April 2014  e-Newsletter 

In this issue...


From the Editors...

March has been an inspiring month! Inspiring? You bet! In The Oldest Are… read about ten pickleball players over the age of 90, who play daily and remain actively involved in the sport. For inspiration about the future of pickleball don’t miss E.D. Corner, where Justin Maloof writes about USAPA’s stepped-up efforts to get youth involved in the game. In The Final Word Jennifer Lucore shares her thoughts on mental toughness and focus. And, if you have ever wondered about what a referee adds to a tournament match, don’t miss what the USAPA Board has to say about What Referees Do…. Finally, on the lighter side, if you are reading this on April 1st, don’t overlook Rules Review, in which Dennis Dacey invites you to participate in a one-day trial regarding the non-volley zone. Have a great April…
    Your Editors, Lynn & Linda Laymon, newsletter@usapa.org
 

And the Oldest Are...
By the Editors

In last month’s e-Newsletter we asked readers to let us know about any active pickleball players in their club or facility who are over 90 years old. We received information about 10, one even a centenarian. Here they are:
 
We received information from three members about Lorena (Rena) Grant, who turned 90 last November. Rena, who considers herself a 3.0 skill level player, plays three times a week, mostly at the Crabtree Memorial Gym and Pepper Geddings Recreation Center, both in Myrtle Beach, S.C. All three sources agree that anyone who has played or watched pickleball in Myrtle Beach is most likely to have heard of, met or played with Rena Grant. Active in many sports over the years, she was responsible for introducing pickleball to the area and instrumental in getting it added to the State Senior Games. Joanne Pelletier says, “Rena's enthusiasm is contagious and inspiring.” She celebrated her 90th birthday by organizing the first Myrtle Beach Seaside Classic pickleball tournament and recently was awarded the city's Volunteer of the Year award for having logged over 700 hours! Not one to rest on her laurels, Rena is getting ready to play in the upcoming State Senior Games and organizing the second Seaside Classic tournament. All agree that Rena is an inspiration to everyone she meets.
 
At the age of 91 Joe Schifaudo plays pickleball at his Rossmoor adult living community and at the Monroe Township Recreation Center in Monroe Township, New Jersey. Joe started playing pickleball in 2010 and at age 87 was named Rossmoor's “2010 Pickleball Rookie of the Year." A Gold Medalist in the New Jersey Senior Olympics in 2012 and 2013, according to Frank Nobile, in 2012 Joe had to play down in bracket against the Mayor of Woodbridge, N.J., who was age 50 at that time. And Joe won. Joe was eligible to participate in the National Senior Games Association National tournament in Cleveland, Ohio last summer, but could not find a partner in his age bracket. Joe, who plays at the 2.5 – 3.0 skill level, plans to participate in the 2014 New Jersey State Senior Olympics tournament this coming September and is looking for a partner in his 90 -94 age bracket. Anyone interested?
 
Janine Strickler wrote us about her father Myrl K. Bailey, also known as MK or Myrl, who at 94 lives and plays pickleball at the Sun City Grand community in Surprise, Ariz. According to Janine, “Myrl is an avid player and equates the sport as part of his longevity.” Myrl’s only problem is finding someone his age with whom to play. You may be in luck Myrl; read below about the two 91 year olds next door in Sun City West.
 
Walt Maas and Pat Gotelaere submitted the names of Lake Westfall and Jim Mundo; both are 91 years old and play pickleball with the Sun City West club in Surprise, Ariz. According to Walt and Pat, both men play regularly at the 3.0 skill level and are going strong.

