Third Shot Drop

How to Properly Warm Up Your Body and Mind Before Taking the Pickleball Court

April 30 2024

If you are an avid pickleball player, odds are you have played a competitive game of some sort, whether it’s a local moneyball, a charity event, or even a PPA or APP-sanctioned tournament.

If you haven’t, maybe you are starting to consider it.

Competing offers pickleball players the opportunity to apply their practiced shots and skills in a high-pressure environment instead of in an open play or recreational format like they might be used to.

To play your best on game day, good preparation is key. Here is my ideal pickleball pre-match warmup routine.

Your warmup starts off the court

Get a good night’s sleep, and eat a good breakfast

The majority of competitive pickleball tournaments or games start in the morning. It is crucial to get good sleep the night before. Feeling well-rested will help you conquer nerves and give you the energy to last throughout the event.

Try your best to get a good night's sleep, even if it means going to bed an hour or two earlier.

Eat a good, protein-rich breakfast on the morning of your competition. Personally, I like to have eggs, bacon, and either toast or a bagel. I also like to drink an entire bottle of water with breakfast to help me stay hydrated throughout the long day.

If you're not a breakfast eater, try drinking a protein shake or eating a nutrient bar to help your energy levels immediately.

Get to the courts at least an hour before you start

If my tournament or bracket begins at 10am, I will try to arrive at the courts no later than 9am. Before you hit your first dink, make sure you have all your equipment ready to go, and you're in the right frame of mind.

You should ready your paddles with any added weights or overgrips well in advance of your first match–ideally, the day before. Pack a towel, extra clothes, glasses, drinks, snacks, etc.

Being overprepared will provide peace of mind throughout the day.

Next, I like to spend a few minutes meditating or practicing mindfulness. Playing competitive pickleball can be stressful and oftentimes feels chaotic. Taking a few moments before this allows me to feel grounded and in control.

Clearing your mind can be a great way to help calm nerves and ensure that you start the bracket feeling your best.

Take the court and warm up

It's finally time to take the court for your warmup. I start dynamic movements about an hour before I'm set to begin play. The amount of time needed to feel warm and ready differs for everyone, so listen to your body and spend as much or as little time as you need to get ready.

I start on the court by running a few laps to get loose and then go through my old dynamic warm-up from college tennis. This typically involves 5-10 minutes of dynamic exercises like high knees, side shuffles, karaoke steps, lunges, and some light stretching.

Find a few exercises that work for you and build a routine—consistency is key.

After exercising alone, I'll grab my doubles partner or a friend and go through every pickleball shot.

  • Dinks down the line, then crosscourt
  • Midcourt shots and resets
  • Baseline drives and drops

Have your partner at the net hitting deep roll volleys to your feet. Do this from all sides of the court, then switch roles. Spend about 3-5 minutes or so on each.

Then, I practice serves and returns for about 2-3 minutes.

If you are playing singles, spend an extra minute or so hitting deep serves. If you’re playing doubles, just hitting a few serves is enough.

Lastly, return to the kitchen and spend 2-3 minutes doing fast hand volley exchanges to warm up your reflexes. After this, it’s up to you and your partner to play some practice points against another team.

If you can’t find two more, play skinny singles with each other to simulate doubles points.

You are warmed up and ready to go to battle

As you have learned, a good warmup for a tournament or competition begins the night before. The most important part of tournament prep is feeling relaxed both the night before and the morning of and being prepared for the unexpected.

Sleeping well, eating well, and having all your equipment ready before driving to the competition site are huge ways to give you peace of mind. Once there, familiarize yourself with the courts and the site. Meditate, listen to your favorite playlist, and get in the zone.

Finally, take the court and ensure you get a substantial dynamic warm-up before lightly going through all the pickleball shots. Remember that while competition can be higher stakes and more nerve-wracking than traditional rec play, the goal is to play your best and have fun!

I hope this article will help you in your competitive play. Best of luck in your next tournament. Thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for the next article.

Enjoy the grind, and remember, you can’t dink all day if you don’t start in the morning.

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