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Surprising Pickleball Poem

I asked AI to come up with a pickleball poem. You could swear that the AI engine has actually played our favorite game:

In the sunlit courts where friendships gleam,
A sport emerges, a pickleball dream.
Paddles in hand, with a rhythmic hum,
A game begins, the battle has come.

On a striped surface, the lines define,
The boundaries of a contest, so divine.
A wiffle ball bounces, agile and light,
In the world of pickle, where passions ignite.

The court alive with laughter and cheer,
As players dance, with strategy clear.
A fusion of tennis, badminton’s grace,
Pickleball swirls in a vibrant embrace.

With paddles slicing through the air,
A symphony of skill, beyond compare.
Quick reflexes, nimble feet,
A dance on the court, a rhythmic beat.

The pickleball whispers, a friendly sound,
Echoing rallies, back and forth bound.
A game for all, both young and old,
Where tales of triumph and sportsmanship unfold.

In the kitchen, the non-volley zone,
Strategic moves, a player’s throne.
Drop shots delicate, dinks that inspire,
In pickleball’s world, where passions transpire.

From baseline battles to the kitchen clash,
A sport that sparks a communal bash.
In the heart of rallies, friendships bloom,
Pickleball, a joyous, spirited plume.

So, let the pickleball anthem rise,
Underneath the clear, open skies.
A game that binds, with a vibrant call,
Oh, pickleball, a sport for all!

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Hustler’s Approach

The following information is more about amusement than something you’d actually want to do, but then again…

My father-in-law was a pool hustler, the famous Salinas Kid. He once told me that he used to keep his winnings in two pockets. He’d put his one- and five-dollar bills in one pocket, and the tens, twenties and larger denominations in another pocket. More than once, people would chase him out of the pool hall, demanding their money back. He’d reach into the one pocket pulling out a wad of small denomination bills, throw them up in the air, and say, “There’s your money.” As the people scrambled around on the ground grabbing the ones and fives, he’d run to his car and make a clean get-away.

More to the point of pickleball, he’d go into a pool hall smelling of liquor, standing a bit unsteadily, and blow the first several games, losing a few dollars here, and a few more there. Then, as the price per game went up, somehow, he’d end up winning everything.

So, what does this have to with pickleball? This brings to mind a very good solution for when you’re playing doubles, and you have a weaker partner. Normally, every ball will be directed at your partner, and you’ve pretty much got to lose. However, if for the first four or five points of the game you make a total fool of yourself, hitting balls into the net, well past the baseline, or missing the balls altogether, every shot will then be directed at you. That’s when you finish by winning handily!

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Artificial Intelligence Tells a Story

I asked ChatGPT, “Please tell me a 3000-word romance story heavily involving pickleball.”

This is what I got: (By the way, it’s only around 590 words.)

Once upon a time in the quaint town of Pickleton, there lived two individuals whose paths were destined to cross on the vibrant pickleball court. Meet Emily, a spirited young woman with a passion for pickleball that rivaled her love for adventure, and Jack, a charming and athletic man who found solace in the rhythmic bounce of the pickleball on the court.

The story begins one sunny afternoon when Pickleton’s community gathered for their annual pickleball tournament. The air was filled with excitement as players of all ages and skill levels prepared to showcase their talents. Emily, adorned in her lucky pickleball-themed attire, was eager to prove her prowess on the court. Little did she know, Jack, the town’s heartthrob, was equally determined to claim victory.

As the tournament progressed, Emily and Jack found themselves paired against each other in a heated match. The court became a battleground of skill, determination, and subtle glances exchanged between the two competitors. With every swift movement and precise shot, a spark ignited between them, transcending the boundaries of the pickleball court.

Their competitive banter soon evolved into playful teasing, and laughter echoed across the court. Unbeknownst to them, the spectators began to sense a different kind of rivalry blossoming—one that had nothing to do with pickleball rankings but everything to do with matters of the heart.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a warm glow over Pickleton, Emily and Jack found themselves in a tied game. The tension on the court mirrored the unspoken emotions building between them. In a moment of daring spontaneity, Jack suggested a tiebreaker under the stars, transforming the pickleball court into a magical arena of possibilities.