 
USAPA Ambassador Helen White wrote us abut 91-year-old Susie Weber, who began playing pickleball fifteen years ago. Having never played organized sports before, Susie now plays pickleball several times a week at the Vienna Community Center in Vienna, Va. According to Jean Reavey, a Vienna Community Center pickleball volunteer, “Susie is an advanced beginner who plays because the game is social, fun and offers physical benefits.” At 91 Susie has some inspiring thoughts about pickleball:
- All you have to do is want to do something. You don¹t have to be great. The bottom line is to have fun!
 - Move or rot!
 - Sometimes you feel tired before you start to play, but you usually always feel better when you finish playing.
 - If you don¹t do stuff, you age more quickly.
Good advice Susie.

According to Norm Davis, Dick Lewis of the Arizona Traditions club in Surprise, Ariz., is 92 and playing strong. Dick is known as a fierce competitor by all who dare step on the court with him. His only shortcoming is finding someone his own age with whom to play tournaments.
 


Pete Patterson wrote us about 92-year-old Carl Leyda, who plays daily at Spanish Highlands in Leesburg, Fla. Carl, who is an instructor, has played pickleball for 20+ years and is an inspiration to all of central Florida.


 
Ninety-three year old Jess Glouser plays two to three times each week at the HUB Sports Center in Liberty Lake (Spokane), Wash. Ken Heydon says, “Jess plays a great game and is a joy and inspiration to play with.” According to Phil Champlin of the HUB Center, “Jess feels his skill level is Olympic caliber for his age.” Don’t think he’ll get too many arguments about that.

 
We’ve saved the centenarian till last. Shanna Levy, director of the Mature Adult Program at the Marcus Jewish Community Center in Atlanta, Georgia boasts about their most senior pickleball player. “We have Sid Cojac, who turned 100 in November, 2013. Sid is an advanced player and is actually the member who brought pickleball to this facility. He plays regularly and was bummed to miss our recent tournament due to his recovering from an upper respiratory infection. Sid is a formidable opponent, so much so, that several of our less advanced players are scared to play against him, even though they are 20-plus years younger than him.” You go Sid!
 
Ten 90+ pickleball players who participate on a regular basis. Is that awesome, or what? Using a Rodney (Rocket) Grubbs phrase, “Pickleball Rocks” -- at any age.
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E.D. Corner…
Youth Participation: The Next Step...
By Justin Maloof, USAPA Executive Director
 
The USAPA board recently approved the addition of a new Tier 5 tournament sanctioning level created specifically to promote and encourage tournament play for youth and high-school age players (18 and under). With so much recreational pickleball play now occurring in schools and after-school programs across the county, the next step in the progression for young players is to get them playing in more structured and competitive environments. The new youth tier gives organizers an easy way to offer and run a sanctioned tournament specifically for kids.  

Youth participation is critical to the continued growth and success of our sport. Collectively, national governing sports bodies are investing millions of dollars on the creation and development of youth-based programs. Why? Take a look at this 
ESPN-Magazine article; it provides some solid statistics about competitive youth sports. 

As you can see, youth programming isn’t something we can ignore. We need to embrace it and take steps to expose the game to as many kids as possible. The first tiny step in the process is sanctioning the Inter High School Pickleball Tournament between Arizona’s Shadow Ridge and Willow Canyon high schools and the Arizona Charter Academy. The goal of this first-ever tier 5 sanctioned event, which will take place this month in Surprise, Ariz., is to encourage as many players and volunteers as possible to come out and enjoy a great day of pickleball. USAPA board member, Norm Davis, is serving as the tournament director and has done much of the leg work getting this event off the ground. This is just the beginning of the youth movement.
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Message from Your President...
By David Jordan, USAPA President
 
It is that time of year again that we lose an hour, the trees are beginning to bloom, the days are warmer, hopefully so for our friends in the Eastern part of the U.S. as well, and tournament season is winding down in the southwest and picking up in other parts of the country. Snowbirds are flying home and summer travel plans are being made. What a great time of the year. As you travel do not forget that the USAPA website has great information on where to play pickleball all across the U.S. and Canada at Places to Play. So, enjoy a game along the way as you travel. 

