Pickleball Burnout — Is It Even a Thing?
By Simone Jardim
If you are like many pickleballers, you sometimes find it pretty tough to put down the paddle. There is always one more game to play, one more laugh to have. There are many reasons we haven’t wanted to take a break; this game is fun, exciting, social, inclusive, competitive and fulfilling. The simple fact that you can show up at random places anywhere around America (and beyond), find people to play with and quickly become friends is something you cannot find in most sports. As a matter of fact, the ease with which pickleball allows us to find community is beyond what many of us can expect in our busy everyday lives.
But with this non-stop playing comes the risk of Pickleball Burnout. Burnout is defined by sports psychologists as “physical/emotional exhaustion, sport devaluation, and reduced athletic accomplishment.” At times it can be hard to find balance and to know when enough is enough -- physically and/or mentally.
I recently had a conversation with a client who is experiencing pickleball burnout. She didn’t call it that herself, but having been around athletes as long as I have, I recognized the signs: lower than usual motivation to be on court; prone to distraction; being unusually quick to frustration, etc.. My client is aware of the situation and together we are working on a plan of attack. We both agreed that too much time on the court is not only hard on the body, but also on the mind. We must come to terms with the fact that we are no longer 20 years old and our body doesn’t recover the way it used to. It is the reality of growing older, I suppose.
If anyone knows me or has seen me play, it is pretty evident that I love competing. And as the sport grows in popularity and more tournaments pop up, there are more opportunities than ever to get on the court and test myself. It is difficult for me to say no and not play all of them. But whether you are a professional or amateur competitor, there is an important signal that burnout is not far off. When pickleball begins to feel like it is something that you have to do instead of something that you want to do, the game takes on a new dimension and becomes work rather than play. It morphs into a burden rather than a privilege and for many of us becomes mentally exhausting. What is usually incredibly fun is now a grind and something to endure.
So, how do we avoid burning out? I have found three steps especially useful: First, limit the hours you play and this includes resisting the temptation of playing one more game only to find yourself regretting it a few minutes later. Listen to your body and mind, they will let you know when it is time to go home.
Second, be selective about when you play. If you compete, choose the tournaments you play wisely and do your best to not add more to your schedule than you can handle. This sometimes means saying no -- and that’s ok. In fact, saying no this time might mean you can say yes much more often in the future, since your brain and your body will be a little more rested.
Third, dedicate time to do other things that don’t involve pickleball! I know, you think I’m crazy. For me personally, as much as pickleball occupies a huge part of my life, I must remind myself that I also like to do other things. I love spending time with my amazing family. I enjoy watching movies and being outside (not on a court). And spending time on these things helps me to bring some balance to my life.
I’m very thankful that I have found pickleball and I want to make sure that I am around the sport for a long time. In the same way that a little distance can be a great reminder of how much you love a friend or a spouse, so too can it be with a sport. For those of you who are feeling a bit of burnout today, give yourself permission to take a little (or big) break. It is something I do to make sure that I never lose the enthusiasm and passion for this crazy game called pickleball!
Simone Jardim is a 6-time National Champion, 8-time TOC Open Champion and a 7-time U.S. Open Champion. She is the Co-Director of Peak Performance Pickleball Academy in Bonita Springs Florida. Information at peakpickleballacademy.com