning ’til night…
Over time, pickleball fanaticism has even been known to be a contributing factor in the demise of a long-term relationship. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of couples whose relationship was born and continues to flourish on the pickleball court.
How Does Pickleball Impact YOUR Relationships?
This month, I challenge you to take a good honest look at how pickleball is affecting your relationships with your loved ones.
How is Pickleball Weakening Your Relationships?
- If you and your partner are both pickleball fans, what conversations have you been avoiding by spending time talking about pickleball instead?
- If your loved one doesn’t play much, it’s easy to avoid addressing sticky situations in your relationship by heading to the courts to sweat out your feelings and engage in playful banter with people you don’t have such a complicated relationship with… but what are you doing to foster a closer, more engaged dynamic with the person closest to you?
- How are your own fears and insecurities in life playing out on the pickleball court?
- Do you have a hard time standing up for yourself in general and you let your doubles partner push you around?
- Do you have a tendency to “play it safe” by not taking risks in life, so you over-compensate by playing aggressive, low percentage shots?
- Do the cracks in your relationship with your spouse/life partner become evident on the court, where her insecurities or your overbearing nature really stand out?
What decision will you make TODAY to change these destructive patterns?
And equally as important…
How is Pickleball Strengthening Your Relationships?
- Do you feel good about yourself, because you’re in better shape than ever, and that makes you a happier, easier person to be around?
- Do you find inner strength in the routine and sense of community you feel every time you head to the court?
- Are you especially grateful for the fun, camaraderie and companionship you feel with your doubles partner?
- Did playing pickleball help you get through a really tough time in your life?
What decision will you make TODAY to acknowledge to yourself and express to the people involved how the relationship you have with them while playing pickleball has made your life better?
Over the next few weeks, we’ll share a few more stories from other players, but right now, take a moment to post your comment below and tell me how pickleball has affected your relationships (for the better and worse) and decisions you are making TODAY as a result of this awareness.
(Or, if you want to tell your story but prefer to keep it anonymous, just fill-out this online form.)
Then pass this article along to the other pickleball lovers in your life.
My husband has discovered pickleball in the past 5 months and is literally OBSESSED. It’s almost all he wants to talk about, and he plays 5-6 days a week. Anywhere from 2-4 hours.
He plays regularly with a group of women, and he is the only male. He and 3 other ladies. They joke and have fun playful banter, and after matches text each other what a blast they have and my husband tells them how much he just loves playing with them and thanks them for inviting him into their friend group. One of them is attractive and bubbly and I feel so threatened by this budding friendship and fun they have on the court together. I can never play with them (have never been invited) because we have a 3 year old we have to take turns watching. He knows how insecure it makes me but refuses to stop playing with her or the ladies. He plays two days with guys, but only bc I requested it. He said he’d always play with these ladies if he could. HELP. I feel so hurt and upset by it all. I lived pickleball too but now feeling a hatred for it because of what’s it done in my life.
Sorry to hear about your situation! And apologies, but while we’re pretty good at dishing out pickleball advice, I don’t believe that it would be appropriate to provide recommendations on such a personal situation. With that in mind, y’all may want to seek couples counseling so y’all can get better information from someone licensed in that field. Thanks for your post, and hope everything works out!
My husband and I play exclusively together because we have trouble with one being the winner if we play against each other. We are soooo competitive! We have been playing 2.5 Years and now have started critiquing each other’s shots.causing friction on the court. I read that partners should only compliment shots and only strategize. I am worried that this tension we have evolved into will ruin our relationship. We both are admittedly addicted! Any help is appreciated
You’re right! Try complimenting each other’s shots, and instead of critiquing, try strategizing instead. If this doesn’t appear to be working, it may be a good idea to avoid playing with and against each other!
Hope this helps!
Bernie Mills says
The other day I was waiting for my partners to show up. I had a portable net that I had set up. I decided to put the net about 2 feet from the wall, took a basket of balls and started to hit the ball against the wall, when on the rebound, try and dink the ball just over the net. If you hit it too high, it rebound to you, if you hit it too low, into the net. The proper dink is when you hit the ball just so that it goes over the net, and bounces back into the net.
You can do this on your own, and practice from all kinds of distances on the court. By establishing the approximate baseline, you can practice the hardest shot in pickleball, a dink from the baseline that does not result in a put away or net shot.
easy to do, it really improves your consistency, and you can make it as hard or as easy as you like. Take a few balls so that you only have to pick up the balls after you have successfully dinked 8-10 balls between the net and the ball.
Have fun, and practice.
Broomfield PB Ambassador
Jacquee Ware says
Hi Prem. As always, my “two cents worth.” LOVED your article(s) this month. Saw a number of “PB couples” in your “relationships” — myself included!!! And, by the way, CONGRATS on your expected new arrival — bet you’re beaming!!
I’ve just recently teamed up with a lady for some tournaments and we’re working on building our PB team. We’ve known each other for more than two years now and decided to team up for the remainder of this year whenever there’s a tournament logistically we can both play. She says she enjoys playing with me and has learned quite a bit over the past year — I started working with her mental game last summer when she was convinced she couldn’t be anything but a 3.0. I gave her a few hints at how she could improve her technique and she’s improved so very much, playing like the 3.5 I knew she could become. We’re looking forward to when we’re both 70 — (next year) can you believe it — 70 and still active — never would have “thunk” it!
On the mental side, I had a tennis “coach” for a period of time who was very inventive in his method of teaching, especially the mental side. He taught me one important rule:
Bring a BIG ERASER to your competitive match!! Meaning? It doesn’t matter whether the last shot was a winner or an error — it is only the NEXT shot that matters. Sometimes, we dwell on what our last shot was — forgetting that a match is still in progress; in other words, we lose our focus. I “acknowledge” the “great shot” from my opponent’s mouth but I erase it immediately because that “great shot” may develop into “why aren’t I making a great shot again?” This could end up “over-playing” your match. I’ve seen it happen too many times, especially in the “Losers Bracket.” The same with errors: if you focus on your last “error,” you’re beginning to think, “OMG, what has happened to my game??!!” Which is why I support the theory: YOU NEED A BIG ERASER!!!!
And, what I’ve discovered is that when I’m playing with a partner and have warned them that I’ll be saying “big eraser” during the match, they just smile and know that I know that they will get their head back into the game. It helps alleviate the tension if your partner (or yourself) has hit a few errors in a row. This has saved numerous on-court relationships — whether we remained together or moved on to our next partner!!
Thanks Prem — always a big fan!! Jacquee Ware