Skip to content
pickleball racket and white paper

White papers and… pickleball?!

How could any two things be more different?

4-minute read.

I MEAN, ONE’s A BUSINESS DOCUMENT and the other’s the fastest-growing sport around.

But what if these two really do have something in common?

So here’s another in my lighthearted series of unlikely comparisons: six ways white papers are like pickleball.


White papers and pickleball #1: You must get the ball over the net

When you start a white paper, you need to finish it.

Get the thing done and out the door. If you don’t do that, it’s game over.

When I analyzed 300 white papers I had worked on, I was astounded to find that 50 were started but never finished.

That wasn’t because I gave up on them.

That was because the client couldn’t resolve some internal issue, so those papers died on the vine.

And all the time and resources we spent on them were wasted.

Same thing with pickleball.

  • When you chase a ball, you need to reach it.
  • When you take a swing, you need to hit the ball.
  • When you hit the ball, you need to get it over the net.

If you don’t do that much, it’s all over for that volley.

So both white papers and pickleball call for persistence and follow-through to get the job done.

White papers and pickleball #2: You must be patient

Any good white paper takes weeks to research, draft, review, design, and promote.

Press a button and let AI craft you a white paper in five minutes? Dream on.

Keep calm and carry on--UK poster from 1939Any writer can get impatient.

Another round of comments?! Another PDF to proof?!

That’s when I tell myself to keep calm and carry on.

Here are some tips to help you stay patient:

• Make a plan before you start
• Spend lots of time on research
• Leave your draft overnight to review tomorrow
• Allow ample time for reviews
• Proofread every PDF before you release it

No white paper gives instant results. But a little patience will help you complete it.

Pickleball takes patience too.

Learning any new sport involves months of feeling like a noob.

You miss easy serves. You flub shots. You smash the ball too hard.

Happily, I play in a league where everyone just laughs at our flubs. But we’re all getting better as we practice.

So both white papers and pickleball take patience.

what's in and what's out

White papers and pickleball #3: You must know what’s in and what’s out

In a white paper, you must know what to put in and what to leave out.

You want your white paper to provide useful, helpful, practical information for a busy business person. So leave all that in.

But leave out anything that will waste your reader’s time:

Most of all, leave out the sales pitch.

All that is outside the bounds of clear and persuasive communication.

pickleball court

In pickleball, you must know when the ball is in and when it’s out.

Here are the rules all players follow:

  • Serve from the right serve zone to the right receive zone.
  • If your serve doesn’t land in the receive zone, you lose the serve.
  • If a ball lands on the line, it’s in.
  • If a ball lands outside the line, it’s out.

Both in white papers and in pickleball, you must know what’s in and what’s out.

White papers and pickleball #4: You must try for a satisfying sound

A well-phrased white paper has a solid ring to it.

The wording sounds right, the sentences hang together well, and the whole discussion has a pleasing arrangement.

Readers find themselves nodding in agreement as they read, almost like they’re listening to some pleasing music.

You can make your white paper sound better by having Word read it back to you.

diagram of pckleball racquet with sweet spot outlined

Same with a good pickleball shot.

Every racket has a sweet spot. When you hit the ball just right, it gives a resounding POP!

I live near my town’s outdoor pickleball courts. All summer, I can hear the delightful pop-pop-pop of the volleys.

That beautiful sound is the reason I tried pickleball in the first place! 

So you see, both white papers and pickleball need a nice clear ring. 

White papers and pickleball #5: You must realize that skill outweighs equipment

You need minimal gear to write a white paper:

  • An Internet connection
  • A computer to surf the web
  • Google Docs for free
  • Or Word for $100 a year

You certainly don’t need the latest and greatest super-charged PC maxed out with gobs of RAM and a humungous screen.

For white papers, it’s far more important to have skills in:

  • Researching
  • Building an argument
  • Writing and editing
  • Designing
  • Promoting

two people playing pickleball

Pickleball also takes minimal gear:

  • A pickleball racket
  • A ball or two
  • A court with a net

You certainly don’t need a professional-grade racket with carbon friction surface and sweat-absorbing handle.

For pickleball, it’s far more important to have skills in:

  • Serving
  • Volleying
  • Backhand shots
  • Strategic ball placement

So for both white papers and pickleball, skills are more important than gear.

White papers and pickleball #6: You must remember these are team sports

Every white paper takes a team, including:

  • An executive sponsor
  • A writer
  • The subject matter experts
  • The reviewers
  • A designer
  • The marketing team doing promotions

I’ve worked on white papers that drew on 20 different contributors and reviewers. Now that’s a team!

Pickleball is a team sport too.

You can play singles, but most people play in teams. So a game of pickleball takes:

  • 2 players on Team A
  • 2 players on Team B
  • Likely a time-keeper

In my small league, we’ve had 18 people out to play on two courts. (It’s always fun to catch up on town gossip while we wait for our next game.)

There’s no argument: Both white papers and pickleball are team sports.


So there you have it: six parallels between white papers and pickleball.

Can you think of any more?

If you read this far, you must get the spirit of these lighthearted thought experiments.

pickleball racquet balls and notepad

And if you want to see more, search for “white papers and” on this site.

You’ll see 10 more, from “white papers and… making your own beer?!” to “white papers and… George Carlin?!

The point is to stretch our imagination by looking for parallels between things that at first glance seem completely different.

That’s a good exercise for any writer. After all, your imagination is something no AI can match.

By the way, I didn’t use AI at all in this piece.

And one last thing: If you haven’t tried pickleball yet, it’s a super-fun way for any writer to get outside and get moving!


For more fun articles like this, get my free newsletter

About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

If you liked this post...

White papers and… making your own beer?!

At first glance, white papers and home brewing don't have much in common. But there...
Zeus the king of the ancient Greek gods

White papers and… the Greek gods?!

In ancient Greece, tales of the gods served to inspire, caution, and educate mortals. Today...
Harry Potter and Ron in the flying car

White papers and… Harry Potter?!

Who here loves Harry Potter? Ask that just about anywhere, and a lot of hands...


  1. Kady Hommel on May 9, 2024 at 4:24 pm

    Gordon, I LOVE that you love pickleball, and have joined the fantastic PB community where you live! I must respectfully – and with a spirit of love and affection 🙂 – disagree on just one of the points above, about sound: Yes to how a good white paper should sound, but a resounding NO to the sound of that “nice clear ring” of a PB strike. As a tennis player, that PB sound raises all hairs on the back of my neck. I’ll be cutting a wide berth around the PB courts, even as I salute the sport’s inclusiveness and spirit of fun. Keep on keeping on …

    • Gordon Graham on May 9, 2024 at 6:17 pm

      Hi Kady, Thank you for your note. It’s too bad such rivalry exists between tennis players and pickleballers. I can sympathize with tennis players who see so many of their courts being converted to the other sport. I used to play tennis and I loved giving the ball a good whack. So whatever your sport, keep on moving!

Leave a Comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.