The following tips are provided to assist Pickleball players in improving their game.
Tip of the Month (April)
The Third Shot Drop
The team receiving serve has a distinct advantage in that their two players can approach and position themselves at the kitchen line, while the serving team must stay back at the baseline to let their opponents’ return of serve bounce.
HOWEVER, with a soft, well- placed 3rd shot that drops into the kitchen, both players on the serving team have a valuable opportunity to approach the kitchen, creating much more of an equal opportunity to win the point. Without this strategic 3rd shot drop-shot, the serving team will usually wind up playing the entire point from the baseline area, with poor odds of winning the point.
Hence, developing the skill to softly drop your opponents’ deep return of serve into the kitchen is so important, even moreso when playing higher skill-level players.
Skill Development Drills
To get better and better at making quality 3rd shot drop shots into the kitchen:
• Drill “A” - Practice throwing the ball with your paddle hand softly, so that the ball just clears the net, landing in the kitchen. This will give you a feel for the right touch and arc to take to clear the net. Done with a partner, this will eliminate a lot of ball chasing as you each make alternating throws.
• Drill “B” - Next, practice a similar drill, but this time striking the actual ball with your paddle from the baseline, trying to drop your shot in the kitchen. Again a partner repeating this drill with you on the other side of the net helps.
• Drill “C” - With a partner, start with a normal serve to your partner. Your partner’s goal is to hit a deep return of your serve. Your 3rd shot goal is to return your partner’s 2nd shot with your best 3rd shot drop into the kitchen. Keep repeating by alternating who serves the ball, thereby giving each of you practice at deep serving, deep returning and finally soft 3rd shot drops.
Things to practice to improve your accuracy and consistency on your 3rd shot drop shots:
• Concentrate by watching the return of serve (2nd shot) come right onto your paddle
• Use footwork to get closer to the ball instead of being a “last-second leaning-reacher”
• Bend your knees to avoid hitting in an erect, tall position
• Before hitting your third shot drop, transfer more weight to your right side (assuming you are right- handed) and hit the ball with most of your weight supported on the right leg. This is basically similar to your right-leg-press-dink shot, except it’s a much longer shot (baseline to over the net).
If you’re having trouble hitting off your right leg, keep practicing as it represents a different weight transfer than most of us grew up with in tennis and racquetball. If ultimately you give up on the right-leg/right-handed hit, at least do one thing:
HIT THESE 3rd SHOT DROP SHOTS AS CLOSE TO YOUR BODY AS POSSIBLE.
The further away from your body that you strike the ball, the less accurate and more inconsistent your shots become!
• One last thing, if you’re the type who likes to admire your beautiful 3rd shot drop shot from the baseline without advancing to the kitchen, you’ve gained little to no advantage. You must advance quickly to neutralize the kitchen- line-position advantage of your opponents.
If all of the above makes no sense to you because you’re a hands-on, do-it learner, BUT you’d still like to improve on these skills and drills, feel free to call me on 634-1491 or e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org to participate in free Core-Robics Pickleball drill sessions.
Tip of the Month and Tim Gleason's Clinic (February)
Less Errors = More Wins
When Tom Gleason presented his excellent clinic to us on January 23rd, one of the most emphatic points he made after analyzing the play and results of hundreds and hundreds matches was this:
“In any pickleball match the team that makes the most errors pretty much always loses; and the team that makes the fewest errors pretty much always wins. It’s that simple.”
Taking this point one step further, Tim clearly demonstrated a host of techniques and playing tips that will minimize errors, giving all of us better performance in our games. His tips include:
Playing on the balls of our feet to quicken our readiness to get to the ball.
Avoid reaching and lunging for wide shots; instead move to center the ball between your shoulders.
Play all balls in front of you instead of reaching back in an awkward stance to swipe at the ball.
Avoid taking the long arcing swing with a big wind-up; instead take a shorter, compact, block-swing, punching at the ball in front of you.
Swing your paddle in a more underhanded arc taking advantage of the longer 10-inch length of the paddle for hitting the sweet-spot instead of swinging sidearm which gives you a much narrower sweet-spot for hitting the ball.
On balls that bounce to your backhand, try running around them enabling you to hit these balls on your forehand (unless you are one of the rare players that has a better backhand than a forehand).
Play low, bending your knees, keeping your eyes focused on the ball.
In the dinking game, practice hitting the ball so that it drops closer and closer to the front of the net where it becomes almost impossible for your opponents to drive a hard line drive (The Cobra) at your body or a passing shot around you.
