Are You a Good Partner?Read More
Difficult PartnersRead More In many clubs or during drop in play, you may get a different partner every match. Hard to build chemistry when they are constantly changing right? Well maybe not, my definition of a strong player is “someone who makes his playing partner better”. Developing racquets skills is one thing, but I have seen great 5.0 players that I would never consider playing with by how they react on the court or how they give the Death Stare to their partner when mistakes are made, or verbally confront their partner over a wrong tactic or a missed shot. I think we have all seen players not react properly on the court to partners mistakes.
If you have the partner that may not be supportive, here is what needs to be done:
- Ignore their reactions as much as possible
- Keep your focus on your game
- Maybe avoid playing with them in the future. That person may eventually get the hint.
Please comment below without giving names to situations you have seen and I will try to share some specific strategies to reduce the disruption caused by these situations.
Mixed PlayRead More
Tell your partner before the match if you want encouragement or direction during play. Nothing is worse than getting direction on what you should be doing if the opinion is not asked for. Those things should be covered before or after matches, not during play. There is enough going on during play without your partner breaking your concentration with what you should have done when that rally is already in the history books.
A Confident Partner is a Great PartnerRead More
- Take care of your own game first, don’t get too busy trying to cover for your partner or hit winners all the time.
- Play well and stay focused on what you can do and let go of what your partner does. He or she is doing their best.
- Give a light smile when a mistake is made by your partner, they feel bad enough, you do not need to pile on.
If you are the weaker player of your team.
- Don’t carry the weight of the match on your shoulders, stay relaxed and enjoy the experience.
- Let go of any errors that are made, whether made by you it or your partner.
- Play safe and smart, don’t try to do too much with the ball, your game is enough. Trust it.
- Stay confident, being hard on yourself is not a recipe to play better.
Both of you should make an effort to share small phrases of encouragement back of forth between partners.
- “This rally is ours….”
- “Stay in the present….”
- “It is the next shot that matters….”
- “We are together in this…..”
- “We got this…..”
Share a comment below if there is are some simple words of encouragement that you like to hear that lift your game.
Couples That Play TogetherRead More
Seriously, some couples are great at being pickleball partners, others are not. If it is causing too much stress, then you do not have to play together. “Pickleball partner” was likely not one of your vows. This nothing to do with having a great marriage or not, it simply shows that some people just should not compete together.
Even if you have been together for a while and know each other well, communication is still the key to success as pickleball partners. Not only on who is playing the ball but what can I do to make you more successful on the court. This is important for any team but when you are also a team away from the court, making sure the “do’s” and “don’ts” are clear. That might be something the two of you haven’t chatted about before.
When you start doing that, then you are a good partner.
Quick Hands Beat Quick Feet Every Time!
For the players that are coming to pickleball from other racquets sports, many of your skills are transferable. A few are not, as an example your swing length will have to be modified for pickleball. Squash and tennis take a long full stroke to generate lots of momentum being delivered with a long, heavy racquet onto an object that has some mass to it. Even badminton with its light racquet and shuttlecock which cannot touch the ground at all employs a long full stroke. Racquet technique in these sports is biased towards generating the maximum amount of power.Read More
Using the Short Swing TacticallyRead More
- height control and have your shot be below net height shortly after it crosses over the net
- force the other team to return the ball in an upward trajectory
Shot height is your enemy here as it gives your opponents an opportunity to put the ball away on you, with a volley having a downward trajectory. This is where your training in other sports may let you down. The key making these volleys is:
- a short, accurate stroke – too much swing simply causes errors and places you at a tactical disadvantage in the rally
- keep the wrist cocked upward so the paddle is always above your hand height
- swing length is equal between racquet preparation to follow through
- the contact point is even with your body if you want to hit straight (down the line as an example) or out in front if you want to go crosscourt
Overall, the length of the swing will change depending on your court location. As an example, a service or service return will be a much longer swing than a volley as described above or when attempting the dreaded drop shot from the kitchen area.
What About Overheads?Read More
Slicing the BallRead More
These shots are usually the signature of more experienced players that have worked on these shots for a while. I encourage you to give this shot a try and with a short swing and some practice, you will add an effective tactical tool to your game.
Through all of this, just keep one thing in mind:
Quick hands beat quick feet every time!
Adding Variety to Your Serve
Of all the things you want to create from your serve, keeping your opponent deep should be the main one. When your opponent is kept deep, they will have a tougher time hitting an accurate deep return.
1) Choose a TargetRead More
2) Vary the Delivery AngleRead More
3) Use Your Body to Create PaceRead More
I think pace serves are the most effective serves while lob serves or short serves should be used very sparingly just to keep your opponent off balance.
4) Using SpinRead More
Right spin serve, from a right handed player.
