André kindly gave us permission to share his excellent Facebook post as a BLOG.
TARGETED PLAY: WHAT ARE YOU ACTUALLY LEARNING DOING THIS?
While I am on my targeting play soap box, I want to highlight a few things around what you are actually learning by targeting players. Targeted play occurs during a doubles match when a pairing will relentlessly play the ball to the weaker or less experienced player until they force that player to make an error or present them with an opportunity to execute an attack-able shot.
To be clear, I will unashamedly use the targeted play strategy if I’m playing a friendly against another club, a tournament or an internal club competition. Having a strategy to exploit the weaknesses of the opposition is a key fundamental of winning matches, right?
However, targeted play in a club session or recreational play (i.e. playing when there is nothing at stake apart from the missed opportunity to learn) is a completely different matter.
So, what is happening when you use targeted play in club or rec play? Let’s look at this from both sides of the net:
1. PLAYERS TARGETING
You and your partner are relentlessly targeting the less experienced player in a club session / rec play. Everything is going so well. You have a game plan which you are executing to perfection and you subsequently win the match ‘high-fiving’ or ‘fist punching’ in celebration! Confidence is high, and you are now ready to carry out even more aggressive targeted play. You’ve now been using this strategy for 2 hours in a club session. Brilliant! Good for you! However…..
What have you learnt in those 2 hours?
A. You’ve ‘learnt’ how to target players. 2 hours to learn this! You don’t need to ‘learn’ this, you just do it. That is already a wasted 2 hours you’ll never see again!
B. You’ve learnt how to win matches in a club session. Good for you, however, there was nothing anything at stake apart from kudos, ego and pride.
C. Ultimately, you’ve learnt nothing when you are targeting in club sessions or rec play
What could you have learnt by NOT targeting?
A. Developing better strategies to exploit the weaknesses of stronger players
B. Developing patience & dinking skills in regular ‘dink offs’ against stronger players
C. Up-skilling yourselves by hitting against the stronger player and recognising the areas you need to work on
D. Better court positioning awareness by optimising footwork with the knowledge that the stronger player may disguise a ‘surprise attack’ in the form of an offensive lob or drive etc
E. And, and, and………….so much more to learn
2. PLAYERS BEING TARGETED
You are the player who is being relentlessly targeted. How does it make you feel? Depending on the type of player you are and your mindset, you can use being targeted as an opportunity to develop your own skills and learn from being targeted. However, if you are a relatively new player who is still growing in confidence, it could swing the other way and could potentially put you off playing pickleball.
Being targeted can potentially ruin a good game in a club or recreational session. The stronger player can get bored and disengage. Yes, there are strategies how the stronger player can get some ball time if their partner is being targeted, however, for the greater good of quality of club sessions, development of players and club reputation, I believe as a club we should have a culture of not targeting players….unless of course we are in a competition, friendly or league when it does become necessary as part of a game plan.
Not intending to start a debate as these are my opinions but welcome your thoughts.
Happy pickling. Continue learning forever and enjoy the journey. Play pickleball properly and the winning will look after itself!
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