It’s always a bit dangerous to put one’s “thoughts” out there for review. But here goes:
To explode, a sport needs to mimic the structure of a pyramid. If the base isn’t structurally sound then it won’t support the higher levels.
There are many bricks needed to sustain the growth of Pickleball: teaching; a strong leadership organization; rules that remain constant; and access to venues for play and sport. But the one brick among many that is the easiest to overlook, the one which requires the most “bricks” is also so the easiest to neglect: the novice players through the the 2.5 level.
Think of 4.5 – 5.0 players at the peak of the Pickleball pyramid. Players to admire, to emulate, and by all means athletes we should watch and enjoy at every opportunity. But for many of us who run daily play, leagues and tournaments, these 4.5 – 5.0 players are NOT in need of our attention. In other words, these players are dedicated, self-disciplined, and, with few exceptions, we do not have to worry about them. If a high level player has a bad experience at an event or a tournament, that experience will not deter her or him from competing in the future.
We can never have too many 2.5 players playing in our recreational venues, our leagues, and our tournaments. And if someone remains at a 2.5 level for a good number of years – wonderful! If everyone wanted to be an alpha dog, the pyramid would crumble.
The goal: the 2.5 bracket (those who are no longer beginners but avid players) should almost always be the largest bracket or group. Give them good playing times, good courts, feed them, water them. If we retain the 2.5’s then Pickleball is limitless. When the 2.5’s are discouraged from entering play, we will all lose the long game.
So the next time that 2.5 or lower player wishes to team up with you for one special game of doubles, don’t make excuses as to why you don’t wish to play with a so-called lesser player … keep that foundation strong and play a game. In fact, play two games and make their day.