Control the Controllables

Dancing with your partner is typically when the A-HA moment happens at bootcamp!
This is when we really get into the strategies of partner play – “Where do I stand when my partner does this?” and “What should my partner do when I do that?”
And at almost every bootcamp, I get the following question:
“I don’t have a consistent partner! How do I get my partner to dance with me during rec play?”
That’s a tough one! But there are some things that you can do when your partner won’t do the jitterbug (or twist!) with you!

It can be very frustrating when you have a not-so-willing dancing partner! (Or a partner who won’t replace the toilet paper, or who is always late, or trying to teach a cat to come when you call it, or, well, you get the idea!)
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do to change your partner’s habits! Especially in the short span of a rec game.
Yes, it’s frustrating, but you can make it a bit easier on your partner (and on yourself!).
Imagine that you have a partner that doesn’t move side to side – he or she plants himself or herself in the middle of the box at the line (Yes! The old this is my half of the court and that’s your half strategy!).
Because you like hitting cross-court dinks, you begin to notice that your partner isn’t covering that third alley, and your partner is getting burned time and time again!
So you have some options – you could talk to your partner, you could call a time out and discuss movement and positioning, you could certainly roll your eyes…
And as you already guessed, these probably wouldn’t be very productive!
You can only control the controllables! There’s a good chance you’re not going to change your partner’s habits or strategies in an 11 point rec game!
But here’s what you can do – you can control your game to make it a bit easier for your partner, and as an added bonus, get less frustrated!
In this example, consider your partner – maybe their movement isn’t as good as yours, maybe they don’t understand how the court is divided into three alleys instead of two boxes – whatever the case, you can control only what you can control, not your partner!
Try shortening up those cross-court dinks so they are more to the middle of the court or at least in front of your partner. This way, your partner will be less out of position (and maybe less frustrated, too!).

And some final words about partner rec play

It’s super easy to get frustrated and annoyed when your partner is having a bad game!
And again, you can control only what you can control. Try being more encouraging during the game – if your partner sees the eye rolls and hears the sighs of annoyance, their game will probably get worse.
No one comes out to the pickleball court with the intent of playing poorly! And when they’re having a bad game, they know it more than you do!
Stay positive for you and your partner. When they make a good shot, let them know it! When they make a bad shot, don’t discourage and move on to the next point (trust me, there’ll be plenty more!).
After all, it’s only pickleball!

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