“I’ve never lost a match that wasn’t my partner’s fault”
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
What is it about paddle that makes largely good and successful individuals completely lose any semblance of self-awareness? And I am not talking about a handful, I think the paddle community, by and large, is one of the least self-aware groups I have come across - and I am part of the problem - but why?
I grew up playing team and individual sports but I never really played a partner sport. So maybe it's just that, partner sports lend themselves to blaming your partner. However, I suggest the uniqueness of paddle is the real cause. Paddle is about minimizing unforced errors. At its core, it is a simple game for those amongst us with self-discipline and patience - something that at times I lack. Consistent and defensive play can win just about every set. I cannot think of too many things like it. Thus, the sheer stupidity of our shot selection is so obvious when we see it (e.g. from our partners or opponents) yet we cannot imagine being that careless ourselves. It is merely self-perseverance. We think too highly of ourselves so we shade the truth.
This lack of self-awareness, however, is a huge impediment to improvement in both our games and our partnerships. Think about other facets of our lives and how much we learn from our mistakes (returning from paddle at a reasonable hour is excluded). Think also about those people in our lives who never take accountability and how that influences our opinion of them. Think about how healthier your on-court partnership would be if you consistently acknowledged your mistakes, took ownership of a game and/or set loss rather than silently (or in some cases not so silently) growing angry at your partner.
It would be so helpful if, after every set, we were presented with real, objective data from the match (number of unforced errors, service percentage, winners, etc.). I believe gross unforced errors (total number) or net unforced errors (total unforced errors less winners) would be an amazingly telling stat with an extraordinarily high correlation to skill level and wins/losses.
In lieu of such objective data, there is one method of practice that I have found to be insightful. With an extra person or two, play a set. Have a non-participant track unforced errors (and potentially winners). The arguments alone regarding how that shot was a “forced error” are priceless. Either at a pre-determined number (first person to 10 gross (or net) unforced errors) or at the conclusion of the set, one person has to shotgun a beer (or any other “punishment”). Until the shotguns kick in, the quality of paddle miraculously improves and the frustration moves from your partner to the objective party scoring the errors!
A mediocre (being generous here) D4 player