Underneath the twinkling night sky, Emily and Jack’s movements became synchronized, guided by an invisible force that drew them closer with each point scored. The intensity of the game mirrored the growing attraction they felt for each other. It was no longer about winning the tournament; it was about winning each other’s hearts.

As the final point was scored, the crowd erupted into cheers, but Emily and Jack only had eyes for each other. Their shared passion for pickleball had forged a connection that transcended the confines of the court. In that moment, Pickleton witnessed the birth of a love story as timeless as the sport that brought them together.

In the days that followed, Emily and Jack continued to explore the magic of their newfound connection. Pickleball became the backdrop for their blossoming romance, with each match serving as a metaphor for the ebbs and flows of love. They discovered the joy of teamwork, the importance of communication, and the thrill of facing challenges together—lessons learned on the pickleball court that resonated in their hearts.

The town of Pickleton soon became a haven for love, with pickleball enthusiasts from far and wide flocking to witness the enchanting love story that unfolded on its courts. Emily and Jack’s romance became a symbol of the transformative power of passion and connection, proving that sometimes, love can be found in the most unexpected places—like a small town obsessed with pickleball.

And so, Emily and Jack’s love story became a legend in Pickleton, whispered from one pickleball court to another, a tale of romance written in the language of swift volleys and gentle caresses of the pickleball paddle. The town continued to host pickleball tournaments, not just for the love of the sport but in celebration of the enduring love story that had put Pickleton on the map as the pickleball capital of romance.

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Saying Hello and Goodbye

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe enthusiastically saying “Hello” and “Goodbye” to people as they come and go from recreational pickup games can be very important.

There are pickleball players, especially among the older crew, who have very few friends. Maybe they’ve even lost a spouse. Something as simple as acknowledging them when they come to play pickleball can brighten their days.

It is also important to be careful not to look down on them if they don’t play as well as you, or if they have a personality you don’t like. For instance, there are people with regional accents that I find hard to handle. I want to think these people are stupid, or eccentric in unacceptable ways. However, I’m making an effort to let them be friends. I want them to be people I can admire. So, when I get a chance, I ask them about their families, their careers, whatever interests them. And sure enough, my opinion of them brightens.

One guy really rubbed me the wrong way. Just looking at him bothered me. Then we got to talking, and I found out he and I had been in the same business several years ago. Suddenly, he felt like a good friend.

What about unskilled players? It is so easy to look down on someone who swings and misses, or pops every ball. I believe I should still congratulate them when they make a good shot, even if it was just lucky. To see them smile with pride really makes my own day!

Avoid criticism. It can just devastate people, especially shy ones, if you tell them that their backhand is no good, or that they always serve too short, or they’ve got to quit popping the ball. Just let it be. They’ll learn eventually. It is not your job to coach them, unless they ask for it.

Finally, we need to take into account the sexual component. It is possible to acknowledge someone who starts to find you attractive. If a relationship with that person is not something you want, you do have to keep up your guard and let him or her know that you’re married, uninterested, etc, as soon as you see trouble brewing, and yet be careful not to deflate them too much. You still want them to feel accepted and happy.

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Why I Announce the Shots

In billiards, you’ll see players call their shots, meaning they tell you want the intend before they do it. For instance, “Six ball in corner pocket.”

Sometimes I’ll call my shots in recreational pickleball. When serving, I’ll say something like “Centerline, deep,” Or just as the opponents are serving, I might say, “Backspin, short.” Then I’ll try to return short with backspin, just like I said.

Why would I do this? It certainly isn’t a winning strategy. Why would I warn the opponents in advance of what they should get ready for?

It’s not about winning. What I’m doing has three related purposes.

1. If I manage to do what I said, it makes me look like a very good player. Better than I really am, of course.

2. If I make a mistake, such as serving the ball way out of bounds, or hitting the net, it reduces the embarrassment. That’s because everyone knows I was experimenting, not just randomly mishitting.

