Communicating with your partner

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By Kim Taddei and Bruce Hill

(In conversation with Oakmont pickleball coach Adam MacKinnon) 

Have you ever been on the receiving end of the stink eye, eye roll or exasperated look to the heavens after making a particularly bad play? If so, you know what it feels like to be reminded that you lost a crucial point. 

Nothing undermines confidence more than an unsupportive partner.  Whether you are playing recreationally or competitively, good communication builds teamwork.  Finding a way to be supportive is crucial to a good partnership.  If your partner has made a mistake, a positive approach would be to say something like “Let it go”, “Let’s move on”, or “We’ve got this!” Or tap paddles with your partner as a reminder that you are still a team even though there was a goof up.  Acknowledging a well-played point is a great way to build confidence and regain the momentum in a game.  

If you are playing more competitively, there is a good chance that you play with the same partner, know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and have established a team strategy.  When playing with a new partner, these pre-game questions might help with communication during play: “How comfortable are you returning lobs?”  “How should we handle balls down the middle” “Are you left or right handed?”  “How comfortable are you playing at the kitchen line?” Agreeing to call “Mine!” when you are going for a ball or “Watch out!” when you have popped up a ball for your opponents to smash are great ways to avoid confusion and stay connected.  

More challenging can be the communication regarding a recurring pattern that is costing points.  For example, your partner is repeatedly coming up from the baseline after serving, creating a vulnerability to the deep return.  First ask yourself if the outcome of the game is important enough to risk offending your partner. If the answer is yes, then it is important to use language that is non-critical.  You can try asking permission first: “Can I share an observation?” Or make it an “I” statement: “I fall into this habit a lot. But I’ve realized that if I stay back longer and give myself room, I’m more likely to play a better shot.”  No one likes being told what to do during a game, so the language we use is crucial to building teamwork.  This is especially true when spouses play on the same team, as we can be quick to make comments that are more critical than helpful. 

If there is a breakdown in communication or strategy, calling a time-out or asking to switch sides allows for a quick conversation about tactics, what’s working and what’s not, and opponent weaknesses you might target.  Remember, whether you are winning or losing, we’re in this together. So let’s start talking!

For information about working with Adam, you can visit oakmontpickleballclub.com or

email him at adammackinnon@gmail.com.

New Player Orientation: Arrangements can be made by contacting Nancy Lande at 978-

2998 to schedule a session. Demo loaner paddles are available by contacting Doc

Savarese at 349-9065.

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