Setting goals for your pickleball game
By: CJ Johnson | December 21, 2023 |

4 Ways to Craft Your Resolutions, Intentions, and Goals for Pickleball Success in the New Year

2023 is winding down quickly! Most of us don’t think too much about our goals for the new year until New Year’s Eve, but having a good plan in advance can significantly increase your probability of realizing your dreams.

If pickleball is a passion, there’s a good chance you have some goals attached to your game. We’re all inspired and motivated differently, so we’ve come up with 4 ways to approach your 2024 pickleball goals.

Make a Resolution

Tried & true, a New Year’s Resolution is a great go-to for setting an aim for your game in 2024. 

 Typically, a resolution is a goal that will take you the better part of the year to accomplish, or a new habit you want to establish over the course of a year.  

If you decide to go the resolution route, be sure to make yours something concrete you can measure and track. Examples might be:

  • I resolve to become a 3.5 player
  • I will make my way to the “challenge” courts at my club/park and feel comfortable playing there
  • I will drill 3x/week for 30 minutes or more all year (define what “drilling” means, what can you do when it’s
    cold, or raining, or if you are injured)
  • I will work on my fitness/endurance so that I can play for 2+ hours and maintain my energy and focus. If fitness is a 2023 goal for you, and you’d like some added accountability, we have great news! CJ Johnson is launching an 8-week Pickleball Fitness Challenge through the Better Pickleball Academy. The 8-Week Fitness Pickleball Challenge is designed to meet players at their current fitness levels and help them develop the stamina and muscle strength they need to play their best. No need for fancy workouts or going to the gym. All you’ll need is a pair of shoes and an open mind. Registration for the challenge opens 12/26, and CJ is hosting a live kick-off workshop on 1/10. Make sure you are registered for Better Pickleball emails to get notified!

Then, make a plan to check in with yourself on a regular basis throughout the year. Depending on your goal, that might be weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Make a note in your calendar, or set a reminder for yourself on your phone. Set milestones for each week, month, or quarter. 

It’s important to remember that the failure rate for New Year’s Resolutions is in the neighborhood of 80%, with most people abandoning their plans by mid-February. So if your 2024 pickleball goal is really important to you, you may want to consider some other options…


Set an Intention

Setting an intention for your game is different than setting a goal or making a resolution. While a goal is typically an external accomplishment, something you wish to achieve, an intention is more internally focused, describing how you want to feel or a frame of mind you’d like to embody.

In her book The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control: A Path to Peace and Power, Katherine Morgan Schafler describes intentions this way: 

“Intentions are expressed not through what you do, but through how you do it, not if you do it, but why you do it.”

“Your intention is the energy and purpose behind your striving; your goal is what you’re striving for. When you set an intention, you’re giving yourself a way to feel success, satisfaction, and enjoyment during the process, not just in the afterglow of success.”

“When you are honoring your intention, you are consistently animating your values. If kindness is a value, you’re not just kind when people are watching; you’re kind all the time. You’re not kind because you get credit, and you don’t need external validation to tell you whether you’re being kind or not; you already know.”

Examples of pickleball intentions could include:

  • I want to re-capture the feeling of fun and joy I had when I was first introduced to the game
  • I want to become a better, more encouraging partner 
  • I want to feel connected to the people I am playing with

It’s important to note that resolutions (or goals) and intentions are not mutually exclusive. You can have a goal with or without an intention, and conversely, you can set an intention for your pickleball year and have a goal attached to it…or not. It’s up to you.


Choose a One-Word Theme

So you’ve tried resolutions and intentions and the results have been…underwhelming. Maybe it’s time to try a One-Word Theme for 2024!

The goal is to think of one word (or a very short phrase) that sums up the experience you want to have with pickleball this year. 

Maybe the word comes to you right away, or maybe it will take you some time and brainstorming to find just the right word or phrase. Once you decide, consider finding an image to accompany your word, something you can sprinkle through your daily life to remind you and keep you on track. Examples of one-word themes and their symbols include:

  • One-Word Theme: Gold. Because I’m going to win my first gold medal in 2024. And/or because I’m going to live by the golden rule when playing pickleball. Change your phone screen-saver to sparkly gold (or get a gold phone case). Buy a gold bracelet that you can wear while playing. Find a t-shirt that says “Pure Gold” that you’ll wear while drilling.
  •  One-Word Theme: Four. Because this is the year I’m going to get to 4.0. And I’m going to find 3 other people (for a total of 4) who share this goal and I’m going to organize a regular game with them. Also, I’m going to drill 4x a week all year. Find a necklace with a “4” charm that you wear when you play. Set an alarm for 4:00pm every day as a check-in to make sure you’ve done what you need to do that day to reach your goal (and if you haven’t, do it now). Come up with a series of exercises or drills that you do for 4 minutes each.


Make a “24 for 2024” List

This idea comes from author and podcaster Gretchin Rubin and her sister Elizabeth, who have been creating these lists for many years as part of their Happier Podcast. They’ve even created a download for your list.

This is my favorite way to approach my annual goals, because it is a great combination of large and small aims, as well as serious and “just for fun” items. And it allows me to include priorities from every part of my life (including pickleball).

You could make a list of 24 pickleball-related things, OR just carve out a segment of your 24 for 2024 list that is dedicated to your game. 

Items on a 24 for 2024 list are typically very specific, and it’s important not to overload the list with big stuff. Too many “heavy lift” tasks is not realistic and can quickly become self-defeating. Finding just the right combination of small tasks and big goals takes time, and spoiler alert: you will NOT get all of your 24 list items accomplished. 

Here are a few 24 for 2024 pickleball thought starters:

  • Play in my first tournament
  • Get a group of friends together to go to the new Chicken N Pickle (or similar concept in your area)
  • Find a regular drilling partner(s)
  • Research and demo to figure out the right paddle for my game
  • Find the perfect pickleball bag
  • Attend a pickleball camp
  • Review my pickleball emails and un-subscribe from the lists that don’t make sense for me or that I’m not reading regularly
  • Get certified as a ref
  • Introduce Bob to pickleball 
  • Listen to a few episodes of at least 3 pickleball podcasts to find one I can listen to on the way to the court (might we suggest Tony’s Podcast, Pickleball Therapy?)

The possibilities are endless with this one! 

As you approach the new year, will pickleball play a role in your resolutions, intentions, themes, or lists? Leave a note in the comments…your ideas may very well inspire your fellow players!

CJ Johnson

Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)