It has been an interesting year so far at USAPA. Some of the things we are working on to help our members enjoy the game more and receive additional benefits from their membership are: referee certification, youth programs, Nationals VI, ratings structure, pickleball publications, membership rewards, equipment monitoring and much more. It will be an exciting year for all of us as we move forward to lead the way in this exploding sport.


The Mind Game...
Another Golden Quote
By Harry Carpenter

Contrary to what I promised last issue, Part Two of last month’s Playing in the Zone is being postponed a month because writing about a comment made in Sochi during the 2014 Olympic Winter Games just couldn’t wait. After winning the gold medal in the men’s Snowboarding Slopestyle event, Sage Kotsenburg said, “I had this idea in my mind all day. I thought about it before the run; but once you’re going into it, if you’re thinking it, you’re going to fall on your face.”

“I had the idea in my mind all day.” This was a stunt he had never before done, so he practiced the stunt mentally. Visualization is just as effective as practicing for real because the subconscious does not know the difference between real and imagined (visualized). In this case it was even better. Had Sage practiced for real on the mountain, he would have had to correct initial mistakes by trial and error, and it would have taken much longer to perfect the maneuver. By practicing mentally, he made perfect moves every time. “But once you’re going into it, if you’re thinking it, you’re going to fall on your face.” Your conscious mind cannot perform a complex series of movements well. In this case, you have to visualize the perfect result and proceed on cruise control -- you have to do it without thinking. By the way, the move was a Backside Double Cork 1620 Japan.

Visualization is an effective way to perfect your pickleball game as well. It’s easy, you can do it in your spare time and you don’t even need a pickleball court. Visualize hitting perfect shots from all over the court. While you’re at it, visualize yourself on the winner’s stand accepting the gold medal.
 
Editors’ Note: This is a continuing series of articles on the mental side of pickleball: what you should be thinking about – and not thinking about – during play, and more. Harry W Carpenter is author of a new eBook, Pickleball; The Mental Side, as well as The Genie Within: Your Subconscious Mind – How It Works and How to Use It. Harry welcomes reader comments at: thegeniewithin@roadrunner.com.



Nationals VI...

For all the exciting news about this year’s USAPA National Tournament visit our website. New events and activities await you for this fun filled week of competition and camaraderie. Registration opens June 2, 2014.



Huntsman World Senior Games Pickleball Tournament
By USAPA Board of Directors
 
The Tournament Directors for pickleball at the 2014 Huntsman World Senior Games (Oct. 13-17) have decided not to guarantee a referee for every match played. This policy is in direct contradiction to USAPA sanctioning rules. Although they did appeal to USAPA to change the rule, the USAPA Board feels strongly about the importance of referees in tournament play and after much discussion has declined to approve their request. 

 

National State Games...
Submitted by David Jordan, USAPA President

There have been some recent changes to the qualification and structure of the 2015 National State Games tournament. For the new information and answers to your FAQs visit http://www.usapa.org/state-games/ or http://www.stategames.org/.
 


National Senior Games…
Submitted by David Jordan, USAPA President

Qualification events are in full swing, so be sure to sign up in your state or another state that allows out-of-state qualifications. This year the top four finishers of each NSGA event will qualify for the National tournament. You must qualify in 2014 to be eligible for the 2015 NSGA National Tournament. For details visit http://www.nsga.com/ or the USAPA website.

 
 


 





 










What Referees Do…
By USAPA Board of Directors
 
At the purely recreational level, the game of pickleball is self-policing; on-court decisions generally are based on honesty and sportsmanship and usually are amicably resolved. Most of the time self-policing works fine because pickleball players are good sports and, other than bragging rights, there is little riding on the outcome of most recreational games. No one has paid a hefty entry and event fee, traveled many miles to get there or absorbed the cost of meals and lodging that often go with participating in a major tournament. In purely recreational play the financial and emotional stakes aren't so high.

