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Advice from a Pickleball addict to a Newbie

Advice from a Pickleball addict to a Newbie

  • Rick Cipes, writer offers up some gem advice for the pickleball newbie including what to buy, how often to play and what not to do.
Rick Cipes

So the peer pressure from friends has worked and you are ready to take it all to the pickleball court. But you have no clue what to wear, what equipment you need and how to be prepared to actually play. Fear not, we sat down with author, podcaster, and pickleball guru, Rick Cipes, and he offered up some gem advice for the pickleball newbie. 

What are the most important pieces of gear that you need in order to play pickleball? 

You need balls and paddles. If you’re just starting out, DO NOT get the cheap pickleball sets available online, or at your favorite big box store. They are cheap for a reason: they play cheap. In terms of a paddle, you get what you pay for. You truly do. If you’re going to play the sport, spend the money. Many of the cheap sets will also come with these heavy, yellow balls. Throw those away, to Spot, immediately. Well, maybe not to Spot because it’ll chip his teeth. (You think dogs are happy their masters have turned to pickleball?) What you want to be fetching, is a Dura Fast 40 or a Franklin X ball. There are some new balls on the market, but the two listed are still at the forefront. I would recommend the Dura Fast 40 for advanced players, for its flat-out speed, and a Franklin X if you’re an intermediate or a beginner. 

What are the best cross-training activities to incorporate to avoid injury?

Not enough pickleball players are working on their cross-training. Why? Because the sport of pickleball is so addictive that we just want to get to the court and play as long as possible. Then, we’re typically too tired to devote ourselves to other forms of training when we get home from the court. “Hello, couch!”  I think, if you’re truly looking out for your longevity in the sport, and you want to avoid injury, you need to add more cross-training to your life. Yoga, pilates, weights, hiking, biking, and the occasional walk to the store for an ice cream cone. 

What mistakes should rookie pickleball players avoid when choosing their pickleball gear?

See above. Cheap is as cheap does. Just like the equipment from any sport, there are vast differences with gear, and what plays right for one player, won’t necessarily play right for another. If you can, try a paddle out before you buy it. Ask some friends at the court to try theirs for a few hits. Lastly, don’t buy a paddle just because some pickleball star is endorsing it. In other words, just because it works for Ben Johns, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Try them out

What is the best advice on choosing the right footwear? 

I saw this dude who looked like he just hopped out of a van down by the river playing barefoot once. My best advice is not to be like the Dude. In addition to bare feet, or sandals, you also do not want to be playing in running shoes. They don’t offer enough support for all the stopping, starting, and cutting you’ll be doing. Despite there being a couple of brands making pickleball shoes, I opt for tennis shoes. Why? Because the tennis brands have been around for decades, and they’ve had more time to perfect their product. You want to find a comfortable pair that is sturdy, yet light enough for you to fly around the court. There is one established tennis brand that is now slapping the word “pickleball” on the same tennis shoe. Go figure! 

How often should someone new to the sport play pickleball? How much is too much?

You know, this is really hard to say. Because even though I don’t think players should play every day, they’re not going to listen to me; the drug-like wonder of pickleball is just too strong for most to resist. So, I will only say that, “too much,” is when your body is telling you to stop, or in pain, and you still succumb to the peer pressure: “Okay, I can play one more!” Four hours later…Anyway, my advice is to remember the old adage, “anything in moderation.” And when we take breaks, it feels so exciting to get back to the court. 

What is the best mental mindset for pickleball? How do I keep my anger and frustration off the court?

The best mental mindset is fun. No matter what level you get to, keep that as your foundation and you’ll do well. However, I will say that the “mental game” is definitely the Achilles’ heel of the majority of players. A weak backhand, and a weak mental game. Work on those two, and you’ll be well ahead of the pack. And, especially when you’re beginning, you’ll progress a lot faster if you learn to be kinder to yourself in your process. I can’t tell you how many aggravated pirates I see on the court. “Arrrrrgh!” That doesn’t help your game and actually hinders you from reaching anything close to peak performance. That’s what I am after in my game, I want to hit the Zone as much as possible. And that can’t be done through anger or frustration. If you’re interested in this kind of stuff, there is a whole section in my book about it. What sets great athletes apart is their mindset. Grow your mindset, grow your game. (At every level!) Speaking personally, as I have improved my mindset on the court, it has carried over into my life, in a very positive way. 
Rick Cipes has written for over 50 publications including Pickleball Magazine, the L.A. Times, and ESPN Magazine. Check out his Bite Size Pickleball podcast and Facebook group, and his new book How to Play Better Pickleball available in paperback, and Kindle, at Amazon. Look for the “Kindle Countdown Deal” discount from Feb. 5-12.  Use code: IntoPickleball to receive 15% off at valid through the end of February 2024.

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