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How to Deal With THAT GUY in Open Play

by Jason Flamm on

THAT GUY is the worst. You know which one I’m talking about. Everyone has played with THAT GUY before. Sometimes, THAT GUY isn't a guy. It can also be THAT GIRL or just THAT PERSON.

We'll shine a light on the type of pickleball player everyone loves to hate and how to handle it when you’re stuck playing with them. 

Who exactly is THAT GUY?

Some people have an amazing ability to take all the fun out of playing pickleball, which is quite impressive because playing pickleball sure is fun as hell.

THAT GUY is one of those people.

The moment you see them, you know exactly what's coming, and your only goal is not to end up on the 7 o'clock news for un-aliving someone.

Be careful though, THAT GUY wears many faces.

THAT GUY is "The Coach"

Of course, he's not really a coach. He's likely not even that good. Typically, these types of people watch far too many YouTube videos, listen to too many podcasts, or watch way too much pro pickleball on TV. 

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Every chance they get, they regurgitate the things smarter people have said to anyone unfortunate enough to get stuck with them as a partner. 

When you make a mistake, they tell you how to do it better. When you miss a third-shot drop, they try to show you the motion you should be using. 

They may mean well – hell, they may even be right. But, the last thing anyone needs when they’re on the court is someone offering advice they never asked for. Now, you’re stuck in your head, hoping you don’t make another mistake, which causes you to play too tight and make even more mistakes.

How to play with "The Coach"

Simply put, don't listen to him. Even if his advice is sound, there is a time and place for pickleball lessons. And, if that’s not what you’re interested in doing right now, then it’s best to let it go in one ear and out the other. 

THAT GUY just wants to prove he's smarter than everyone else. So let him talk, and you just play pickleball. If it gets too annoying, tell him you read The Dink, so you don’t need his advice on how to play.

THAT GUY is a ball hog

Poaching isn’t just for eggs. THAT GUY lives for it. Of course, if you try to say or do anything about it, he’ll just use the excuse, “That’s how the pros play.” 

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THAT GUY is NOT a pro. 

Instead, he’s just someone who likes to steal every ball on the court and make excuses every time he misses a drive or hits another dink into the tape.

How to play with a ball hog

The tough part about playing with ball hogs is that they can also be dangerous. Holding your ground or sticking your arm out in front of them can cause a collision and seriously injure someone. 

Because of this, your only real option is to speak up. 

If you’re worried about a confrontation, you could say something like, "Hey, I'm working on my backhand. I'd like to take those shots if they come my way."

If they mumble something about "left side,” “my forehand,” or “blah blah mixed doubles," Then be prepared to step into one of their next poaching opportunities. I'm not saying you should hurt them (and certainly don’t hurt yourself), but just something to let them know you're there.

If you don't want to risk that, I suggest doing your best to get through the match and simply avoid playing with them again. If they're your friend or part of your regular group, try to talk with them off the court about it. People can be more reasonable when not in the heat of competition. 

If they still do it ask other players to stop playing with them too.

Maybe they’ll find another pickleball group to pester.

THAT GUY is too cool for 3.5s

As we get better, we all want to play against better competition. There's nothing wrong with that. However, the very nature of open play dictates that anyone can show up and play. 

Unless a process is in place to pair up similar-level players, then you’re going to have to play with and against newer and weaker-skilled pickleballers.

We all have to do it. 

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However, THAT GUY will make a point to display just how awful his playing partner is. THAT GUY rolls his eyes, shrugs, and will even make faces behind his partner's back. 

THAT GUY is a terrible teammate.

How to play with “too cool for 3.5s"

Take the high road. Understand that it’s not you, it’s them.

Try your best to be a good teammate and encourage other players when they make a great shot. 

It’s going to be difficult. But, you can do it. Also, there is one thing that you absolutely cannot do when playing THAT GUY.

Never apologize.

Apologizing on the court is one of the silliest things pickleball players do. What are you apologizing for exactly? Did you hit it into the net for the fifth time on purpose? 

No. You're doing your best and if that’s not enough for someone, then that’s their problem. Apologizing brings negative attention and can fuel THAT GUY’s issues even more. 

THAT GUY never apologizes and they are literally the worst.

Are you THAT GUY?

As the saying goes, if you have to ask, then you just might be THAT GUY.


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Jason Flamm

Jason Flamm

Jason is a writer from St. Louis. He’s been a coach in several sports and is currently working on his pickleball coaching certification. He loves to teach and share his passions.

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