Introducing the first in an occasional series of tips from Paul Telling of Runnymede Club and IPTPA Level II Coach
Pretty obviously you want a fun sport that gets you fit and into the company of like-minded people. But most players asked that question would certainly add that they’d like to improve and play at a better level – even if they claim not to be “competitive”. Wanting to get better at anything is a natural human trait.
And most pickleball players reckon they can achieve that goal by playing more often, competing against better players, “trying harder”, etc. The bad news is – that almost certainly won’t work. The key to improvement is PRACTICE! The trouble is “practicing” is not as much fun as “playing”.
So how about trying to incorporate practice into a game; best of both words, right? Let’s see how we might achieve that.
For beginner level players:
Include a rule in your games where any ball hit into the net incurs a double penalty i.e. if the serving team makes that mistake the serve moves on, AND their opponents receive a point; if one of the receiving team makes the mistake, the serving team get two points. The net will quickly become your enemy!
Totally ban lobs during a game for a part of your session; the rally is lost by anyone playing a lob. A lob can be a useful shot, but is extremely difficult to execute consistently, especially against stronger players. A lob is often used as a “get out of jail card”, but how much better not to have to go to jail in the first place ! Learn to start playing shots that are unattackable and you’ll not need to lob nearly so much.
And for the tournament level competitors:
Play a normal game except that the 3rdshot MUST be played as a drop. You know this is probably your weakest shot, but you really do need to master playing it from all places on the court and even against hard-hit shots if you want to progress up the ability ladder. (N.B. in proper games/matches playing the 3rdshot as a drop is not recommended when (a) the service return is short, (b) the returner has remained on their baseline and (c) the service return has you off balance or out of position.)
There are loads of other “weaknesses” that can be addressed by modifying normal game rules slightly. Use your imagination to make practice fun.
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