Research has shown that “Females typically report lower levels of expectations for success than males do and that this difference may explain gender differences in achievement situations. Sport psychology research indicates that women score lower than men in self confidence for motor performance.” That is to say, men tend to be more self-confident than women when it comes to their sports-related skills. That doesn’t surprise me at all. One of the issues that the pickleball club I belong to has faced as we transitioned to using Playtime Scheduler to organize play is self-ratings. In general, players tend to think that they are better players than they are. Anecdotally, I’ve found that beginner women tend to self-rate low, while beginner men tend to self-rate high. I also feel that women tend to avoid opportunities to “play up” (with better players) because they don’t want their lack of skill to negatively affect other players’ enjoyment. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.
My just-turned-60-year-old sister began playing pickleball about two years ago. From the start, I have reminded her (as I do myself) that each of us is in full control of our own abilities and of our opportunities to play. This is based not only on our skills, but our personalities and sportsmanship. JoDee has nurtured relationships with players of similar competence and worked on honing her skills while putting in a lot of miles running on the local trails and working a full-time job. So, when the Wenatchee Racket and Athletic Club (WRAC) advertised its first pickleball tournament with Pickleball Is Great “Herder of Cats” Kathy Rambousek as the tournament director, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for her to sign up for her first tournament!
JoDee asked a friend with women’s doubles tournament experience to partner with her in women’s doubles, and she agreed. But as the tournament approached, The WRAC‘s pickleball pro Randy Smith intervened to increase the number of participants by connecting players with prospective partners. He offered JoDee the opportunity to partner with 47-year-old Troy, who wanted to play 3.5 19-49. Ahem…JoDee (and Randy) knew that Troy was not a 3.5 player, but who was going to tell him and suggest that maybe they play 3.0?
Not JoDee. And not Randy. JoDee agreed to play. And then got used to the idea that they were probably going to get killed.
JoDee’s first event was mixed doubles. She and Troy waited by the courts as Kathy explained the format and Randy thanked the tournament sponsors. Everyone warmed up in preparation for round robin play with the top four teams in each division participating in the medal round. In the first round, they faced a lefty named Ken with hard-hitting, wrist flipping shots and his partner attack-y Ali with her spicy drives and hits-as-hard-as-a-guy overheads. Ken and Ali made quick work of JoDee and Troy, winning 11-2, 11-2. JoDee reported that she was nervous. Troy seemed so too. Next they faced a married couple. Kevin’s favorite play was to pressure the female player by hitting drives at her body, while his wife Renee hit consistent serves, returns and drives. Both applied a lot of pressure, so much that they didn’t allow JoDee and Troy a single point.
Afterwards, Troy, with sweat literally dripping off of him, offered the statement: “I am not a 3.5 player,” followed by a question, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Self-awareness is a skill and Troy’s ability to see that he was in over his head shows that he has it. Next, they played mother son duo Sam and Dena. With nothing to lose, they settled down, relaxed and played better than in the first two rounds. They lost the first game, won the second, and lost the third, finishing the round robin in last place, which meant they’d face the first place team, Ken and Ali, who beat them a second time in the medal round. After eight games of play, they were left with one more: One game to 15, win by two against Sam and Dena. And they did just that! JoDee and Troy seemed relaxed and confident. Once their favored opponents got behind, their unforced error rate increased. My sister and I exchanged secret surprised looks as they earned point after point and continued to hold the lead. In the end, the underdogs prevailed with a score of 15-13.
Women’s doubles was held the following day. JoDee played 60+ 3.0 with her friend Patty which was combined with 50+ 3.0 for the round robin portion. The duo had had many opportunities to practice together and it showed. In the one game to 15, win by two format, their scores were: 15-12, 16-14, 6-15, 15-8, and 15-2. Out of the six teams, they tied for first with four wins, but in head to head competition Reese and Leslie beat them, so JoDee and Patty finished second overall but first in the 60+ division. During the medal round, they waited on the results of the second and third place teams. Ultimately, they defeated their friends Judy and Pam 15-10. The best part was watching the good sportsmanship of the gold and silver medal winning teams afterwards as they hugged and offered each other congratulations.
Not only was it a blast to watch my sister’s success in her first pickleball tournament, but TD Kathy Rambousek did an amazing job of keeping the events on track, Randy Smith helped ensure the success of the event by connecting many players with partners who may not have otherwise participated, and the WRAC general manager Evy Gillin and her staff went above and beyond. They provided a (rare) free lunch as well as an awesome facility in which to hold the tournament. We will be back next year, hopefully with lots of our pickleball player friends.
Good Morning JuLee, I just finished your article on pickleball. It was “spot on”. Happy Easter, Enjoy your day!!! Carol