3. It forces me to focus on an experiment, which will hopefully eventually improve my game. Rather than just hitting the ball in my usual way, I must now attempt to fulfill the announcement.

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Monsour Bahrami

This is about a tennis player, but I believe as a pickleballer you’ll appreciate the similarities. Monsour Bahrami is who I want to be when I grow up, except for in the sport of pickleball.

Monsour Bahrami was 67 years old when this was filmed. As a child growing up in Iran, he was intrigued with tennis at an early age. However, he was not allowed to have a real tennis until he was 13 years old. Until then, he made do with frying pans and other household items.

Due to extremist views that regarded tennis as a capitalist pursuit in Iran, Monsour had to move to France where he went broke trying to be a serious tennis competitor.

At one point while trying desperately to make ends meet, he bet his entire winnings from a recent tournament in a casino and lost everything.

For a while, Mr. Bahrami was homeless in the streets of Paris until his reputation as a tennis trick shot expert and entertainer started to catch on.

He is also a champion backgammon player.

Your author has been working on some pickleball tricks. So far, I have put together a few serves:

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Ten Trick Serves

In this video I demonstrate ten trick serves. Several of these are easy to learn. Some are silly, some are quite competitive.

1. Two flips of the paddle. This may be the most difficult serve to accomplish. Start by practicing these steps:

a. Flip the paddle with just one revolution and catch it by the handle. Work on keeping the paddle vertical when you flip it. Otherwise, the surface of the paddle will be affected by the air and wobble, making it difficult to catch. You’ll probably want to practice on a soft surface, so you don’t end up with something like this:

b. Once one spin becomes easy, learn to flip it for two revolutions.

c. With your non-dominant hand, throw a pickleball in the air at the exact same time you flip the paddle. At first, you probably won’t be able to catch the ball as you focus on flipping the paddle. To start, you can simply let the ball fall. The objective is to throw the ball at the exact same time as you throw the paddle.

d. Work on throwing the ball high enough that you can focus on catching the paddle before you catch the ball.

e. Hit the ball with the paddle.

f. Make a point of hitting the ball when the paddle is below your waist and below your wrist so it is a legal volley serve. In fact, I’m not sure the serve I’m showing in the video is actually legal.

2. Bounce the ball three (or more) times on the edge of the paddle before serving. The only hard part is bouncing the ball in a controlled manner. Once you master that, the rest is easy. Bouncing a ball on the edge of the paddle is good for eye-hand coordination in general, and will make you a better kitchen rally player. As in the previous serve, it is best to let the ball fall far enough that you can hit it below your waist and below your wrist to keep it legal. Notice that this may not be legal even if done ‘right.’ In competition, an opponent or referee could call it a distraction.

3. The next serve is totally legitimate. As you may know, with a bounce serve, you can use any kind of stroke you wish. In this case, I’m scrubbing the paddle up over the top of the ball at a 45 degree angle, to project forehand topspin. This is actually the same as an ordinary forehand topspin passing shot, but presented as a serve.

4. Notice the ridiculous bounce you can achieve with an extreme backspin serve such as demonstrated in the video. This is a little tricky to learn. The idea is to become very extreme. Notice my silly body position, and the degree to which I attempt to exaggerate the backspin. When totally successful, the ball bounces so weirdly that beginning and intermediate players can’t return it.

5. I don’t think there’s any point in a super-high lob serve, but they are fun. What’s even more fun is watching beginners get their timing wrong, often totally missing the ball as it bounces over their heads. There’s really no trick to practicing these. Just keep trying until you can bash them really high, yet they still land in the court.

6. Next we have a juggling serve. This is definitely the hardest one to master.

a. Learn three-ball juggling. You can find an easy way to learn right here: Three Ball Juggling.

b. Substitute the paddle for one of the balls. Notice that the paddle is thrown with a single spin from hand to hand. Work on keeping the paddle vertical so it doesn’t wobble in mid-air, making it hard to catch. If you haven’t already, you may want to practice this without the juggling at first. You may want to practice everything having to do with throwing a paddle over a soft surface. The single vertical spin is optional. You can throw it for two or more spins, you can throw it in a transverse plane, the sky is the limit.

c. Once you can juggle a paddle and two balls, throwing one ball high and serving it is not difficult. Again, to keep it legal, it is best to let the ball fall enough that it is below your wrist and below your waist.

