Oftentimes pickleball is compared to tennis, table tennis and/or badminton, however, in pickleball, external distractions are much more of a consideration than any of the other respective sports. During COVID-19 and the practice of social distancing and self-isolation, identifying external factors and learning how you can best block them out is one way you can stay in touch with your game.
So, what exactly do I mean when I speak of “external factors”? I’m referring to any sound or motion that you - personally - have no control over. This includes before, during and between your pickleball games or matches. As a player who’s participated in over 25 tournaments across Ontario and throughout the USA, including the US Open and USA National Pickleball Championship and a coach, I’ve had to learn how to identify the external factors that distract me and find methods to block out these factors. This is a continuous work in progress that will undoubtedly change as my game evolves.
Blocking out external factors is essential during tournaments however, it’s something you can identify between tournaments, making right now the perfect time to start this process. Once the World Health Organization and our government advise a safe and healthy return to social interaction it’s then something you can apply to your practice and recreational games.
What might be some external factors? Let’s face it, unlike tennis and table tennis which are observed in silence, there are many external distractions during pickleball:
The list can go on and on…...
Below is a rundown of what I have found helps me stay focused:
Pre Pickleball: Meditation and yoga. Practicing both allows me to release unnecessary tension in the body and to re-centre myself and my breathing which helps me gain focus. I have also spent plenty of time identifying what distracts me the most during practice and tournaments.
During Practice: I do my best to actively remind myself to focus on the game I'm playing. In recreational play, I can become easily distracted or not take the game very seriously. So, now I try to focus on one or two areas I wish to become more consistent with or improve in each and every game.
During competition: Put up the blockers and do not let my eyes or mind wander off my court until the match is finished. This is tough and one I am always trying to improve upon. Finding tricks to keep myself focused on my own court is an ongoing process.
Between games: I’m mostly referring to competition in this case. I have found ways to stay relaxed yet focused. An example is during the US Open which is known for its party atmosphere, it’s incredibly fun and engaging however, for me, I need to take time to myself and keep myself focused. That said, many people enjoy the time between matches to socialize because it helps them stay loose.
Last week I wrote an article about staying on top of your pickleball game. As we find creative ways to keep swinging the paddle, this is actually one element of pickleball that is often overlooked. If you can spend time identifying the external factors that distract you the most and consider ways of blocking them out, you may just find that returning to pickleball you are a more focused player.