Land of the Sky Tournament information can be found by clicking on the button above.

Newcomers to the site should note the pickleball book "chapters" in the left column and the repository of expert articles and videos in the right column.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Pickleball vs Tennis - And the Winner is...

Almost everywhere that pickleball players try to add lines to tennis courts, a battle ensues with the tennis community. But the evidence suggests that pickleball is winning the battle for popularity and thus winning the battle for courts. 

There are a variety of reasons pickleball is winning the popularity battle, but the single biggest factor is the aging of the baby boom generation. As this large demographic moves into retirement, they are looking to retain an active and social lifestyle. Pickleball is winning them over for 5 reasons:
  1. Pickleball is less about athleticism and more about strategy and placement.
  2. Pickleball is more social, with a smaller court enabling talk among players. Games are quicker allowing players to gather while waiting their turn.
  3. The pickleball is slower but still fast enough to have fast volley action.
  4. Pickleball rallies last longer due to the smaller court and slower ball.
  5. You don’t have to go so far to chase a ball. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Volley Drills

Volley drills can be very similar to dink drills since the player positioning is the same. I will link to that post, Dinking Drills, rather than repeat the entire discussion here. Obviously, the shots should be kept in the air rather than letting them bounce.

The simplest volley drill for 2-4 players is to stand at the kitchen line and volley the ball back and forth. Each player should hit the ball to the other team such that the return volley can be made. The goal is to have a rally with a large number of continuous hits and not to hit winners.

The speed and target for volleys in drills is dependent on skill levels. For beginning players, the drill will include slow and high volleys hit mostly to the forehand side. But a player’s abilities must be tested to improve skills. There is no better time to do so than in drilling. Even beginning players should intersperse harder and backhand volleys into the drill regimen.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Proactive Volleys

A couple of previous posts discussed the need for aggressive play. In a post about the softest shot, Dink Game Strategies, I stated:

There is one final element to an aggressive dink game – never back up unless necessary. Many players will step back when a shot is hit to their feet to take the ball on a short-hop. While this step gives you more time to assess your options, it also gives your opponent more time to prepare for their return. Maybe even more important is the mental aspect. An aggressive player takes the ball in the air while a passive player allows it to bounce. Always take a ball in the air when possible to keep your weight toward the net and to keep an aggressive frame of mind.

Taking the ball in the air is a volley and I followed up with Offensive Volleys that included:

The poke stroke and swing volley are incremental steps up in aggressive shot-making. The positive side of being more aggressive is hitting more winners and forcing opponents to make more errors.

Controlled aggression is part of a winning strategy. Being aggressive is an attitude that must start with the mind but also be present in body language. It is too easy to play pickleball in a relaxed way.  While that is great for social play, it will not work in a competitive match.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Offensive Volleys

In The Basic Volley, I discussed the punch volley as an offensive shot and a variation of the punch volley, the block, as a defensive shot. There are additional variations of the volley that are even more powerful shots.

The Poke Stroke

The punch volley is a very short movement of about 3”-6” while the block is a wall that has no movement. The block reduces pace from the return and the punch volley maintains the pace of the return. The poke stroke adds pace by extending the paddle movement to 12” or more. It uses the exact same technique as the punch volley with a longer extension or follow-through. The result is a dramatic increase in the pace of the return. A Deb Harrison video called Poke Stroke is below to illustrate the shot.

The Swing Volley

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Basic Volley

Let’s start with a definition. A volley is a shot where the ball is struck before it bounces. While a volley can be struck anywhere on the court, it becomes an offensive weapon from the kitchen line. That is the shot that will be discussed here.

First, we need to review the preparation for a volley by revisiting the discussion on The Ready Position at the Kitchen Line. When at the kitchen line, you must be prepared for a fast shot and quick movement in any direction. That means having your feet shoulder-width, knees slightly bent and the paddle held up and in front with the face parallel to the net. The following Norm Davis video called Pickleball volleying reviews the positioning for a volley. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Service Drills

Drills to work on serving are very straightforward and can be done with 2 people or even alone if sufficient balls are available.  All a player must do is set up the target, go to the other side of the net, and hit balls toward the target.  Then gather them up and do it all again, moving to the next drill once the first is mastered.  The drills can add a little fun with the addition of competition.  Most drills should have 10-20 serves per turn to be worthwhile.

Drill 1 Serves - Players line up to practice 3-5 serves from the right side; then 3-5 from the left side with a couple of players, if available, catching the balls.

Drill 2 Deep Serves - Place a rope or sidewalk chalk line about 3 feet inside the opposi
te baseline.  Players line up to serve from both the right and left sides and aim for the area between the rope/chalk and baseline. 

