If you’re Canadian - and live here full-time then you’re more than aware that we’re heading into the busiest time of year for pickleball.
Outdoor courts have been open now for a few weeks and the world has finally warmed up enough to play outside for many hours at a time.
So, if you’re also one of those “typical” pickleball enthusiasts (who has not looked back since first discovering pickleball), then you can easily play 4-6 times a week for 2-4 hours at a time, amirite?
Your “down time” probably also means that you’re watching the pros on live streams and YouTube and you want to learn the ins and outs of the game as much as you possibly can.
But maybe, is it time to think about when and where you can take a step back to ensure you don’t suffer from “pickleball burnout”?
Let's dive in...
Photo credit: Sara McInnes
Hear me out: most of us experience fatigue from the sport at one (or some) point in time and while a few days off can do wonders, what about the long term? Besides, who wants to burn out in the middle of summer?
Looking ahead past the summer, it’s all about balance anyway. Pickleball is a game for life, that’s the beauty behind it but it’s also such an addictive and social game, so I really believe that we have to consciously make an effort to give the body and mind a rest, so that our love for pickleball can carry on for years to come.
The examples below are mostly scenarios I have witnessed in others or I’ve experienced, so unless I refer to myself, they don’t reflect any one person specifically; and although some of it may seem like a generalization, I just thought some of them could be relatable to the reader in some way.
Photo credit: Sara McInnes
When I first began playing pickleball, I would balance myself out by hanging out with non-pickleball players: watch non-pickleball shows, doing many of the other activities I enjoyed doing - I was still playing soccer at that time too.
Now, I can’t say for sure when the switch happened, but I swear, before realizing it almost all of my social time was taken up with social pickleball, events and spending more and more time at the courts.
When you befriend a group of pickleball people then it’s pretty much a no-brainer: you get to hang out with people you like, talk endlessly about the sport you love and hey, start traveling to events together too.
I’ve always been one for balancing out my personal life with other areas of life, and although I admit that went off the rails the past few years, I insist that (at least) for myself, finding that balance again is a good thing.
Here’s kind of the best part about that - and possibly a loophole to my entire point: as you meet new people you can introduce them to the topic of pickleball!
Photo credit: Sara McInnes
Physically speaking, burning out in pickleball creeps up on a person without them realizing it. So, if you’re stubbornly going to push on even if the body is showing signs it needs a break, at the very least, take time to warm up and cool down.
Remember, the idea is to do a dynamic warm-up, move the body to increase the heart rate, and warm up the limbs, for about 5 minutes (minimum).
Cooling down should probably take more than 5 minutes, and here you’re really just focusing on stretching the muscles, so they don’t tighten up on you on your way home.
Tournaments can be an easy way to run out of steam. Not only is it a lot of traveling and possibly a lot of cost, but tournaments are also very social, often long days, and a lot of focus and concentration is required.
Here’s a glimpse into my history: in September 2016 I entered my first tournament - the PAO Provincials in Markham. Not too far away and so it didn’t require additional planning like finding accommodations.
In 2017 I played in four tournaments and 2018 I paid and played in twelve tournaments (including three in the USA). That’s a huge jump from the year before. Back then though, tournaments were the best way for competitive players to get the chance to meet up with one another and play games at their skill level.
Driving around the province and meeting up with peers to play for hours at a time only really began around COVID and/or as really nice, dedicated facilities began popping up.
But before that, we were traveling to tournaments all over Ontario to play one another. I actually didn't burn out after twelve tournaments, but I did plateau, competitively speaking.
I had to take a good and honest look at my game to identify what areas needed improvement. Then it was back to the drawing board, finding time to drill - not just play - increase my dinking abilities and re-framing my mindset going into competition.
Recreationally speaking, pickleball fatigue happens quietly and suddenly. In 2015 and 2016 I was playing almost daily and with many of the same players.
As incredibly fun as it was, I do recall finding myself going through the motions quite a bit, and so I wasn’t really playing in the present moment. Sometimes rec courts can be overstimulating (just like at a tournament).
Loud music, a variety of other sports being played around you, people stopping to ask you what the heck you’re doing. Creating that balance during rec play can and probably should be done in a number of ways.
First, really try and identify what it is you want out of the playing experience that day and try to stick with it. Stay warm and loose as you sit between games, properly hydrate and nourish as needed.
Finally, try and spread out the areas you want to work on during the games - for example - if you know you’re playing 3 days a week and you know with whom, choose certain areas to work on depending on the skill level of the group, the weather conditions and your own personal conditions.
Are you playing with people you don’t know, who are a skill level below you or right after a long day at work? Maybe that’s the session you treat as fun and laid back, rather than being the competitiveness of the game.
Image credit: Sara McInnes
This past winter I spent most of it coaching indoors. For a period of time I was coaching way too many hours across just a few days. How it affected me was I had a hard time focusing on non-physical work because my body needed time to rest and repair.
I also sacrificed my own playing time and it started to feel like a grind. Fortunately, I have the US Open to rely on almost every year, so even though I didn’t play, the break itself came at the most welcoming time.
Have you experienced burnout - or maybe you don’t think you’re susceptible to it? It usually happens to the best of us, my friend, but the last thing we want for anyone in the pickleball community is to have that unfortunate break - such as sustaining an injury that forces us off the court.
All this to say, even in my most burnt-out moments, YouTube was still running in the background, usually playing the latest APP and PPA matches. Pickleball lifer for sure.
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