Day in the life as someone who is Pickleball-obsessed
I’ll never forget my first game of pickleball. I was visiting friends in Austin. We were at a restaurant and it had an outdoor pickleball court (and yes those do exist).
After hours of watching players dink the plastic ball back and forth, I thought I had it figured out. It was just mini-tennis, right?
Full of confidence, having played competitive tennis my whole life, I challenged my friends.
I’ve never been beaten so badly. Shot after shot I swung the lightweight paddle like a tennis racket and sent the ball right into the net. We lost in three sets straight.
But, I was determined to give it another try. I quickly got a feel for the slower-paced ball and playing at the net. Then the sport became fun. Really fun.
Fast forward to today, where I’ll take you on a “day in the life” journey of someone who plays regularly and even started a company to help others find courts and organize sessions called Pickleheads. Like millions of others, I’m slowly becoming pickleball-obsessed.
For background, pickleball is a cross between ping pong, badminton, and tennis. It was invented over 50 years ago on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, by three vacationers.
Where are we playing today?
The question that starts every day is: are we playing today?
I’ve played many sports over the years, and the hardest part is always coordination. Who’s available, at what time, and where?
But with pickleball, the most common way to play is at an open play session so often all you have to do is show up. With this format, 25, 50, even 100 or more players participate, rotating courts and often partners. No need to set your foursome – you just line your paddles up by the court and when one game finishes, the next four paddles are in.
I recently moved to Phoenix and at G.R. Herberger Park where I’ve started playing, it’s always open play. The first group arrives at 4:30 a.m. sharp, and the courts stay full until 10 p.m. when the park closes. So even if I’m alone, I can show up and play for hours. I don’t know of any other sport that works like that.
The downside to open play is they can get crowded. Sometimes you’ll have to wait upwards of 30 minutes between games. If I want to play a more intimate game with friends, I’ll use our Pickleheads court finder to browse other courts in my area and find somewhere less busy to play.
I also use the pickleball court finder when I’m traveling to a new city or visiting family. There are some great places to play out there. I found an amazing 16-court facility visiting my parents last year in South Carolina.
Just know not all pickleball courts are “dedicated courts” – meaning they have permanent nets and lines installed. Many have been converted from tennis courts, so they’ll often have pickleball lines painted but you’ll to bring your own portable net (which you can easily find on Amazon).
Picking out the right Pickleball gear
Once I know where I’m playing, I get all my pickleball gear together. You don’t need to spend a fortune on piles of gear. Just a paddle, a ball, and you’re on the court.
I play with the Prince Response PRO paddle. This paddle is shaped like a tennis racket with a huge sweet spot. Coming from tennis, this paddle felt natural to me.
I wear shoes specifically designed for court sports, because hours of play will wear down plain old tennis shoes in a hurry. I’ve also experimented lately with socks designed for tennis and pickleball. The team at OS1st was kind enough to send me a few pairs of The Pickleball Sock, and they’ve been great for preventing the painful blisters I sometimes get.
Training and recovery for Pickleball players
Don’t let pickleball’s fun, quirky nature fool you. It’s a serious workout. Even though you may run less than you would in a single tennis match, you can play pickleball games for hours on end. Trust me, a long session can leave you feeling sore for days.
To combat soreness, I always try to stretch before playing. A few yoga poses like downward dog and pigeon pose start my warm up. And once I'm on the court, I like to warm up at the net to get the blood flowing.
Then in the evening after a long session, I’ll spend 15 to 30 minutes foam rolling or doing fascial release with a tennis or lacrosse ball.
Post Pickleball match traditions
Pickleball is part sport, part social gathering. You talk with your partner while playing (doubles is the most common way to play). You chat with fellow players while waiting for a court to open up. And you meet people from all walks of life – from local high school students to retirees.
So it’s only natural after a session to go out and socialize! Often I’ll head out with my group for a happy hour or a bite to eat.
It’s fun to see the same people out playing day after day. I started playing pickleball a lot during the pandemic when I, like many others, was struggling to find safe ways to socialize. To this day, pickleball gives me a sense of community, and remains a big part of my social life.
Get Out and Play!
If you haven’t picked up a paddle yet, what are you waiting for?! I can’t promise you’ll win your first game… but I can promise you’ll have a blast.
In fact, I’ve seen many first-timers go out and after a few games, they look like naturals. There’s just something amazing about the sport - it’s easy to pick up and easy to learn. Well except for maybe the scoring, but that’s for a different day.
See you on the courts!
// About the AuthorBrandon Mackie is the co-founder of Pickleheads™, a platform that helps players find courts, organize sessions, and connect with nearby players. Once a competitive tennis player, Brandon can be found these days honing his dinks on pickleball courts near Phoenix, Arizona.