CJ Johnson Headshot
CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

What Pickleball Tournament Play Taught Me About Rec Play

Last weekend, I competed in the Professional Pickleball Players (PPA) event in Tampa. Even though I was entered in the Senior Pro division, PPA events have skill levels and age events for all players. The division doesn’t matter. The things I garnered from those two days and what I’m about to share with you go far beyond playing in a pickleball tournament.

Let me start by saying it didn’t matter that I was playing in a pickleball tournament. It was a really good weekend! There are times when things just seem to click, and this was one of those weekends for me as a player and, more importantly, as a person.

Does that mean that I played perfect pickleball … or won all my matches … or got the gold?


I made mistakes. Both physical and mental. We did not win all our matches. And we did not win gold – or even medal.




Went out there and did our best.


Played with honor. Honor for the game, for our opponents, our partners, and, importantly, for ourselves.

Were gracious in both victory and defeat, even when it was lopsided.

When playing at a level that challenges us, and I assure you that playing Pro definitely does 🙂, we have to accept that only three out of X teams will be on the medal stand. If success is only measured by being one of those three teams (much less thinking gold alone is the metric), you will mostly not enjoy tournament play or rec play for that matter.

I walked off each court with my head held high knowing that we had left what we had on the court. Win, lose, or (almost) draw (we had an exciting match with an 18-16 result which we will be talking about more in the coming weeks), we went out there and gave it our all.

Check out Tony and our VIPickleball Members, Casey, Laurie, Bob, and Jill, in Action at PPA Tampa

What if we could apply those same lessons to rec play?

Accept and Learn from your mistakes

Don’t expect to win every game

Stop measuring your success by W’s and L’s

Leave it all on the court

Be gracious in victory and defeat. Bobby D. recently observed “Sometimes you’re the lion and other times you’re the dear in the headlights”

We’d love to know what have you learned from pickleball tournament play, fun events, or rec play? Put it in the comments below.


Tony Roig

Hola. Hello. Konichiwa. After 40 years playing tennis, I am now a full-time pickleball player and professional. As a 5.0 rated Senior Pro Pickleball Player and an IPTPA-certified Master Teaching Professional, my focus is on helping players like you learn to play their best pickleball. In 2016, shortly after starting to play pickleball, my friend Tom and I jumped into the highest division at the first US Open in Naples, Florida. That morning it became clear just how much there is to learn in this seemingly simple sport – a lifetime of learning if you so choose. Since 2018, I have been on a mission to share my knowledge of pickleball so other players can enjoy the game at a higher level and attain their pickleball objectives. When not studying or playing pickleball, I like to travel with my other half, Jill.


  1. Avatar photo Maggy on March 6, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    WoW, great reminder! Thanks for sharing.

    • Avatar photo Tony Roig on March 6, 2021 at 6:30 pm

      Glad it was helpful.

  2. Avatar photo Ginny Kotowski on March 6, 2021 at 2:57 pm

    My motto is Pickleball = Fun, Friendship and Fitness. Don’t get me wrong i.am as competitive as anyone. But as I have gotten older I realize it’s more than just a W that matters. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful insights.

    • Avatar photo Tony Roig on March 6, 2021 at 6:29 pm

      Awesome perspective on the game. Thanks for sharing

      • Avatar photo Royston Rodrigues on March 6, 2021 at 7:26 pm

        Well said. It’s not about the Ws and Ls. It’s about being competitive, giving it your best, playing with honor and being gracious. Inculcates honesty into ourselves, teaches us to watch over our partner’s back.
        Thanks Pickleball

        • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on March 13, 2021 at 8:22 pm

          You’re right, it’s about so much more than the L or the W

  3. Avatar photo Todd on March 6, 2021 at 3:38 pm

    I play with one group in rec play at one location and with a mostly different group on different days at a different location. The second group is overall much better than the first group. They are all very accepting and understanding as I make lots of mistakes. However, it is good for me to face reality and gain humility as I get clobbered in games with the second group. And I hope I am learning more techniques and strategies as I play in both groups. I play for the fun and competition. Of course, I like to win, but “the play is the thing”.

    • Avatar photo Tony Roig on March 6, 2021 at 6:29 pm

      The “play is the thing.” Love it. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Avatar photo Mark R Greenblatt on March 6, 2021 at 5:50 pm

    I was introduced to Pickle Ball for the first time this year. I know this may sound overly dramatic but Pickle Ball helped me recover from anxiety and depression which was overwhelming me. We had recently sold 0ur home in Massachusetts and made our summer home in Maine our permanent residency. The pandemic hit and my office in Massachusetts (I am a clinical social worker) was forced to close. My neighbor next door in Maine introduced me to pickle ball. I currently play twice a week.
    The anxiety is much less in my everyday life, but I hardly ever feel anxious when I am on the court. Who knew???

    • Avatar photo Tony Roig on March 6, 2021 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks for sharing Mark. Glad you found pickleball and for the positive impact it has had on your life.

  5. Avatar photo Judy on March 9, 2021 at 11:24 am

    I love the pickleball community. It is overall so accepting and willing to win and lose graciously. It has been such a wonderful experience for me. I often play with people who are better than I am and yet they are so much fun. Love the sport!

  6. Avatar photo Bob Eirons on March 22, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    As an ambassador, I take tremendous pride in the sociability of our organization. We are inclusive not exclusive. Everyone make an effort to welcome the newcomers, however we have the same challenge that many clubs have which is players want to play against at a minimum of equal talent. How to balance this is very difficult but we try very hard to balance the competitive player and the social player and ( it ain’t easy)

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