From Afar, But Right There: Navigating the Mental Game in Pickleball with Remote Coaching

The Unseen Arena: Where Real Battles UnfoldBook A Pickleball Training With Bryon Geddes

In today’s world, where the physical demands of elite sports are evident and regularly celebrated, there’s an unseen arena where the real battles take place – the mind of the athlete.

Beyond the Court: The Art of Remote Coaching

I enjoy coaching professionally from a distance. One of the main reasons is that I can place myself in an incredibly relaxed environment, devoid of stress – remaining behind the scenes, away from cameras and prying eyes to concentrate solely on the game. Being off the court allows me to evade the constant camera intrusion that often disrupts the focus of coaches, ensuring that my attention remains undivided and strictly on my athletes, especially when they’re showcasing their skills on the pickleball court. With the leverage of fast forward, slow motion, and various video advantages, critically watching their match becomes a much-refined skill. In fact, I’ve honed this skill to such an extent that I can literally scan through the game, omitting the unneeded elements, anticipate the possibilities of a timeout, and communicate via text or a live phone call. The feed delay is approximately 10 seconds. Meaning, the action that unfolds in real time, reaches me about 10 seconds later. Anticipating a timeout allows me to amass and convey detailed insights that can be crucial for the ongoing situation.

When Crisis Strikes: The Role of Trust in Remote Coaching

Today’s events further emphasize the vitality of this remote coaching method. Hours before the start time of game one, one of my professional athletes sent me a frantic text stating, “…I’m having a mental breakdown, right now!” This exact situation had arisen today. It was unprecedented. Handling such situations when I’m courtside is one thing, but addressing them remotely presents a whole different set of challenges. The fact that the athlete confided in me despite the distance speaks volumes about the trust integral to our coach-player dynamic. It’s both a privilege and a testament to the rapport we’ve built over time. The detailed nuances around proficient coaching needed to offer support in such scenarios are multifaceted and intricate.

Navigating the treacherous waters of an athlete’s mind from a distance is akin to tightrope walking in a storm. The stakes are high, and the safety nets seem sparse. But just like any coach would, I turned to the essence of my training and the foundational principles that have guided many athletes through turbulent times:

  1. Technique Over Outcome – Concentrating on winning can derail focus. Stick to technique, and the results will follow.
  2. Harnessing Stress – A dash of stress can be your ally. It’s about riding the wave, not getting swallowed by it.
  3. Visualization – Picture success, map out challenges, and carve a path through them.
  4. Crafting Pre-Event Environments – Create a sanctuary that nurtures your mental state before stepping into the arena.
  5. The Power of Positive Talk – Use affirmations as armor against doubt.
  6. Self Awareness – Know thyself; it’s the first step in mastering any external challenge.
But amidst all, one aspect reigns supreme: The power of Meditation and Concentration.

Breath to the Rescue: A Quick Meditation Guide

To help athletes in real-time, recognizing each one is unique in handling mental challenges, the most crucial recommendation should start with breathing meditation. Before I continue here’s a quick 5-step guide:

  1. Get comfy.
  2. Shut your eyes.
  3. Breathe evenly.
  4. Inhale for a count of 3, pause with abdomen full of air for the same 3 count, exhale while counting back to 1.
  5. Keep going, aiming for a count of 10 while inhaling, 10 holding air in the abdomen, and again, 10 while exhaling.
Harnessing Mini-Meditations: Small Moments with Big Impacts

When crises strike, particularly ones that threaten mental equilibrium, returning to one’s breath, the very essence of life, can anchor a wandering mind. Meditation isn’t just about sitting in a quiet room; it’s about finding peace amid chaos.

Not everyone has the luxury of setting aside dedicated time for meditation. Hence, the power of mini-meditations. Moments, no matter how brief, to reconnect with one’s essence. From a simple breath exercise to a quick visual tour of gratitude, these short moments of mindfulness can rejuvenate the mind, preparing it for the next challenge.

In sports, just as in life, the journey is as crucial as the destination. While we train for the destination, it’s these mindful moments, these mini-meditations, that illuminate the path. So, as you lace up for your next challenge, remember the tools you have, not just in your training bag but within you. Harness them. Mastery is as much about the mind as it is about the body.

In conclusion, let’s take some of my “Mini-Meditations” garnered through decades of competition personally – and apply them to into context to aid a coach when they are not on the sideline:

1. Breath Awareness

    • Pickleball Application: Encourage your players to take deep breaths before each serve. This calms nerves, sharpens focus, and prepares them for the point ahead. As a coach, monitor their breathing patterns through video to gauge their stress and stamina levels.

2. Scan the Body

    • Pickleball Application: Although you’re not present, observing players through video can allow you to notice signs of physical strain or discomfort. Teach your players to do a quick mental scan of their body between points to identify any areas that feel tense or fatigued.

3. Grounding Techniques

    • Pickleball Application: Advise players to feel the court under their feet, especially during timeouts. This simple grounding act can help players reconnect with the present moment, refocusing their mind away from errors or external pressures.

4. Observing Sounds

    • Pickleball Application: The sound of a well-hit ball (hitting the sweet spot!) or the shuffle of the feet can provide cues about a player’s form and rhythm. Encourage your players to be aware of these sounds as it can indicate the pace and energy of the game.

5. Tuning into Emotions

    • Pickleball Application: Though you can’t always see their faces, voice intonations during timeouts or between games can be a clue. Train your athletes to recognize and label their emotions – whether it’s frustration, excitement, or nervousness – and use techniques to either harness or mitigate those feelings.

6. Mindful Eating and Drinking

    • Pickleball Application: Hydration and nutrition are crucial during matches. Encourage players to consciously consume their water and energy snacks, using the act as a moment to reconnect and revitalize.

7. Gratitude Check-in

    • Pickleball Application: During breaks or timeouts, remind your athletes to reflect on a positive aspect of their performance or something they’re grateful for. This positivity can shift their mindset, especially after a tough point or game.

8. Counting Blessings

    • Pickleball Application: Have your players recognize the opportunity they have to play and compete. This gratitude towards their skills, health, and the game can increase their motivation and performance.

9. Nature Observation

    • Pickleball Application: If the court is outdoors, encourage players to take a moment to feel the sun, the wind, or hear the birds. This simple act can be refreshing and rejuvenating, breaking the cycle of stress or overthinking.

10. Mantras and Affirmations

    • Pickleball Application: Equip your players with a personal mantra or affirmation that they can repeat during the game, like “Stay strong,” “One point at a time,” or “I’ve got this.” This repetition can bolster their confidence and focus.

11. Present Moment Awareness

    • Pickleball Application: Players should treat every opportunity to connect their paddle with the ball as a new opportunity, letting go of past mistakes. By staying in the present, they can strategize better and respond swiftly to their opponents.

12. Loving-kindness

    • Pickleball Application: Encourage your players to send positive vibes to themselves, their partner (in doubles), and even their opponents. A positive and sportsmanlike attitude can improve their overall game demeanor and effectiveness.

By incorporating these mindful mini-meditations into your remote coaching approach for pickleball, you can help your players maintain mental clarity and resilience, regardless of the in-game pressures they face.


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