Pickleball, tennis or whatever — The most important tip to know

First — two weeks ago, I gave a special shout-out to members of the Ocean View Crew for their performance in the Ocean City Pickleball Tournament. Now I need a megaphone because of their performance in the Beach Blast.

In men’s doubles, Dom Travaglini, Mike Smith, Bob Zimmer and Steve Melofchik of Fairway Village took gold, silver and bronze in their category, and Zimmer took also gold in mixed doubles. Bob Gaudreau of Bay Colony took gold in mixed and bronze in men’s doubles, and local resident Charlie Biddle took gold with Travaglini in men’s doubles. Rick Bell, who sometimes plays with the Ocean View Crew, also took a bronze.

(The full results of the Beach Blast are at pickleballcoast.com, with the names of the Ocean View Crew highlighted.)

I know everyone is always looking for that one great tip, and the best tip I can ever give you is to lose weight, and do footwork drills, because speed and balance is the secret sauce behind so many sports.

I found myself rummaging through my assortment of arm and leg supports to prepare myself to chase around that pickleball court with the Ocean View Crew. I suddenly realized that the reason I needed all these supports is because I haven’t properly prepared for outside activities at the level I want to compete.

I asked Bob Cairo, who is the clinical director and senior physical therapist at Tidewater Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Associates P.A., a long time physical therapist here in the area (and Coastal Point columnist), for his elevator pitch on the five best things we all could do to prepare my body for the rigors of sport.

I listened to his every word, but listening, heeding and doing are three different verbs, which is why, I suppose, I have a closet full of supports and wraps. Here are Cairo’s top five suggestions to prepare for pickleball:

(1) Don’t assume you’re in good enough shape to play pickleball. It would be wise to begin with a stretching, strengthening and aerobic program. Also, like any other sporting activity, it’s important to start out slowly and gradually add to length of playing time.

(2) Take a lesson, reviewing proper form and techniques, to decrease muscular skeletal injuries.

(3) Learn how to play the game properly to reduce the risk of falls.

(4) Invest in proper equipment — especially shoes and goggles.

(5) If you feel you have any other health issues that may inhibit you from playing at your desired level, check with your doctor before you start pickleball.

You should heed Cairo’s advice with gusto, and add some warm-up exercises. Individuals do sometimes get injured in pickleball, but I have yet to witness a fall or sprain from anyone who first took time to stretch and do some light footwork before they played. The reason it is called a warm-up is just that — to warm up the muscles.

Take a look in the mirror after your shower and notice how your center of gravity has risen much farther than you would like to admit. You might as well strap a sack of potatoes around your waist. There is a rule of thumb that states every 2.5 pounds of weight loss is worth 10 pounds less pounding on your knees. Take another look. How many pounds can you afford to lose?

The Surgeon General advised that all adults should spend 20 minutes a day in moderate aerobic activity, suggesting brisk walks or slow jogging. You need to work yourself up to do even more because you want to be a lean, mean, pickleballing machine.

Assuming you have learned the basics, you might want to take part in a clinic for novices and intermediates, where you begin to learn how to advance your game. I will be leading one at the Northside Park indoor pickleball facility on 125th Street in Ocean City, Md., on June 16. It is a three-hour session beginning at 10 a.m. and limited to 40 people, first-come, first-served. The cost is $8 for Ocean City residents and $10 for non-residents. Call (410) 250-0125 to get more information.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.