What is a progression mindset?

I’ve been pondering this very question for the last 4 years. I have had many people who have taught me what it means to have a progression mindset and what is necessary to make it happen.

Thanks to Eric Gubler, @roweda, Dave Glendenning, Randy Zbinden and many more I have been able to apply a progression mindset. There are a few that are on this forum who are GREAT examples of the growth mindset. @suzeeanderson13 @frankanthonydavis @cathparenteau1994 @Michelle @Dayne etc.

Let me share with you a little food for thought.

You have to be ok with losing

This is a HUGE one!!

If you are working on a particular skill at any level you have to be ok with losing that particular match if you work on the things you are trying to improve on. You SHOULD LOSE! This is a skill you are not good at and you should be making mistakes!

Being so focused on winning pushes you to leave working on the skill you are trying to develop in order to go into your comfortable skills you already know.

Be ok with losing in order to develop a skill in game like situations.

Progression is a long term mindset, not a quick fix

I have been playing pickleball for 4 years as of May 2020. In this time I have had to work on parts of my game that took me months to years to develop and I am still working on things.

For example…My backhand SUCKED!! I could not hit the ball with my backhand to save my life. So, I hit EVERY BALL with my backhand that I possibly could. Even when the right shot was a forehand. I focused on this one skill for months before it became a natural part of my game.

It is important to remember that EVERY TIME you level up, its just like starting over and you need to dedicate the time to those skills.

Remember, progression is a long term commitment!

Be honest with your skill level

Be ok with your skills and honest when evaluating!

Let that sink in…

In pickleball, in life we often times live in some form of a fantasy that prevents us from seeing ourselves as where our skill actually is and who we actually are. My thoughts are that this is a form of protection against hurting ourselves. This doesn’t help us though because we then have a poor evaluation of where we are and what we should be working.

There are many people who have been in the game for a while that stay in 4.0 level because they are unwilling to see themselves in honesty and what is making them remain.

Learn it right the first time!

Find someone who knows technique as soon as possible . Dave Glendenning was that person for me. He showed me how to hit the ball with technique and correct footwork. It allowed me to gain the necessary foundation in order to progress to higher levels.

Again, I needed time to develop it, but it gets easier and easier to use the technique. If you learn something with poor mechanics, it takes twice as long to fix it because now you are trying to break a habit. I don’t know if you have every tried breaking a habit.

So Learn it right the the first time and practice. It will require you to get out of your comfort zone and ask someone who might reject you. In my experience, rejection is minimal if you are truly willing to listen and progress.

Backhand Ernie progression evidence!

This point was one time where I did it and I didn’t make it sail long. Example of progression!!

What other qualities make up a growth mindset?


Awesome post and such good insight. Way to keep moving brotha & working.


this was great and something I try to remind myself daily that things take time.


@PickleballPhil- I really like that you brought up that you have to be willing to lose- or in some cases feel like you digress in order to improve. Sometimes we get stuck in our progression bc something we are doing mechanically or strategically is fundamentally wrong. It is hard work and takes time to correct old habits/mechanics and often our game will feel like it digresses before it progresses. GROWING PAINS! They are worth it in the end so be patient with yourself and don’t focus on the score or the number of wins while you are creating new habits.


@suzeeanderson13 I find WAY too many people who can’t get over the fact that they want to win a rec game so badly that they won’t try the shot that they are working on. I will almost exclusively try the shot or technique or skill, even when playing with top players specifically so I get better. I lose all the time, but eventually that shot is not in my bag of shots.


After a comment you made on a different post I am trying to hit most balls to the better player so I can get better. I constantly find myself realizing that certain shots do not work as well on better players.


When I am trying to get better at a skill I will hit 90% of my shots to the better player. It helps give me a reality measurement that is accurate. Good job @smcshinsky!


Phil those are great insights.
I’ve been lucky enough to know several elite athletes in multiple sports and if there is one common thread and a critical skill that you mention throughout your post it’s a willingness to learn.
One of the latest examples I love to watch is 25 years old ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin. She has been one of the most dominate athletes in any sport. It’s amazing to hear her talk about making a better turn everyday. I’ve watched her practice a simple edge change on green terrain over and over again under the watchful eye of her coach.
My belief is it’s that insatiable curiosity to learn more that makes anyone a better athlete and enables them to reach their potential.


Wow, @betterpickleball!! Thank you for showing me this person! I totally agree with you. Willingness to learn is HUGE when it comes to progression. I just looked up Mikaela and wow, just wow! Makes me realize how little I am doing to really improve my game!

Just watch this and you see commitment and dedication!

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You talked about self analysis in your post. She just did this video last week. You don’t always get to hear an athlete analyze themselves. I love the part where she says maybe I forgot how to ski slalom. She’s been winning World Cup races in that discipline since she was 17. Lol!
@Dayne you might like this one.

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