Tournament play is different. Generally, competitors aren't as willing to give in when a debatable situation occurs. If you do concede and give the call (point, side out, second server, etc.) to the opposition, it could mean the difference between advancing in the undefeated bracket, dropping into the loser’s bracket, or even being out and taking the early bus home. In tournament play on-court decisions matter. So let’s take a look at the value a referee adds to tournament competition.
 
The Scorecard
The referee keeps score by recording every point real-time as it occurs, but that’s just the beginning. Every major event in the game is recorded real-time – side outs, server changes, first server/second server, time outs, etc. In recreational play these decisions are left to memory; usually the player who thinks he/she has the best memory, or the team least willing to concede, ends up with the call in its favor. In tournament play the referee records all of these significant items on the scorecard; they are there in black and white for the players to see if a question arises. That’s a large part of the referee’s job.
 
Keeps the Match Moving
The referee is responsible for keeping each game and the match moving. A recent trend has been that when the match is called the referee is given the scorecard and a stopwatch that has already begun a 10-minute countdown. The referee is to begin the match by the time the countdown reaches zero, or before if players are ready. The same stopwatch is used to time each timeout and the period allotted between games. The referee also calls the score in accordance with the rules and then enforces the 10-second rule; this prevents delay of game by either team.
 
Resolves Issues
The referee answers player questions and resolves differences in player memories. In the vast majority of cases this is done simply by consulting the information previously recorded on the scorecard. The referee does not make line calls unless asked for a ruling by a player. Although making line calls is not a top priority in the referee’s responsibilities, if the referee clearly, without a shadow of a doubt sees the ball as in or out, when asked he/she will rule on the call, and that ruling stands.
 
Enforces the Rules
The referee interprets and enforces the IFP/USAPA rules. Aside from recording the score and significant events on the scorecard at the end of each rally, the referee’s primary responsibility is to watch for service-line and Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) violations. This is the most significant difference between recreational and tournament play.

In recreational play the players are responsible for calling their own and their opponents’ NVZ violations; however, players usually are not aware that they foot fault, so it is rare that they call it on themselves. It is very difficult to focus on the game and at the same time watch yourself and your opponents for NVZ faults. The referee’s attention is on the NVZ whenever the players are near the net. The referee is the only one who is in a position to enforce and apply the rule fairly and consistently.
 
The referee is expected to know the rules; however, if a question arises the referee can consult the tournament director for clarification. The referee also maintains order on the court. Unsportsmanlike conduct, repeated rule violations, purposely delaying the game, coaching during play, etc., are just a few situations in which the referee can issue a technical warning, followed by a technical foul, and if necessary, with the concurrence of the tournament director, eventual forfeiture of the match. The referee has total control of the court.
 
The referee also performs many other less-noticed officiating duties. After the match is announced the referee gathers the summoned players in an out-of-the-way location to prevent them from disrupting active matches by crossing other courts one or two at a time. The referee begins the match by making sure all players are introduced and know any rules specific to that tournament. The referee initiates the process of choosing side/serve/or receive so every team has an equal chance of getting its first choice. When a safety issue occurs, such as a stray ball on the court, the referee stops play and determines the appropriate action to be taken.
 
Having a referee benefits players at all skill levels, especially so in lower level matches where players often have little or no tournament experience. For them, playing a refereed match is a learning experience. Through interaction with the referee they become aware of the finer points of rules that in recreational play they may not have known existed. Having a referee overseeing the match improves the players’ awareness and knowledge of the game.
 
Availability of Qualified Referees
Some tournament players feel that, “No referee is better than an unqualified referee.” At the minimum a referee should be proficient at calling the score correctly and accurately marking on the scorecard the significant events of each game as they occur. These include: every point scored, first server/second server, timeouts and the score at side out. Occasionally even the best referee will accidently call the score incorrectly, but the scorecard should always reflect the accurate score.
 
