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September 16, 2022

How to Turn Pickleball Excuses into Gold

By Rick Cipes

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I am going out on a limb, albeit a short one, to say that every one of us has made a pickleball excuse at some point: No warmup, too windy, hungover, waiting on new paddle, ball not a Dura/Franklin/whatever, need new prescriptions, shadow on court, partner choked, moon not in the 7th house, etc. What’s that all about?


It’s about distancing and shielding ourselves from personal responsibility. Excuses serve to protect our egos, while alleviating the anxiety we might feel from failure. Are they healthy? You can answer that question yourself. For my own personal pickleball growth, I have learned a lot from my excuses. And I have gotten to a place where I can catch them either in the act or afterward. At which time, I start the process of spinning them into gold.


Here’s an example. Player A is playing with Player B. Player B hits what was going to be an out-ball, keeping it in play. When the opponents return the ball back to Team A/B, Player A hits an easy dink into the net, and says to Player B during the game, “You shouldn’t have hit that out-ball or I wouldn’t have made that error!”


I would say to Player A it is not constructive to blame your partner, before, after, or especially during a match. Instead, maybe Player A could spend more time practicing their dinks? Turning their excuses into gold.


Further exploring the scenario, Player A was trying to cover up their own inadequate play and pass the blame on to someone else. And while this might make players feel good about themselves in the moment, it would not lead to their improvement as a player or endear themselves to their partners. Especially when you step into competitive play, it is vital to be 110 percent in support of your partner.


Note: If we accept the truth of our situations, we have the potential to be our own best teachers. “Darn it, I should have made that dink.” (Realization) “My bad.” (Responsibility) “I am going to take time to practice more.” (Action)


That’s an example of how to deal with our own excuses, but how should we respond when someone else makes them? In the example above, Player B doesn’t respond at all to Player A’s slap on the wrist. Do you think this player should have apologized for hitting an out-ball? I would say maybe an apology would be good if you’re dealing with an adolescent. I typically let mundane pickleball excuses from adults fly right by me, while smiling to myself because they’re so transparent.


These excuses come from deep within our protective psyches and it takes conscious effort to tame them. You can start by just trying to recognize excuses, in yourself and others. When you discover your own, cross-examine them, be your best teacher, and use it as a tool for self-improvement and better pickleball play.


Hey, once again, we all got ‘em: pre-game excuses, in-game excuses, and post-game excuses. I would suggest they don’t make us better players or partners, or even people, and that there is definitely “gold in them hills!” if you dig deep.  •

Rick Cipes has written for more than 40 publications, including the L.A. Times and ESPN Magazine. Join his Facebook group, the Inner Game of Pickleball, or check out his brand of fun pickleball clothing at

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