When you find yourself in a threatening situation, your natural reaction is to tighten all your muscles and hold your breath, and that’s the last thing you want to do. You need to find ways to counteract those natural tendencies. You want to be relaxed and calm. You want to be breathing properly, so you can think clearly and handle whatever comes your way.
While pickleball is hardly life-threatening, our bodies and minds react to conflict with our opponents similarly, If your opponents discover you're the weaker player, you will be their main target. It's hard not to get flustered. Or after a particularly bad run of luck, it's hard not to think you've lost it and won't be able to get it back. But you have to keep your composure to help your team finish the game.
Great pickleball players (like all great athletes) seem to have an innate ability to be relaxed and comfortable in pressure situations. But these are skills that can be learned. Taking lessons from coaches of other sports can be valuable, as the mental game is similar in many of them.
Many pickleball players are discovering the benefits of yoga and proper breathing techniques (see "Yoga for Pickleball" for more information). Meditation and visualization techniques can also play a huge part in helping the mind relax and overcome the fear that accompanies tension.
Even if you can't practice all of these techniques in depth while you're on the court, you can develop mini-versions of your usual routines that can be done between shots. When you find