What is your pickleball mentality going into a game?

What is your mental state when you go into playing? I recently saw some posts on Facebook about losing matches if you are a passive player. The idea is to go into the game with a win mentality and always making every shot intentional.

I play frequently with another person and to be honest, she is not always the best player on the court. Her problem is that she lets everybody know that. Before the game even starts, she will apologize about being matched with me and asks for forgiveness before the sound of 0-0-2. After a game, I finally told her cut it out (in a loving way). I told her that she needs to go in with a win mentality. I told her that even though on paper I may not be the best player on the court, for 10 minutes of the game I believe that I am. I firmly believe that I get a lot of wins because of it.

Fast forward to a week later and I hear that she was playing with some other people and just dominated play against everyone. She mentioned to them that I told her to believe in herself and not apologize for being the weaker player. She went into each game believing that she was going to do her best and it obviously paid off.

How do you go into a game? Do you consider yourself the weaker player and consider yourself lucky to play even if you lose or do you go in saying that you will do your best and become a better player for competing with higher ranked people?

Don’t be passive. BE AGGRESSIVE! Push yourself mentally. Push yourself to believe that you are the better player and I promise you it will show in your game.




Spot on!! The brain is a powerful tool, how you use it determines on if that is a good or bad thing!

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I think pickleball has a lot to do with confidence it’s important to going into a tournament with confidence drilling and practicing with your partner can create a great mind set. Before rec I just pick a few things I want to work on that day and only focus on those things winning or losing isn’t important to me only if I practiced what I came to practice and had fun. If it’s not fun what’s the point. Anyways these are my two cents. Keep rippen :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes::metal:!


I agree that confidence is key to having a good day at the courts for either Rec or Tournament play. I have found myself in both boats (confident and apologetic) not tonsay when I’m confident I won’t say my bad and shake it off. The one thing I will say is being aggressive doesn’t necessarily assure victory or a higher probability of it. I believe that being confident and playing smart does. I’ve been super aggressive and been blown out, but I have also been super laid back playing smart and wom at the kitchen not being aggressive at all and let the other team beat themselves. gotta be willing to do the smartest thing to win.


Totally agree calm and smart is a good way to be.


I go in confident until they prove they have answers for everything I do. Then I play more patient and take higher percentage shots to stay in the game. Aggressive play doesn’t always translate. High percentage usually plays out better.


I feel like my original post was misunderstood a little.

When I was talking about being aggressive, I was talking about being aggressive mentally. When I play rec and there are people that take things far too seriously, it drains the fun for everyone. Having fun and working on things during rec like @atuttletuttle said is what I try and do every time. I am not so worried about losing when there is a smile on my face. How can you be upset when you are pickling, right?

I wanted my partner that day to have fun. I also wanted her to believe in herself and dig deep because it is a fun game and it can help her grow mentally while grinning from ear to ear.

For the few that know me very well, I am like a duck when I play. I am all cool and calm on the surface but deep down, I am paddling (pun intended) like crazy. Mentally, I am always pushing myself to be better but I am going to have lots of fun doing it.

See you guys on the court!


I always start out thinking I am the best player on the court, however, I am often proven wrong.


I am the same way, I’m always having fun if I’m on the courts. but internally I’m always trying to get better, so sometines people think I’m to serious. I get the … “he is just preparing for a tournament” remark a lot. even if Im not :joy:


I absolutely concur with Sir Paul! Especially playing with high level players. When I feel like I don’t belong in a high level group, I don’t play like a high level player. I tend to second guess myself and it’s just a downward spiral. The attitude of Fake it Til you make it is so applicable.

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@SirPaul I really like this post and feel like this is a huge flaw in my game at the moment.

I am fresh off the Saint George, Utah Shootout and I am finding that I have two mentalities that I face:

  1. Rec/Open play mode - I can play with anybody (with the exception of a defeated attitude that I bring to the court with me from every day life).

  2. Tournament mode - I find that I play very defensive and timid and fear losing. My aggressive style in rec play becomes passive and I dink (passive dinks) much more than in rec play and I fear increasing the pace (not a problem in rec play, even at higher levels of play).