The referee’s next responsibility is watching for service line and NVZ violations. On the serve, once contact is made with the ball, the referee’s attention should immediately switch to the flight of the ball to ensure that it is not short. Once the serve is returned and any player nears the NVZ the referee should focus on watching for NVZ violations and not follow the flight of the ball. A referee cannot watch the game like a spectator and at the same time do an adequate job of refereeing.
 
In many tournaments, especially smaller ones, a small number of players and a few non-players do the majority of the refereeing. Depending on the person’s training and refereeing experience, his or her refereeing performance can range from excellent to marginal. Resolving this issue is a work in progress.
 
Referee training and eventually a certification process is and has been an ongoing priority at USAPA. In the interim, referees and potential referees can visit Referee Guide for the official USAPA Referee Guide; there is a lot of good information there. Learning the IFP/USAPA rules is something that a referee can do outside of an organized training clinic. The rules can be studied online at the USAPA website (http://www.usapa.org/ifp-official-rules/) and a referee’s mastery can be tested online as well at Referee Quiz. Developing an official referee training course and certification program is within reach, but the task of effectively disseminating and administering such a program is even more of a challenge.

Although not an easy task, planning and upfront efforts to recruit and schedule referees have proven successful at a number of large tournaments. At USAPA Nationals V last November the referee coordinators contacted in advance those players who when registering had expressed willingness to volunteer and scheduled them for two-hour refereeing shifts. The most difficult time to provide qualified referees is the first-round matches each morning, especially on the day mixed doubles is played. But advance planning and scheduling reduce that problem. On an even more positive note, there is a definite trend toward more top-level players recognizing the need to be part of the solution and beginning to step up to the refereeing task.
 
Not every referee consistently performs at the level we and our tournament playing members would like; however, the problem is being addressed. Expediting the development and dissemination of programs that will increase the pool of qualified referees is a top priority at USAPA.


















Bits and Pieces…

Words of Wisdom and Famous Last Words…
Submitted by Ron Stiers, USAPA Great Lakes Regional Director
 
Ed. Note: The following was excerpted from a Thank You note that a group of Mesa, Arizona pickleball students delivered to their instructors.
 
Instructors’ Words of Wisdom…
Now remember, make every shot count.  
Remember, watch the ball.
Now remember, WATCH THE BALL!!!  (How many times have we said this?)
Third shot is a drop shot.  No, I don’t mean drop it before you hit it.  Drop it just over the net!!
Get EVERY shot OVER the net!  (And into the green!)
Remember your last shot will either come back to you or make a point.  
A slow shot wins just as many times as a slam!  Dinking isn’t just for sissies! 
Be patient. You don’t have to kill it every time. Get it back and let THEM make the mistake!  
Support your partner! Your partner can’t make a good shot unless you do!
Sometimes *%$#@ just happens and there isn’t anything you can do about it.
When *&%$@ happens, don’t dwell on it. Focus on your next shot.
Don’t be afraid to take credit for those fantastic shots that happen by accident.
Good luck is always better than skill. As your skill improves so will your good luck.
Remember it’s just a game.  
Be safe and have fun.
 
Pickleball Famous Last Words…
I’ve got it! (Oops!)
It’s out! (I know it’s out! Not!)
It’s mine, no, it’s yours! (Too late! Ok, so whose was it?)
I wondered why the pickleball was getting larger so quickly! (And then it hit me!)
The net is higher on our side than your side. (Isn’t it?)
It’s only a game! (For most of us anyway!)
Hit one out of the park! (Oops, wrong sport!)
 


Pickleball in the Snow…
Submitted by Kathy Western, USAPA Ambassador, Macomb County, Michigan
 
Dedicated pickleball players in SE Michigan would not let the snow get in the way of the first outdoor game of 2014.












