We all evaluate our performance when we play. Some may use a different metric (performance = how we did vis a vis our metric), but most players use the Win/Loss metric. Win lots of games, and we feel great. Lose lots of games, and we feel not as great.
The objective of this article is not to debunk the W/L Metric – that is debunked in this article: https://betterpickleball.com/why-do-you-play-pickleball/. The objective of this article is to explore other pickleball metrics that we can use when we play; metrics that are more productive – on and off the court.
There is a productive metric here that will work for you. Identify the area that you most want to focus on, pick the applicable metric, then lock it in before you head out to the courts. If it helps you, make a note of it somewhere on your person or paddle. It is easy to forget a new habit or way of thinking we are trying to instill in our play and to slide into what we are used to doing.
These metrics are organized into “big picture” and “specific to play.” These groupings are not to suggest that one type of metric is better than another. Just a way of making sense of them.
Big Picture Pickleball Metrics
These metrics are, as the name suggests, “big picture.” They are designed to focus us on something that is a part of pickleball but adjacent in the sense that it is not just about how we played a game. There are so many other important facets to our pickleball lives. These metrics will help you maximize your overall experience.
This one is exactly what it sounds like. This pickleball metric (group of metrics, actually) is focused on how you are as a partner. Not in terms of the shots you hit or your movement during a game. They revolve around how you make your partner feel. Here are several sub-metrics you can use. Not every sub-metric applies to every player. I have ordered them in order of “stop doing these first” (if they apply to you) to “I would be even better if.”
1. I avoided the dreaded eye roll/shoulder slump/verbal “ugh” when my partner hit a shot that I thought was less than the best.
Pick the signal that you use that might be bringing negative energy to your partner (in addition to probably making them feel “no bueno”). Work on removing that from your game. Your focus is on avoiding this behavior.
2. I offered “corrections” only when appropriate and when my partner was open to receiving my suggestion.
It is not the favorite thing for a player when they are constantly being told by their partner everything they are doing wrong or could be doing better. That is not to say never give advice to your partner but do so only if your partner is open to it. You can ask to make sure. And do it when the time is right. A good rule of thumb: after the game is completed.
3. I turn to the middle after every rally.
CJ turned me on to this one, and we recommend it at all of our camps. If you turn to the outside, even if you mean nothing by it, your partner may interpret that you are upset or let down. If you turn to the middle – and make eye contact with your partner (particularly if you layer in one of the next ones), then.
4. I tap paddles – or offer to tap paddles with my partner.
There is ample research that when partners connect – high fives, butt slaps, paddle taps – they and their team perform better. Paddle tap is such a pickleball thing. Embrace it and use it with those partners who will embrace it with you. At least have it available.
5. Giving positive feedback
A shoutout to Kyle – thatpickleballguy –for helping us focus on partner play and share these with you. He calls this one being your partner’s hype man – cheerleader, if you will. The key here is to be specific. Not just “great shot,” but “that was an awesome volley. Great placement.” You get the idea. Build your partner up, and: (a) you are doing a good thing, plus (b) your team will play stronger.
6. I pulled my partner out of the doldrums.
This one is a gold star for you, for sure. There are times when our partner feels like they have two left feet. Like they cannot do anything right. If you can turn that around, then kudos to you. Perhaps seek out a player having a bad day and offer to play with them. You are reaching Ph.D. partner status here.
Partner having bad day tip: our friend Jenn taught us this one at one of our camps. She was partnered with another player in some games, and her partner was spiraling a bit, feeling like she could not do anything right. Jenn extended her paddle to her partner. When her partner tapped the paddle, Jenn said, “Alright, all of those bad shots are now off your paddle – I got you.” Picture the smile that came across the face of Jenn’s teammate, and you would be halfway there.
It is likely that pickleball has had a major impact on your life. I know it has in my and Jill’s lives. Not only do we enjoy the sport. We have traveled all over the country and even overseas around pickleball. Heck – I changed careers to become a full-time pickleball professional instructor.
These metrics revolve around spreading and growing our game so that we – as well as others – can enjoy pickleball. You are doing the big work here.
I do not like the title of this metric, but let’s not mince words to get to the bigger picture. There are many times when players will not play with other players because they are not deemed to be good enough. The flaw here is that if we all did this, then no player would ever get to play with a better player.
Let’s not forget that we all started a few rungs down the ladder from where we are now. Make this your metric, and let’s keep extending a hand to those on the climb behind us.
2. Give the Gift of Pickleball
Not sure how you got to pickleball, but there’s a good chance that someone gave you the gift. There is likely at least one person in your life who would benefit from being exposed to pickleball. Perhaps they have lost a loved one, are new empty nesters, could use some more physical activity, or just would enjoy some socialization.
As I write this, I have decided to make this my metric. And I have my people in mind.
3. Saying hello to someone new
This might be as simple as introducing yourself to someone who you have not yet met at your courts. Extra credit if you are the person to first speak with someone new who drops by your courts while you are there. You also get credit if you go deeper in your connection with a player you already know.
If you are looking for functional play metrics – positive pickleball metrics that you can use to gauge your play to improve – got you covered here too. These metrics are much better than win/loss. You will actually be able to track them in a constructive way and use them.
1.No Net Please
The lowest-hanging fruit here is keeping the ball out of the net. The net is the only player or obstacle that you cannot beat; it is undefeated against all comers.
So what do we do? We keep the ball out of the net – even if it means risking a slam shot.
With this metric, you keep track of shots into the net. Then you work on reducing them.
2. Return of Serve (or other shot)
It is simply impossible to win pickleball games if you repeatedly miss returns of serve. Each missed return of serve equals a gifted point. Pay particular attention to this shot.
You can input any shot you are having difficulty with here: serve, fourth shot, volley, third shot (though do not put this one in until you have solved the other ones – not sure what I am talking about, then you need to come to our Most Important Shot Workshop (there is no cost to you).
3. Hitting the better shot
This one may take a minute to click, but it works like this: each one has a tendency to hit shots that are less than optimal. For me, it used to be (and still rears its head) attacking down the middle off a bounced ball only to see the ball come back even harder at me or my partner.
Identify the tendency that gets your team into trouble, and then note how often you are still doing it. Rushing to the NVZ with abandon on the third shot. Not making it to the NVZ after your return and having to hit the fourth shot in transition. Whatever it is, that is your focus.
Pickleball Metrics Conclusion
You do not need to maintain exact stats on any of these metrics. Just noticing them (“Ouch, I hit the ball into the net”) will have a positive effect in that you are: (a) recognizing the mistake and (b) less likely to do it again (you will associate a negative reaction to the cause and your brain will automatically try to avoid it).
The better you get at moving away from useless metrics – like Win/Loss – towards useful and even big-picture metrics, the better you will feel about your relationship with pickleball. And the better you will play. Stay well out there.
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)