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Pickleball Principles for a Better Life

When you move to Florida, you get asked several questions. Do you live here year-round? Are you retired? And … Do you play pickleball? Actually, you only get asked the first two on a regular – but the third one is not uncommon.

Do I live here year-round? Yes.

Am I retired? No.

Do I play pickleball? Yes, I am a pickleball player.

At least, now I am. Before moving to Florida, I had the opportunity to play pickleball one time with our church staff. A few volunteers treated us to lunch and taught us the very basics of pickleball. We flailed around for a while, until the older ones (like me) got sweaty and sought out the shade.

But as the old saying goes, “While in Rome, do as the Romans do” — I decided one of the best ways to acclimate to Florida and meet new people was to play pickleball. I figured it was as if tennis and ping pong had gotten married and had a baby. Having played both, it was a relatively easy transition picking up a pickleball paddle.

We ordered a pickleball set from a company that was started by two female entrepreneurs ( and went to our first open play. And it was fun. And the people we met were friendly and welcoming and taught us how to keep score. One of the things I love the most about pickleball is meeting a wide range of people. Since we’re in Central Florida, most of my pickleball friends are retired and — more than a few — are 80+ years old. And you quickly learn to not judge a book (or a player) by the cover.

Early on, one of my new friends shared with me his two basic pickleball principles. I thought they made good sense, not just for pickleball but for life as well.

HAVE FUN. Don’t laugh, but pickleball is a competition where one side wins and the other side loses. I say that because some people enjoying mocking the whole idea of pickleball — especially tennis players.

We keep score. We have tournaments. In some cases, we have “winners” and “losers” buckets where the paddles go at the end of a game. Though to be fair, I believe the “losers” bucket is actually labeled “Almost Winners.” And you thought there were no politically correct people in Central Florida.

But how well you played a pickleball game pales in comparison to how well your cardiac surgeon does during heart surgery.

I want to get better. I want to improve. I do like winning. But … it’s just a game. And it’s always way better when you have fun playing it.

How often do take things too seriously that we shouldn’t take serious at all? (We’ll talk later about things we should take serious but don’t). Life is a gift from God and meant to be enjoyed. That doesn’t mean we’ll never encounter difficulties or that we’ll be able to smile about everything that happens to us. But even in my darkest hours, I still could find something – someone – that brought in a little light.

DON’T GET HURT. When someone first starts playing pickleball, they often find it addictive. So they play again and then again. In some cases, they are already in pretty good shape. But then there’s the rest of us … those who go from a little activity (I walk a bit) to I’m sprinting around a court, twisting my body, pounding my feet, and doing a thousand shoulder rotations before it’s all over.

And when you do get hurt, it’s no longer fun.

There are several keys to not getting hurt, none of them rising to the level of knowing how to build a nuclear rocket.

Don’t do anything stupid on the court. Wouldn’t that keep us away from many of our hurts if we simply eliminated stupid decisions from our daily routine? The process of becoming mature is – in good part – eliminating stupidity from your life.

Stretch before and after you play. Like other aspects of life, you can’t just show up and jump in without proper preparation. Maybe if you’re 25 years old, but not at my age. Many hard conversations would go much better if you took the time to “warm up” first.

Exercise away from the court. When I began shifting from being a recreational player to wanting to improve and compete, I realized I had to focus on strength and conditioning when I wasn’t playing.

Related to the idea of not getting hurt is not hurting anyone else. The moment my opponent becomes my perceived enemy, I’ll be walking away from pickleball. If I don’t hurt myself and hurt anyone else, then it’s likely we’ll all have more fun.

Have fun. Don’t get hurt (or hurt anyone else). I’d say these are two pretty good principles to live by.

Experience and Background

  • Professor at Warner University
  • masters in business administration (mba)
  • presenter at the WFX National Conference
  • former president, Church Planters of the Rockies
  • helped start 2 for-profit tech companies

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