Start your racquet at shoulder height out away from your body. As you are stepping forward with your left foot, drop the racquet downward from an outward to inward motion. Contact with the ball is just in front and lower than your right hip, with the follow through across your body ending up close to the left shoulder.
Left spin serve, from a right handed player.
Start your racquet back as much as possible behind your left hip. So your right arm is across your body, with the ball in your left hand drop the ball out front of your left hip as you step forward with your right foot. Racquet path goes from back and low on your left side across your body in an upward motion ending up high on your right side. This kind of across the body motion gives the ball a spin so it will curve to the left.
Keeping It LegalRead More
- The serve must be made with an underhand stroke so that contact with the ball is made below waist level
- Underhand Defined: The arm must be moving in an upward arc and the paddle head shall be below the wrist when it strikes the ball
- The top of the paddle face must be below the wrist
- The server must have both feet behind the service line at the time of contact with the ball
- The ball must be served to the diagonally opposite court
- The ball must land clearly in the service area
Options for an Effective “Third Shot”
When serving, your goal is to set the stage for an effective shot. Here is a serving strategy that sets the stage for your team to have a great chance at hitting an effective shot:
- a deep serve from Player A forcing
- a return deep into the middle of the court by Player C leading to
- the third shot by Player B has three distinct options based on a number of factors
This is an effective strategy and yes, it requires some racquet skills by the players involved. We”re going to dig into the options your team has when hitting the third shot but before we do that, let’s take a look at how to set it up.
Set Up for the Third ShotRead More
Avoid the Temptation to Creep in After Serving
Make sure you have not crept in and are then forced to step back trying to hit their return. You will be off balance and you just made a difficult shot, next to impossible. Many players start to sneek in after they have served and this leads to real big problems real fast if your opponents hit a solid deep return.
Instead, stay outside of the back line of the court in a position where you can hit this shot from a balanced position.
Have a Plan Before You Serve
If the return is between you and your partner make sure you are talking clearly and quickly on who is taking this shot. The guideline here is that it is usually it is the player who is hitting a forehand, if you are a lefty/righty team then the non server is hitting this shot.
Communicate With Your Partner
The key is communication and the first person that talks is what both players do. Simple one word communication like, “mine!” or “yours!”.
Options for the Third ShotRead More
Now comes the third shot of the rally, and it is not unusual for the serving team to falter at this point. It is hard to score a point in pickleball because the rally shifts the advantage to the receiving team. The serving team has to let the service return bounce and that means the returning team typically gets to the kitchen first.
Avoid Player D
The non-returning player of the opposing team (Player D) has been at the kitchen line since the rally started and as a result he or she should be in perfect position in relationship to the location of the service return, so first do not hit the third shot to this person very often, if ever.
Option 1: The High Lob
While hitting the third shot to Player D is not a recommended strategy, you can use their position against them by hitting the third shot as lob over them.
This option is effective if your opponents are not great at overheads, a determination you have made early in the match or from observing previous matches (never a bad idea). The lob has to be hit high enough to force your Player D back, but soft enough that it does not carry out. So if you are going to try this shot remember, high but soft. If you choose this shot often, then it is because your opponents have a problem with overheads. I recommend playing this shot at least once during a match because it does send a message to your opponents, that we may force you back, so don’t get too comfortable on the kitchen line.
Option 2: The Hard Passing Shot
Hit a passing shot that is flat and hard, with top spin if you know how is effective and it will expose weaknesses in your the team play of your opponents.
No point is ever won out of court so your margin of error may be one foot above the net. A higher percentage placement for this shot is in-between the two players hoping they both swing or maybe both leave it. Alternatively, you can also try hitting right at your opponent and see if they can handle it.
The key here is to hit an aggressive shot that stays in court and leaves your opponent minimal reaction time.
Option 3: Short Into the Kitchen
Going short and into the kitchen in front of the opponent who has returned serve (Player C) is difficult to defend. You are keying on the their lack of movement towards the kitchen.
Hit a shot that clears the net and yet soft enough that drops below net height before your opponent plays it. If it is too high and still above net height then they can hit down on it with an aggressive volley, reducing your chances of staying in the rally. Does not have to land in the kitchen, but must be below net height by the time they can reach it.
Important: If your partner is about to hit the third shot, you have one job. Stay wide enough from your partner, so your partner can play a cross court, do not step up too early and eliminate an option for your partner.
Three Things Keys to an Effective Third ShotRead More
- Is the non-returning opponent aggressive in their movement to the kitchen?
- Is there a nice alley down the middle of the court?
- Is the serve returning opponent flat footed and not moving quickly to the kitchen?
Ultimately the third shot you hit in a rally is going to based on your racquet skill and your opponents weaknesses. Variety is always a good thing to keep them off balance.
I hope this helped! Good luck and have fun!