How to be a pickleball doubles partner others want to play with.

Apr 28, 2022

Ever seen a video that stopped you in your tracks and forced you to pay attention?

A video that makes you sit back and re-consider your entire life. Well if you haven’t, this might be that video for you!

At 7am yesterday morning, I watched this and it floored me.👇

And how about that ending?

I love it when the coach says, “Best teammate ever.”

It made me think about pickleball.

It made me think how I’ve been as a pickleball partner? Would any of my past partners call me, “the best teammate ever”?

How about you?

Would any of your past partners — whether it’s rec play or tournament play — call you, “the best teammate ever”?

Chances are, for you and for me, probably not.

 

See, the problem is, we get so focused on our game and on our own selves we forget to bring energy to our partners. We forget that, deep down, our partner is secretly wondering what we’re thinking about them — especially after they miss a ball.

That’s normal. It’s called being human.

But imagine a world where you played next to a person like this young boy.

A partner that, when you missed a third shot drop — had your back.

A partner that, when you missed a dink high — had your back.

A partner that, on your worst day, picked you up, gave you a fist bump, and said something encouraging.

And listen, I get it…

…your doubles partner probably won’t be crying after missing a ball. But if you think they don’t enjoy, and at times, NEED your encouragement — you’re dead wrong.

Even the best in the world need it.

Now, you might be thinking, okay Kyle we get it. Be a good teammate yada yada. So what?

Well, here’s the so what.

 

In life, people crave progress. We’re all growing or we’re diminishing. So even if you “just play for fun”, you probably want to improve a little bit each time you go out to play.

And at some point, if you’re anything like the 100 people I’ve played with and against over the last three months — you want to get into some better games and challenge yourself.

Here’s how you do that. Two steps:

  1. Improve your on-court skills, and

  2. Become “the best teammate ever.”

Now, you can do #2 without doing #1 and some people will love that. But the best players still want someone on their side who’s skilled enough to contribute to winning. A good attitude and energy is not enough.

You can also do #1 without doing #2. That’s fine, but you’re leaving part of your potential on the table. Because in pickleball, partnership energy matters a lot.

So right now, I’m not going into specific pickleball skills, but I will give you…

3 Ideas on How to Become “The Best Teammate Ever”

 
  1. Frowns for fists - Your partner will make mistakes. Like death and taxes, it’s inevitable. The natural response is to get frustrated, have poor body language and not say anything. That’s not helpful. Exchange those actions for a fist bump, paddle touch, or a “let’s go” — because that communicates to your partner, you have their back.

  2. Focus forward - Don’t introduce tension from the last play. For example, “Why did you hit that lob over John’s shoulder?” Language matters, and that language is negative and — depending on the person — could make your partner play worse going forward. Instead, talk about what you want to do on the next play. “Next time out, let’s dink middle to make their life hard. That’s working well.” You can’t do anything about the past. You can do something about what’s coming next.

  3. Get specific - be a hype person for your teammate. And get specific when doing so:

    • Good work on that last point, that backhand cut dink is hard to return. 

    • Wow, you have fast hands on the left side.

    • That forehand rip was unreal. That’s what you do!

    Doing this will lift your partner up and make them want to make more good plays just like it.


Now listen, we’ve all played with challenging partners. Ones we had no clue what was going on inside their head. Which then made us think,

“Do they hate me?”

“Am I doing a bad job?”

“Will they ever play with me again?”

That’s difficult to play through. And of course, everyone has different styles of partnership and different styles of encouragement.

So you have to find what works for you.

In closing, if you take nothing else from this piece, do these three things.

  1. Scroll back to the top

  2. Watch the video one more time AND

  3. Think for 30 seconds how you’ll commit to being the best teammate ever.

I’ll do the same!

Until next time,

Kyle

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