Something else I did not demonstrate in this video is a variation where bouncing a ball off the edge of the paddle and juggling are combined, so for every toss of the paddle, a ball is bounced off the paddle’s edge before or during the next throw.

7. There’s no limit to what you can get away with in bounce serves. In the video, I’m serving with a forehand stroke while kneeling. It has no function other than goofiness.

78. Something totally legal that I didn’t remember to capture on the video is a double-bounce serve. The official USAPA pickleball rules specifically state that the ball can bounce as many times as you like. So, try dropping the ball, but letting it bounce twice before you hit it. This is surprisingly easy to accomplish.

8. Next you’ll see a volley serve in which I demonstrate rather extreme topspin. The paddle is scrubbing over the top of the ball with the face at a 45 degree angle. You can practice this serve until it is very fast. The ball clears the net by inches, and bounces deep toward the baseline in a way that’s difficult to achieve in any other kind of serve. Most beginning and many intermediate players cannot return this serve. Even top players can be put a little out of rhythm which will throw off their whole rally.

I used to believe there was no serve a top player couldn’t return easily. Therefore you’ll see a lot of the best players serving high and floppy. That seems to as well as anything more aggressive, as long as the ball bounces close to the baseline. That’s what I believed until I came across a 5.0 player who was serving with these low fast hard topspin serves. It may or may not work for you, but is a worthy experiment. Keep in mind the response to a low aggressive serve may be a very fast return, which your partner may not be able to handle in doubles, or which may even trouble you in singles.

9. The windmill is another serve that doesn’t have any place in serious pickleball, but makes people laugh. Interestingly, it results in a backspin with a bounce that may flummox many players. The only suggestion I have for this serve is to make it big. Use a huge grand gesture, not some half-way small circles of the paddle. Since it’s a clown move, do it like a clown!

10. I’m hesitant to include the backward under the legs serve because it is rather disrespectful. I was once accused of making fun of my opponents when using this serve. Well, I guess I was 🙂 As you can see in the video I didn’t get it right. It’s not hard to learn. It’s just that I haven’t practiced it.

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Rotten Pickleball Exclamation Point

Swearing on pickleball courts can be problematic at some venues. Some of the players may be uncomfortable around swearing.

Often when someone says something like “S**t, I hit the net,” I’ll tell them, “Watch your f**king mouth!”

Maybe better would be for players to create their own designer swear words. You can do that right here.

Click the Go button repeatedly until you get something you like.

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The Pickleballs Everyone Hates

I bought a half-dozen two-tone outdoor pickleballs. These are advertised as being good for seeing the results of imparting spin. I just thought they’d be fun. These are the softer kind of plastic, much like the ONIX brand balls and some others. However, they bounce at almost the exact same height and have handling characteristics almost identical to Franklin X40s and other popular balls.

I played a couple of games with these, and really enjoyed them. The two-color effect was useful in watching spins. I then donated the half-dozen to our club, where we have a bin typically filled with twenty or thirty balls. Players can pick the balls they want to use for each game.

On the first day, most of the players tried the two-tone balls for a few minutes of warm up, then switched back to traditional one-color balls.

Everyone, and I mean everyone did not want to play with these.

Of course I asked why. The responses fell into two groups:

1. The two color balls were driving people crazy. They don’t like seeing the changing colors as the ball spins. One woman said the balls make her literally dizzy. Nearby players hearing that agreed.

2. Others just liked the Franklin X40 balls and did not want to deal with anything new.

So there you have it!

I should point out that the balls stayed in our group for a month or so. During that time they did end up getting a reasonable amount of use. They proved to be durable. None were cracked or deformed.

If you want to buy some anyway, they are currently $16 for six balls on Amazon: