Capital Area Pickleball Association
Serving Dane County Wisconsin

Mastering the Mental Game & Staying Positive When Playing in Pickleball Tournaments

15 May 2024 11:55 AM | Abigail Darwin

As we head into late spring and summer, we are entering prime pickleball tournament season here in Wisconsin. Win or lose, maintaining a positive mindset while playing in a pickleball tournament is crucial for attaining peak performance. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the moment, especially if you just hit an unforced error, or if you realize you are about to play someone who you think is significantly better than you, but keeping a level head can make all the difference. Here's how to stay upbeat and focused throughout the game and not let negativity and anxiety control you.

Why Staying Positive Matters

Keeping a positive mindset during a tournament can help you overcome adversity, improve your performance, and allow you to maintain a healthy perspective on the game. It enables you to manage stress, make better decisions on the court, and enjoy the experience.

Controlling Anxiety

Tournament jitters are normal, but they can impact your game if left unchecked. To manage anxiety:

1. Take slow, deep breaths to calm your mind and body. For example, in between points, slow-count 1-2-3-4 as you inhale and then exhale through your nose.
2. Visualize positive outcomes and focus on your strengths.
3. Stick to your pre-game routine to create a sense of normalcy.

Maintaining Focus

Tournaments can be physically and mentally draining, but staying focused is key to success. To maintain focus:

1. Break down the game into smaller segments to stay present and engaged.
2. Use positive self-talk and visualization to keep your mind on the task at hand.
3. Avoid distractions, such as by not paying attention to spectators, and by focusing on the ball, your paddle, or the lines on the court to bring your attention into the present.

Not Getting Too Down on Yourself

No one's perfect, and mistakes are a natural part of the game. To avoid getting down on yourself:

1. Reframe negative thoughts by focusing on what you have done well; think about the next point, not the last one.

2. Practice self-compassion and give yourself credit for the hard work and practice you've put in.
3. Celebrate small victories and successes for both you and your partner throughout the day.

For many people, staying positive during a pickleball tournament can take some practice and dedication, but the payoff is worth it. By managing anxiety, maintaining focus, and avoiding negative self-talk, you can build a resilient mindset and enjoy the game to the fullest. Remember, the cardinal rule of pickleball is to HAVE FUN!

Happy pickling!

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