Any thoughts on this? I feel like I am close to the level of competition that I am playing against, but I just lack that aggressive mind set in tournaments still.


The St George tournament was kinda of an eye opener to me as well. I watched a lot of higher level players and saw how really aggressive they are. After watching one of my games I recorded I noticed how defensive I play. It worked ok for that game but I can plainly see that my game and mentality needs to be different to play at the next level in tournaments.


@Joe_Zaleski, I feel like that all the time. Rec play I tend to play better and then in tournaments I play more timid because I don’t want to make any mistakes. I feel like if I make one error, I am done and I then I’m in my head the whole time.


This is what makes tournaments so hard it’s a mind game. I think if you can put all these feeling aside and just have a blast you’ll do much better easier said then done. Take risks but play smart. I’ve tried to balance this mind set myself. I’ve actually stopped competing at the moment until I can find joy in playing again. Maybe ask yourself what are you playing for?


Also really good inside on how tournaments can change play thanks for sharing it’s refreshing to hear that I am not the only one that feels this pressure at tournaments.


@Joe_Zaleski, @SirPaul @KKAW07, etc.

About 2.5 years ago I was standing next to Randy Zbinden (one of the top players in the game) who has been playing for 10 plus years at the highest level possible. He ended up taking silver with Steve Deakin at the previous US Open (or the year before that, time has all been skewed because of the pandemic). He is an INCREDIBLE player and has so much knowledge. He has also been one of the most influential individuals in my life because of the mental part of the game that he taught me.

  1. No matter what happens, you believe that you will get every ball over and that you are the best player on the court…regardless of the background of the person on the other side. It will be the difference when the skill is neck and neck.
  2. You must drill and have the skill required to hit the shots you are wanting. If you don’t have the skill, it’s impossible to be the best. So work on them.
  3. Take every moment during rec games to play as if you will owe them money if you lose (and in his case he always put money on the line when he played). That was huge in my development. I looked at it as training.
  4. Mistakes don’t decide the outcome of the next point. You have to let go of the current point when it’s finished and move onto the next.
  5. Appreciate the good shots of the other team and validate their skill. By doing this you will achieve an accurate assessment of what they are capable of and then make adjustments.

Overall I learned that it is about consistent work on planning, prepping, and believing in the skill that you have.


The main thing that rings in my head anytime I’m about to take the court is “Be confident.”

If you aren’t confident, you’re bound to make many mistakes, suffer at the Non-Volley Zone, be targeted, and you won’t be having as much fun. I always get up to the kitchen line ready to win the point, whether that be having to play patiently for an opponent to make a mistake, or prepared to deliver the point-winning shot.

Have a sense of power and determination, just don’t get too cocky.


Thanks for this @PickleballPhil. I am lucky enough to have seen you put a lot of these principles into practice.

Thanks all for your responses! (@smcshinsky, @atuttletuttle and @SirPaul) This is very helpful to talk through and bring a measure of reality to my performance as opposed to making excuses or hiding behind my favorite excuse of, “If I just had a better partner, then…” I am finding that being accountable for my part in my play is so important for my ability to progress. Also (@atuttletuttle) appreciate the reminder to have fun! It is pickleball after all. :blush:


These are all great comments! @SirPaul I think being aggressive internally is basically having confidence in yourself. I’m still working on this too, and often feel like @tyronepamiloza. I see so many good players around me and I often forget that others are looking as me as a good player too. :crazy_face: I really like @PickleballPhil list of ideas for @Joe_Zaleski. A couple of other things I do to relax in tournaments is take deep breaths between points, not think about the score… just play each point smart and to win it (that aggressive, confident mindset). Sometimes when I get into a dink rally, I think to myself, “Sweet! I drill this all the time!” and just hit the ball like I’m drilling until the put away shot comes. And to remind myself that pickleball is fun, I physically smile to help it feel fun. :smile:


Ditto to both this comment and the previous about just have a blast! Pickleball is fun!!!