From a safety standpoint, never back-peddle to retrieve a lob; either side step or turn around and run straight forward to catch up to a lobbed ball.
Tim’s other critical points of emphasis covering the things top elite players do that less skilled players do not do and need to practice include:
Using the forehand as a weapon
Hitting the backhand volley, especially at the kitchen line
Returning the serve consistently deep and immediately progressing to the kitchen line, even if you have to make it in several advancing stages to the kitchen line. (Note: a short return of serve typically results in you losing that point.)
For the serving team, mastering the third shot drop, enabling you and your partner to consistently hit your opponent’s deep return of serve into the kitchen area, thereby giving you and your partner the time and opportunity to advance to the kitchen line (because the team that plays back at the baseline typically loses the point.
Again, we all appreciate the time and teachings of Tim Gleason who traveled north from Boise just to help all of us improve our Pickleball games. Thank you Tim!
Tip of the Month (January)
Think Low, Stay Low, Hit Low
Approximately 3 out of every 4 points scored in pickleball result from errors made by your opponents, and many of these errors come from a kind of laziness in not getting your body and center of gravity LOWER to the ground to improve your: (a) quickness to the ball, (b) stability, (c) sighting of the ball on to the paddle, and (d) your striking sensitivity & accuracy. Just watch how many mis-hit balls occur when players swing their paddles from a tall erect posture or when they reach and lunge for balls without bending their knees to get lower-to-the-ground.
To improve your hitting consistency and accuracy and to reduce your mis-hit errors, practice “the art of playing lower to the ground"either with a partner or by hitting a ball up against a wall. This involves bending your knees more, playing more off the balls of your feet, and when time and opportunity permit, waiting patiently on the ball to drop a bit lower, giving you MORE TIME to shuffle into a more stable, lower hitting position. Self-improvement will not happen overnight, and that’s why repetitive practice drills are so important. Even practicing these techniques 5 to 10 minutes on alternating days will help you over the long haul.
Tip of the Month (December)
Playing On the Balls of Your Feet
So many players are caught sitting back on their heels through the various stages of Pickleball play.
This hurts one’s posture, balance and quickness to the ball. If you’ll consciously shift your weight forward, especially when dinking at the kitchen line, you’ll immediately notice how much your readiness to get to the ball improves, not to mention the consistent/accuracy of your shots – and how many less unforced errors you commit.
Also, playing on the balls of your feet will strengthen your legs, tune up your rear end muscles (gluteal maximus), and help you burn more calories.
Best practice drill: Hit either a foam or regular Pickleball up against a wall from
approximately 7-foot distance, consciously keep trying to shift more and more weight onto the balls of your feet as you slide/shuffle right to left and left to right to position yourself closer to the ball coming off the wall. Translate this technique right into your next Pickleball doubles game and watch how many more good shots you’re returning!!!
Tip of the Month (October)
Many mis-hits occur so much more frequently when we fail to bend our knees to get down to ball-striking level. By just crouching a little bit lower we are able to get into a better ready position with an improved sighting of the ball. Also critical in this regard is leaning a bit forward transferring onto the balls of your feet. This speeds up your footwork and ability to move in anticipation to reach oncoming shots.
Playing flat-footed or off your heels makes you SLOW TO THE BALL and ill-prepared to handle your next shot. Furthermore, staying a bit lower reduces your target size making you a less-likely Cobra target.
Your Home Drill
In the garage, den, play room or wherever convenient, practice miming a lower play position by shuffling back and forth with a racquet in hand, bending your knees just a bit more than normal . When bending, keep your knees centered over your ankles, not protruding past your toes. Be conscious as you shuffle from left to right and right to left with most of your weight on your balls of your feet. This will strengthen your legs, tighten your gluteal muscles (rear end), improve your balance, quicken your movements and significantly improve your play.
Tip of the Month (September)
… it seems that many Pickleball players, not only in our club but nationally, continue to hit hard, low, driving returns of serve to their opposing serving teams.
The “tip” to consider is as follows :
try returning your opponents’ serves with a little softer, loftier return with a bit of an arc (even if it is just a few feet higher over the net)
aimed deeper towards the center of the Pickleball court. This will give you the extra time to approach the kitchen line to join your partner in a court-controlling position. Also, by aiming the majority of your returns towards the center of the court, you will reduce many
errant shots that run off the right and left sides of the court.