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You want to buy the pickleball player in your life a gift for xmas

It’s almost that time of year when thoughts turn to the festive season and the pickleball player in your life will still be thinking of pickleball at every opportunity. What is there to buy as a gift to bring to their game? I’ve got lots of ideas from varying price points and plenty of stocking fillers. 


Probably the most cost-effective gift is to buy overgrips for a paddle. Many players not coming from a previous racquet sport assume that you just use the grip that comes with the paddle/racquet. Almost all professional players use an over grip, which is best seen as a “sacrificial layer” to preserve the grip. Rather than replacing a grip that’s £12-15 and a faff to swap, you just replace the overgrip when it gets tired. It can also enhance performance by tweaking the feel of your grip.

Overgrips can range from £5 to £7 for three or you can buy tubs of grips for around £1 each if you buy 60 of them in a tub! Overgrips come in three basic forms: dry, tacky and comfort. Dry grips are for those with sweaty hands during play: for years, the iconic blue Tournagrip has been standard; as seen on the handles of Andy Murray and Tyson McGuffin. Tacky are the most common type as they give extra security on the grip and let you loosen off your grasp a bit. The white overgrip used by Roger Federer (the Wilson Comfort Pro) is the gold standard, with the Diadem Pro Touch a close second.  Comfort overlaps with tacky grips but is often a smidge thicker to give more cushion.  The biggest tip is to buy white grips: the pigment in the dyes of coloured grips, especially black, can turn them prematurely “slimy”. With white, if it gets grubby or loses its tack, it’s time for a new one.

If your player has worn out their grip, they can always replace that with a new one. Traditionally, leather was the grip of choice for tennis and golf but modern PU grips are now standard with all paddles. These cost more than an overgrip, but with an overgrip over the top, they should last you many years. My own personal choice is a retrofitted leather grip with my own custom modded enlarged handle: I have long fingers so a thicker custom grip prevents some elbow issues. Leather also gets tacky when you use each time (due to heat and moisture) and has a closer “connection/feel” to the paddle at the cost of dampening vibrations. However, in 35-degree Celsius heat in Orlando, it was a step too far and I threw an overgrip on. Your local racquet shop or pickleball professional can advise on the right grip for you and fit it for you: if you suffer from elbow issues, see if they can tweak your handle size.

Another area to consider for stocking fillers is that old standby present, socks. However, I’m talking about properly engineered socks, designed for impact sports, not the grandparent present emergency purchase. My favourite racquet sport shop always says that Thorlo socks fix almost any foot problem. I have to agree; they have lasted me years and are one of my go-to’s if I have any hint of a blister or soreness in my feet. As they have a couple of thicknesses, they can be good to tweak the fit of a shoe if too big. Thorlo have even just released pickleball specific socks into the UK. There are also good socks from the main sports brands like Nike and Under Armour. Look at their tennis or basketball socks: some even have a slight rubbery grip on the sole to prevent your foot slipping in the shoe. I’d avoid running socks in most cases as they don’t tend to be thick enough to handle the sudden start/stops of racquet sports.

Whilst we are talking about classic crap gifts at Xmas, underwear could also be a consideration. Properly supportive garments to make sure things stay in place, don’t ride up, don’t chafe and don’t move about is another area where there may not have been much thought previous applied. A well fitted sports bra or a supportive pair of underpants can remove distractions whilst playing, as well as the Rafael Nadal “adjustments” on court. They are those little “one per cent-ers” that can help in a competitive environment.

Balls can also be a decent gift as “pickleballs aren’t for life” and are a regular cost for a player. With the UK being a mainly indoor pickleball environment, consider getting an outdoor ball to train with, so everything is that little bit quicker, harder and more challenging. It makes indoor balls seem slow in comparison when you switch back. Franklin are the official ball of Pickleball England events so an excellent ball to default to for competitive players. My club loves the Penn 26 to use in school sports halls as they behave really well on wooden floors and the red shows up well against the common blue walls approved by Badminton England.

Warm up, recovery, nutrition and injury management products are also something to consider. There’s a wide variety of straps, bands, massage devices and creams/gels on the market, as well as gels, snacks and drinks: many pickleballers will know of Pickleball Cocktail by Jigsaw Health and their comedy videos. I swear by my massage gun (£40 from Amazon), some CDB topical treatments and a resistance band to get me through multiple sessions a week. And a cheeky trip to my gym’s ice bath and sauna! Don’t discount a sports massage, spa day or some physio as another more expensive gift your player may not have thought of.

If you are looking to spend a little more, clothing can be an amazing choice: there are many plays on the word’s “dink” and “kitchen” on t-shirts from the usual online marketplaces plus micro-retailer platforms like Etsy. One tip I would give is to try and avoid cotton or poly cotton t-shirts for playing in: they quickly get heavy and sticky with sweat. Look for polyester or polyester/elastane (Lycra) blends. Poly cotton is great for lounging around though. There’s also a huge range of fashionable tennis clothing that is a little more “elevated”: Lucky in Love, Fila (especially in the USA) and BidiBadu plus the various collabs from Adidas, Nike et al can give you a more stylish look on court.

A paddle bag is also a great gift: these can be as simple as a rucksack or sling bag to the 12-paddle monster I have for all my kit. Spare shoes, clothes, multiple paddles, balls, all get swallowed up in there. In the States, there are some more fashionable designed bags that are less utilitarian and only a little less functional.  Padel bags also work well and can often be a great value option.

Rising up the price points are buying new shoes or a new paddle. Both are deserving of a separate post each: those blogs are coming soon… The biggest tip here is try before you buy wherever you can. Your club leaders, coaches or sponsored players can be really helpful for paddle demos: they may have a link or can suggest good choices to try out. Perhaps even borrow a fellow player’s paddle for a game and see how it feels.

I wouldn’t borrow someone’s shoes though: urgh!  That’s where a real racquet sport shop comes in: avoid the big chains as a rule, although Decathlon do proper decent court shoes for tennis, badminton and squash. Ditch those running shoes and speak to the experts. Consider an insole upgrade or orthotic too. These can enhance your shoe even further. Shoes are the only part of you in contact with the court surface so are your wheels, brakes and accelerator. Orthotics, the correct socks and shoes can transform your movement on court.

My final present for you to consider is whether your pickleballer would benefit from a clinic or lessons with an IPTPA coach. As a Level 2 coach myself, you can consider me a little biased, but a few 1-1 lessons can have a disproportionally sized positive impact on someone’s game and confidence on court. There’s a coach locator on the PBE and IPTPA websites so there should someone nearby or willing to travel.

We’ve all followed the same professional steps to qualify but you will find coaches have different skill sets. You can see from my website name that there’s a focus on improved performance but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have impact on a beginner: I currently spend more time on court each week with improving players than I do with advanced athletes. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and to define what you want to work on: as a gift, it might be easier to agree to fund lessons but not define who they are with so that the recipient can find their perfect match.

If you want to get some more advice or explore coaching from me, feel free to get in touch at advancedpickleball@gmail.com. I have deals on Diadem paddles for Xmas…If you want CBD products, visit www.forsportcbd.co.uk and use code PICKLEBALL15 for 15% off.

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