 


USAPA Grant at Work in Pleasant Grove, Utah…
Submitted by Linda K. Weeks, Assistant Program Coordinator, Pleasant Grove City
 
Pickleball is strong in Pleasant Grove. We are so thrilled to get the grant money and to be able to buy an additional net and nine rolls of vinyl tape for taping the courts. I am educating at least six new players every week in our two hours of drop-in. Hopefully, outdoor courts will be on the way. I always encourage people to go on the USAPA website for information on rules, tournaments and places to play.
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Sound Off…

Reader Feedback Regarding “Possible Game Point”…
 
Thanks to Dennis Dacey for his comments in last month’s Rules Review on calling the scores during a game. When I was playing for the first time in the Huntsman last year, one of the referees kept calling, “possible game point,” and of course I completely blew the point. When he kept repeating that, I finally asked him to stop saying it; it does tend to make someone like me nervous. Thanks!   Alice Dodgson



No Dumb Questions…
Submitted by Dick Le Duc, USAPA Ambassador, Southwestern Indiana
Answers by Dennis Dacey, USAPA Rules Chair
 
Question 1:
A ball is returned back to me into the NVZ. The ball bounces and I return it. My momentum then puts me outside the sideline, but within what I call the phantom NVZ extension beyond the sideline. The opponent then returns a good shot that I then return while standing outside the court inside the phantom NVZ. I believe that I created a fault.
 
Answer 1: There is no such thing as a "phantom NVZ". The NVZ is a specific area of the court as defined in IFP rule 9.A. There is no fault in hitting a ball on a volley while standing outside the NVZ, be it on the court or on the playing surface to the side of the court.
 
Question 2:
We have a portable pickleball net. Someone returned the ball to the opponent. The ball hits the horizontal cross bar and somehow on its own goes over the net. We played it as it was still in play. Was it?
 
Answer 2: No, the ball is not still in play. See rule 12.J.5. It reads in part "If the ball hits the horizontal bar or the center base before going over the net, it is a fault."
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WWW.USAPA.ORG…
New Site, New Format
 
Don’t miss the exciting new USAPA website – www.usapa.org. It is an incredible source of information about all things pickleball! The home page contains buttons to everything from tournaments to places to play in each state and province and information about pickleball clinics and demonstrations being held in your area. All this and much, much more. Take a moment to visit http://www.usapa.org and you are guaranteed to come away more informed and ready to hit the courts than ever before.


Rules Review
One-day No NVZ Trial…
By Dennis Dacey, USAPA Rules Chair
 
Over the last year we have had more and more players asking about the non-volley zone (NVZ) and the reason for it being part of the sport of pickleball. After careful evaluation we have determined that the NVZ may not be necessary for playing the game. After all, there is no NVZ in tennis, paddle tennis, racquetball, cricket, baseball or table tennis, so why have it in pickleball? It just adds to the confusion of the game and the way that it’s played.

So, on April 1 (Ed. Today, if you read the e-Newsletter the day it arrives in your inbox) we recommend that players at all locations play the game, ignoring the NVZ rules. Please, only do this for this one day and see how it goes over. If enough of you find that there is no reason to have the NVZ in our sport, on April 1, 2015 we will modify the rules accordingly.
(Ed. Note: April 1 is April Fool’s Day)

 







 
 

USAPA Online Store…
 
Need an official portable net system, USAPA logo wear, instructional DVDs, the official USAPA-IFP Tournament Rulebook, window stickers and more? Find it all at the USAPA online store

 

Member Benefits...


Want an Official USAPA/IFP Rulebook and a discount when registering for tournaments? Or how about an association t-shirt with the new USAPA logo? Visit  http://www.usapa.org/membership-discounts to learn more about all the benefits of renewing your membership today. Plus, all USAPA members have access to the Working Advantage discount network, which can save you up to 60% on ticketed events, online shopping and much more!
 
