Trophies- IOHO, the above title is alliteration at its finest – how many five-word article titles can you name where every word starts with “T”? Buried in that tremendous title, however, is a powerful point. Pickleball is expected to be a bit edgier than some silly, staid and sedate sports. (OK, we couldn’t help it…we’ll stop now…)
Think about this; how many sports have a strategy that involves you regularly hitting your opponent with the ball? Given that disrespectful but well-accepted strategy, doesn’t it hold, too, that good-natured trash-talk already has and should have a place in pickleball?
But, irrespective of your opinion, (and BTW when we want your opinion, we’ll give it to you! – LOL – we only promised to stop the alliteration, not the trash-talk), trash-talking, or talking smack, or (in cricket), sledging, or (in ice hockey) chirping, all meaning a specific type of mildly belittling verbal needling, already exists between peers, friends and sometimes rivals in every sport we know, including pickleball. It’s already there, and so are other forms of verbal jousting, which we will also discuss.
So, to start, given that trash-talking will occur, what do YOU need to know about this facet of our favorite game? Well, we once outlined in one paragraph some ground-rules for trash-talking (in a longer article about pickleball rules of etiquette) that we believe every pickler could follow. Let’s start with a review of that paragraph:
Trash-talking, which is teasing your opponents in a fun and lighthearted way, is part of pickleball. It’s one of the things that distinguishes us from our more formal and reserved counterparts who play tennis (unless of course they are playing “Team Tennis” – in which case they are just as “bad” as we are!) But be careful – don’t trash-talk someone who is sensitive, who you don’t know, who is a weaker player or can’t for any reason trash-talk back. Do we need to say the obvious – don’t trash-talk someone’s physical or mental limitations, use racial or other politically incorrect statements (at ANY time in your life!), and etc.? Statements like “You could have got that before you lost your leg!” would NOT be considered appropriate. (However), among peers, “you could have got that LAST year!” might be considered appropriate. Just be careful.
Another good example? Our good friend Ralph (name changed) came up with one on-court recently, when he reminded A.J. that he “could have got that five years ago when you could still play.” This one is perfect, so close to true for A.J. that he has vowed to “get” Ralph by whatever means necessary, although we don’t believe he means anything very serious by that, probably stopping short of putting flaming bags of doggy-product on Ralph’s doorstep. But it cost him a couple of points that game while he thought about it, although he remembers that they came back to win the game anyway, Ralph being a fairly weak player once you shut his mouth, assuming that to be possible.
(Note: on the court remarks are better than off, of course. Perfect timing would be to make the remark immediately after your opponent has made an egregious unforced error. However, off the court can work, too. Even more recently another friend, George, asked A.J. if he knew the difference between being a good writer and a prolific writer. A.J. said he did and claimed he was both, which was good repartee but which remark he will be thinking about the next time he plays George, most probably.)
Are there other conventions you should consider when employing trash-talk? Yes. While it is not exclusive to men by any means, trash-talking seems (to us) to be a more normal conversational mode between men. Again, the appearance (to us) is that women, for whatever reason, are somewhat more careful (nicer) with each other. By extension, in regular play AJ would not expect to be trash-talking most of the women we play against, and Irene almost never would at all (although she’s been known to razz the men and get it coming back, which is probably fair as she usually starts it). This is a generalization, of course, and we recognize differences and exceptions will occur. But to the extent it’s practiced more glibly by men with each other. this informs on the practice in terms of when it can be best used without giving lasting offense…..to net it out, probably it should be used less often in Mixed than in Men’s Doubles.
Do you remember we also mentioned, earlier, that there other verbal tactics to use to throw your opponents off-speed a bit? You bet there are. One of our favorites is to effusively compliment our opponent on making a difficult (not necessarily spectacular) shot. It’s amazing how many times they will “net” the next attempt they have at the same shot.
Another we’ve seen used is to take an opponent’s shot you are going to let go as good – it’s best here if it’s clearly good, in fact – and ask your opponent if they saw it. Since of course that throws authority (and responsibility) for the call on them, and even tho they will call the shot as good (‘cuz it was), somehow many folks seem to be willing to be guilty about calling their own shot as “in”. We know that once we give them the call, that call stands, so insure you only give them the calls you are gonna call “in” anyway. And if for some reason they mistakenly call that shot “out” against themselves, then you have the perfect chance to overrule them and call it good instead – psychologically, you’ve now won the match, as you have out-sportsman-ed them by an order of magnitude. This is an advanced technique, so it would be well to practice it in front of a mirror.
(We admit to that one being a bit manipulative. We feel really badly for even bringing it up. But since it works we felt you deserved to know about it.)
A third is to cough and verbalize at the same time. Like, for instance, practice right now with this….cough and say “LUCKYSHOT!” at the same time. It’s easy to get the hang of this and it’s great fun at cocktail parties. Best, in pickleball games, people almost always take this as expressing a negative against them that they can’t quite understand, so they’re thinking about it. And then they are missing the next shot because they are thinking about it. But why can’t they understand it? Because you, in fact, are going to say POSITIVES with this cough. So in this case it would be “WOWGREATSHOT!” instead of “lucky shot”. Do you get it? It’s simple reverse psychology, set to music, as it were. Plus it’s so cool to watch people trying to ignore you, or, better yet, for you to know they can’t ignore you and did hear you, unless they are have a hearing loss, which only one-third of us seniors have. So you have a two-to-one chance of being heard, and we like those odds.
There are more and different verbal tactics we use, some we think you can also use, and we hope to share them with you and let you explore them soon in the days to come. We will write about these other ideas shortly, and would appreciate hearing back from you if you have others, as well.