3 Pre-Game Tricks to Play Better Matches

We are getting into a heavy time for tournaments so I thought it appropriate to talk a little about things you can do to play your best. While we like to think that the better players always win, the reality is that this is only sometimes the case. There are upsets, poor performances and players who are just 'on' that may defy expectations or  -- to use a term common to this time of year -- 'bust your bracket'. 

And while these exceptional performances may be pure dumb luck, I've been around enough high level athletes to know that in most cases, the players who want to perform well, prepare well. Here are a few things you can do to maximize your chances for success:


1. Show up on time -- and by "on time" I mean early. There is nothing worse than frantically trying to find a parking spot knowing that your match is about to be called. You get impatient, frustrated and are libel to make bad decisions. These are all the antithesis of what you want when you compete.

While it might mean setting the alarm clock a little earlier than usual, grab yourself that extra coffee and get to the venue well before your match is called. You'll be calm, cool and collected when it is time to play your best. And bring your partner with you!

2. Make a plan. Heading into a match knowing how you expect to win is a critical part of competing well. And while you might have to adjust your tactics as the match unfolds, knowing whether you'll look to use your power game or out-dink your opponents is pretty important.

Rather than 'waiting to see how it goes', talk with your partner before you step on court. Decide how you expect to play your opponents and what patterns of play look most promising (i.e. your backhand dink is great. Let's try to get you into crossourt backhand rallies with them). If possible, watch your opposition play a little beforehand to figure out what they seem to like (or dislike). And if necessary, pull up a quick YouTube vid showing some recent matches. Walking onto the court with a clear plan in mind will help you to make better decisions and to play with confidence.


3. Don't just stand there! Tournaments can involve a lot of waiting. And while it is important not to over exert yourself, it is more important to be loose and feeling great when the match begins. Jump on a practice court and stay warm when you know that your match will be called soon. And if no court is available (this is often the case), hit some reflex volleys on a patch of grass, against a wall, or in a parking lot.  At the very least, go for a little jog or do some quick, athletic movements (see GIF above for examples). This will help you to be ready to go when you get called.

Of course, none of these things guarantee that you'll play great or have the match of your life. But by taking a little time to prepare well, you give yourself the best shot at putting on a good performance. And when you think about it, that's all we can really ask of ourselves, right?

Mark Renneson is the founder and Head Coach at Third Shot Sports. When he is not crisscrossing the continent coaching pickleball, he can be found tending to his 4 year old child and 10 year old golden retriever in Collingwood, Canada. Mark can be reached at mark@thirdshotsports.com