Disclaimer: Working Advantage is an independent gateway for USAPA's members to access voluntary benefits, discounts and special services offered by vendors and other companies affiliated with Working Advantage. USAPA does not promote or endorse and is not responsible for any of these products or services.
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Fitness…
Balancing Act
By Barbara Wintroub
 
How good are you at standing on one foot? Most of us would say, “Terrible,” me included. While waiting to make a deposit at the bank today I was standing on one foot, then the other. Might as well do something constructive while in line. In the morning I try to balance on one foot while putting on my socks. Usually I fall into the wall before I get the sock on. Does any of this sound like you?  

Good balance is important for good pickleball. Being able to move forward and back and still hit the ball well is key to winning games. Regardless of your skill level, you need to practice your balancing act. While watching a top-rated Nationals player I noticed that her feet moved all the time directly under her body and she was in perfect balance on each dink shot. To improve your balance stand on one foot while brushing your teeth and then alternate feet. Or stand on one foot when checking out at the grocery or department store, or in your kitchen while cooking. Work at it and you’ll soon find yourself better balanced on the court.

Picture # 1 Squat balance for dinking.
Picture #2 Forehand balance from the baseline
Picture #3 Backhand balance from the mid court














Ed. Note: Fitness guru Barbara Wintroub is the author of Fighting Gravity. 
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Pickleball Channel Live Online…
Submitted by Rusty Howes, Rumer Studios
 
The Pickleball Channel website launched this month with two videos:
I ♥ Pickleball - Episode 1: The Story of Stan and Maureen and how they helped do a court conversion in Cathedral City, Calif.
Micro Content 1 - What Shoes Do You Wear? This was intended to get conversations going since there are no formal pickleball shoes yet. Many players have been commenting and sharing favorites.

Look for these videos and more at www.pickleballchannel.com. Subscribe for free to receive notifications of new content.


e-Newsletter Submission and Editorial Guidelines…
 
If you have articles, news items, questions or photos that you would like to submit for publication in the e-Newsletter please send them to newsletter@usapa.org. The USAPA Editorial Guidelines are available for viewing at http://www.usapa.org/usapa-newsletter/. 
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Do Not Forward...

Please do not forward this newsletter. It is a benefit of USAPA membership. If one of your forwarded recipients clicks the unsubscribe link it automatically will unsubscribe you from the newsletter and all future USAPA communications. Forwarders beware. If you forward the newsletter to someone and they click 'unsubscribe' it will be your e-mail address that is unsubscribed. Prior newsletters are available in the newsletter section at usapa.org one month after they have been e-mailed to members. 
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The Final Word…
Doubles - Maintaining Focus
By Jennifer Lucore, Publisher, USAPA e-Newsletter

In tournament doubles, mental toughness and more specifically focus is one piece of the pickleball puzzle. It starts by believing you are the ones to beat. Even prior to the walk on the court your partner and you need to be "on the same page," both knowing you're going to win. This is best accomplished by getting your "heads" into the match and keeping them there for the duration. All the things on your mind must be centered entirely on the match and ignore (toughness part) anything else that can cause you to get distracted. This includes your opponents’ idiosyncrasies that sometimes require stronger mental toughness than dealing with your own demons. 

The idea of maintaining this level of focus is to keep yourself in the "now," in the present to maximize your performance and stop the interference of mental hurdles. To some top players this seems to be automatic, part of their DNA maybe, while other players both male and female seem to wander emotionally, checking in and out of the game.

So keep the dialog between you and your partner (and in your head) strictly focused on what is happening in the game. Mainly because that is the only thing you can control at that moment. Avoid letting down that mental toughness and talking about things you can't control. A couple of examples might be, "I can't believe I missed that overhead," or "Did you see how lucky a shot that was?" Have you ever done that and then lost focus? So keep your concentration fully focused on the now, which means the next point!

Give those ideas a try with your partner; my guess is it will help clear your mind and get you in the ZONE. From my personal experience that is the most awesome place to be!

 

Correction: Last month’s Final Word included the statement that “the 2014 Happy Trails Classic raised over $18,000 toward a great charity.” That number actually was $1,800. Ed.
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