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What AI Can Teach Us About Playing Better Pickleball

by Adam Forziati on

We hear a lot about artificial intelligence these days. But how can we use it to play better pickleball?

It turns out that the latest advanced AI model, ChatGPT, may have some tips for you.

But it certainly can't put its money where its proverbial mouth is...

If you haven’t heard of ChatGPT, it’s basically an advanced AI chatbot that can answer just about any question. Including ones about pickleball strategy.

A user in the Pickleball Forum Facebook group recently asked ChatGPT to explain the most important skills in pickleball.

The artificial intelligence model listed the following in order of importance:

  1. Hand-Eye Coordination: Good hand-eye coordination is critical for making quick reflex shots and for placing shots accurately.
  2. Footwork: Quick and agile footwork is essential for moving around the court, reaching for shots, and staying in position.
  3. Shot Variety: Having a range of shots in your arsenal, such as dinks, drives, and lobs, can help you keep your opponent off balance and control the pace of the game.
  4. Anticipation: The ability to anticipate your opponent's shots and to be in position to respond quickly is key to success in pickleball.
  5. Strategic Thinking: Pickleball is a game of strategy, and having a good understanding of the court, the rules, and your opponent's strengths and weaknesses can give you an edge.
  6. Mental Toughness: Pickleball can be a physically and mentally demanding sport, and the ability to stay focused and keep your composure under pressure is crucial.
  7. Endurance: Pickleball games can be long and intense, so having good cardiovascular fitness and endurance is important.
  8. Communication: Good communication with your partner, whether it's through verbal cues or nonverbal signals, can help you play as a cohesive team.

There may be room for debate as to where we’d place certain items on that list, but it seems comprehensive and fairly accurate.

Remember our blog about fast hands versus power (and Ben Johns’ answer)? We figured ChatGPT could answer that question, too.

An image made using a different AI service. The prompt was "playing pickleball."

We asked, “In pickleball, which skill is more important: ‘fast hands’ (which is the ability to react quickly to incoming balls), or overall power?”

Here is its slightly noncommittal response:

Both "fast hands" and overall power can be important skills in pickleball, but the relative importance of each can depend on the player's level of play and their playing style.

In general, having fast hands can be especially important for beginners and intermediate players, as it helps them to react to incoming balls and make successful returns. Having good hand-eye coordination and reaction time can help players cover the court more effectively and keep the rally going.

On the other hand, as players progress to more advanced levels, overall power becomes increasingly important. This is because advanced players tend to play with more pace and attempt more aggressive shots, which often require more power. Additionally, having more power can help players create more margin for error and finish points more quickly.

If an advanced artificial intelligence model says it, it must be true!

To describe how useful this AI actually is, let's use an analogy. Politicians are often called many things, be it "useless" or something more explicit. But they are, after all, just people from the same country as you and I.

Similarly, the AI's responses to the above prompts are just compilations of data already in existence that was written by real people.

So, all things considered, it seems as though real humans have a fairly strong grasp of meaningful pickleball strategy. Otherwise, how could the AI model?

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