Pickleball Points

Your pickleball rating — Is it a self-rating conclusion, the results of a contusion, simple confusion, or downright self-delusion?

Very often — in fact, way too often — I hear someone say something like they are a 4.0 on good days, or they hold their own with 4.0s, or….

Enough with the self-ratings. So what? Who cares? We can see with our own eyes that you must have fallen and have a contusion to explain away your self-rating conclusion.

There is a rating system provided by USA Pickleball. For example, a 1.5:

  • Limited to some rallies.
  • Learning how to serve.
  • Developing a forehand.
  • Fails to return easy balls frequently and occasionally misses the ball entirely.
  • Played a few games and is learning the court lines, scoring and some basic rules of the game.

As your game advances, you will improve, and at some point become a 3.5, which means by definition you can complete a 22-item checklist where 80 percent accuracy is required. As an example, just one of those items on the checklist is the performance of backhands, and 80, not 8, percent of your backhands must land exactly where a tournament match dictates, or an evaluation instructor asks you to hit. No running around your backhand — 80 percent accuracy on backhands.

Another checklist item: 80, not 8, percent of your overheads must be effective.

Are you getting my drift?

The 4.0 evaluation requires 90 percent accuracy, not 8 or 9, on serves; 90 percent on forehand and backhand returns of serve; as well as 90 percent accuracy on both forehand and backhand volleys.

But, really, you only need ratings for one of two reasons: The first is to enter your first tournament, and the second is to help you evaluate your own game and identify your weaknesses.

On the first count, in a tournament, your competition will find your weaknesses within a half-dozen points, and slice and dice those weaknesses. As a result of your tournament performance, a computer system will then assign you a rating and track your rating going forward.

On the second count, self-analysis is good because it gives you a starting point on the path to improvement, but I don’t need to hear your self-rating or if you brushed your teeth this morning or how often you wash your underwear. Some things are better left undisclosed. Using Clark Gabel’s great line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a pickle.”

While I was in the military, I was on temporary assignment in the panhandle of Texas. One weekend, I went over to a tennis club, simply looking for someone to play. The tennis pro was somewhat rude and told me if I wanted to play as a guest at his club, I would have to play everyone listed on his various challenge ladders.

I could have called him a tennis snob, but we did not have the internet then and I could not Google the mortality rate of those who called a tall Texan with a cowboy hat and boots a snob. Did I tell him I was a 2.0, 5.0 or 99.0? Absolutely not! He didn’t want to hear it anyway. I simply respected his rules and started playing my way up each ladder until no one was left except the cowboy. Then I challenged him and lucked my way through that match.

Afterwards, we became good friends. What I learned was that his initial rudeness had nothing to do with my tennis. The locals didn’t like my uniform, and I learned that this went back to the servicemen at the local base meeting and marrying local girls. In good fun and just before I ducked, I suggested: Lose the cowboy hats and boots.

And within the world of tennis in the 1960s, when I challenged my way up the ranking ladder in Texas, it had absolutely no importance other than for me to see if I could do it. I would have been ashamed to even discuss it among my friends and fellow officers who were then going to Southeast Asia, from which many never returned, or returned terribly disfigured or dismembered.

The point this week is, regardless of contusions, conclusions or delusions, let your paddle or racket do the talking, because otherwise it is not important and we don’t care!

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.