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Can The Ecological Method Help Your Pickleball Mental Game?

Can The Ecological Method Help Your Pickleball Mental Game?

  • We sat down with Brian Lim, the host of the Building Pickleball podcast and Youtube channel. We'll delve into the world of pickleball, explore the life of a creative entrepreneur, and discover the transformative power of Ecological Coaching on the court.

Brian Lim, the creator behind the Youtube Channel and Podcast Building Pickleball sat down with us to discuss pickleball, life as a creative entrepreneur, and how the Ecological Coaching method can retrain the way you operate on the court. 

Describe the Ecological Method? How does it help pickleball players? 

The EA coach acts more like a game designer than a drill sergeant. They set up situations with limitations (constraints) and variations to nudge the learner towards figuring things out themselves. This is a big shift from traditional methods that tell you “how” to do something. Instead, EA focuses on the “why” – the goal of the movement or game – and helps you discover the “how” through exploration.

Think of small-sided games or task-based activities. These aren’t just about repeating motions; they encourage problem-solving and decision-making within the environment’s constraints. By actively figuring things out, learners develop a deeper understanding and a more adaptable skill set.

It helps not only pickleball players but anyone involved in motor skill development because they discover skills through implicit knowledge, through this process of self-organization. They become more attuned to the present environment and then they problem solve rather than try and recall and process information based on what they may have been told how to do in the past. It encourages critical thinking, creativity, decision making, and to embrace individuality, as every individual truly is different. We want people to make decisions, not just be reflexive but rather reactive.

Where do you see the sport of pickleball going?

Part of me is terrified it’s just this bubble that’s going to have an abrupt end. The other part of me sees countless people trying to make it happen. I wasn’t really raised on sports so I’m not sure what it takes to make sports mainstream. I think the current demographic is older than most other sports so there should be significant focus on how to get the youth interested in it. They drive a good majority of the excitement behind consumerism, spectating, and trends. There’s plenty of people finding an opportunity on the business side, no shortage of pro talent or rising talent, plenty of recreational players, new facilities popping up everywhere. 

I think it’ll grow on the collegiate level, more big pockets will come in and help build the infrastructure, the pro tour will remain exciting, and different professional backgrounds and minds will come in and change things for the better. There are plenty of smarter and more talented people outside the industry who are waiting to jump in. No doubt it’ll be in the Olympics.

What type of guests do you look for when choosing them for your podcast?

An interesting story. If I feel like they’re a genuine person rather than someone who will come onto the podcast to just peddle their product.

I have to be genuinely curious about them. There are plenty of individuals who have asked to be a guest that I just don’t feel excited about. If I’m not excited about it, not only will my audience not be excited about it, but I won’t enjoy prepping, filming, or editing it either. And look, I’m sure there’s plenty of individuals who I may have overlooked as well.

What elements of pickleball do you think need to be refined for the sport to sustain and grow?

The viewer experience, pickleball facilities developing athletes, the competition experience for both amateurs and pros, investment from outside brands and investors, coaching, and the development of pro career opportunities. Additional organizations are good, it creates competition and reduces monopolies.

How do you feel about Crosstraining? Any insight on what you think the right approach is?

This is such an interesting topic. First off, it depends on the type of ‘crosstraining’ not sure if we’re referring to strength training or other sports. Most people would say that strength training for athletes is a good thing. Although, there’s an individual named Frans Bosch who has argued differently. He says that belief is ‘utopian’, we only like to see the positive side of it. But with every strength training movement or exercise comes not just positive(s) but negative(s) as well. He has mentioned a world champion high jumper who never touched a weight in their life and sprinters as well. He believes in contextual strength training.

How do you mentally prepare for Pickleball? 

For a tournament setting, it isn’t about the day before or day of, it’s about what you did leading up to the event. 

The day of the tournament is interesting. I’ve tried a little bit of everything: visualization, meditation, caffeine, etc. As of late, when I practice and try to practice at high intensity, I try to find equanimity. I try to stick to the (mental) baseline. I think excitement or increases in energy are tools to be used but not the baseline.

Based on the recent videos I uploaded on external focus of attention and choking in sports, I think there’s some truth to reducing anxiety, focusing on the outcome or effect of your movements (rather than the how), reducing self-reflection, and relinquishing conscious control.

For rec play or practice, I just try to have an intention going into each time I play. It doesn’t always have to be motor skill based, it could be mental, it could be to have fun, or to have no intention at all.

How can the ecological approach apply to life off the pickleball court?

Presence. The better our relationship with our environment, the more signals we’ll spot throughout all the noise, the more opportunities will emerge. Embrace making mistakes throughout the process of discovery. Understand the importance of context. Welcome variability. The ability to adapt is so overlooked. Constraints are everywhere and natural. I think of it as equivalent to Ryan Holiday’s famous book and concept, The Obstacle Is The Way. Options removed leads to options revealed. Taking control of your development and time on earth. To encourage people to try more things out.

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