Competition: Players count the number of deep serves that land between the rope and baseline. The player with the most successful serves is the winner.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Offbeat Sunday?: Pickleball Mania

...on a Thursday.

A humorous look at pickleball from the USAPA:


Pickleball is a highly contagious, progressive and incurable disease. The USA Pickleball Association estimates there are approximately 200,000 infected people worldwide. Unlike other epidemics of this scale, pickleball occurs primarily in developed countries. While rarely fatal, the disease has enormous impact on the lives of infected individuals and on society as a whole.


Early theories assumed that pickleball is an addictive drug; however recent studies isolated Pickleball fever as the bacteria which causes pickleball mania. This discovery explains why earlier treatment programs such as Pickleball Players Anonymous, were unsuccessful.


The early epidemic started around 1965 in Washington State. It appears the relatively benign sport of pickleball mutated into pickleballmania. While the reasons for this mutation are not generally known, a likely hypothesis suggests that it resulted from exposure of the tennis, racquetball & badminton bacteria to high doses of boredom in Washington State.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Why Play in a Tournament

There have been many posts that discuss tournament results or future tournaments. But we have yet to discuss why anyone should choose to play in pickleball tournaments. Let’s first review why anyone should play pickleball at all.

Pickleball is first and foremost FUN. It takes only as much time and effort as you want to expend in order to play at the level you choose. It is a very social sport with a small court allowing verbal interplay among the players. The short games allow players to gather on the sidelines while waiting their turns to play. These gatherings also provide opportunities for social interaction.

Pickleball is active and healthy. It lowers blood pressure, reduces body fat, improves coordination and balance, and helps maintain mental acuity. While pickleball is an active sport, it is not overly strenuous due to the small court and short games.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

North Carolina Area 2016 Tournaments

A new list of 2016 pickleball tournaments for our area was just released and is shown below.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Third Shot Drive

A previous post stated that a third shot drop is the best option to give them time to get to the kitchen. There is one situation where a drive may be a better option for players with a very strong groundstroke or, better yet, an ability to hit a strong topspin.

In most cases, the return of serve will be deep in the servers' court as illustrated below.

A deep service return allows the returner to join his partner at the kitchen. So, the typical third shot must be made with both serving team players near the baseline and their opponents at the kitchen. The best option in this situation, by far, is the third shot drop.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Third Shot Drop Drills

The Third Shot Drop is a very important element in playing competitive pickleball. Getting to the kitchen is essential and the third shot drop is the equalizer that allows the serving team to earn its way there. It is a difficult shot to execute and requires lots of practice. This post shows how 2, 3, or 4 players can drill until mastery is accomplished.

An easy 2-player drill has players positioned at opposite baselines.  One player has a bucket of balls and feeds deep shots to the second player who practices drop shots.  The following video from David Majick called Baseline Drop Shots shows this drill in action.

Other drills are also simple but allow for more continuous play. One person (or team) is positioned at the kitchen line and one person (or team) is positioned at mid-court or the baseline. The player(s) at the kitchen line hit the ball to the player(s) in the back of the court. The player(s) in the back of the court hit third shot drops into the kitchen. Shots are traded back and forth without attempts for winners. Remember, this is a practice drill and not a competition.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Third Shot

The first shot of a game is the serve. It is the easiest shot to execute since the server has complete control of the ball. The second shot of the game is the return of serve. It is the second easiest shot to execute since the opponents on the serving side must stay back to allow the ball to bounce. The third shot is hit by the serving team and follows the return of serve. It is one of the most difficult shots to execute since the shot generally occurs near the baseline and the opponents are likely to be positioned at the kitchen line. There are 3 options for the third shot – a hard low shot, a lob, or a drop shot into the kitchen. The following Deb Harrison video called Third Shot Options discusses these options.

The hard low shot

This shot is a powerful groundstroke hit low over the net in an attempt to hit it past your opponent or cause them to make an error. It is a stroke that is used by beginners and mid-level players due to their comfort with driving the ball. However, it is effective only against low to middle level players who have not yet mastered the volley game. The low hard driving shot typically reaches the opponent above the net and can be easily volleyed at a variety of angles and back to the feet of the serving team.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Return of Serve

The return of serve is the one of the easiest shots in pickleball, second only to the serve. The serving team must remain back near the baseline because they must allow the return to bounce. Therefore, there is little pressure for the returner to make a perfect shot. The return of serve is important, though, as it sets up the action that follows the shot.

Goals of the return of serve

The first goal of the return of serve is the same as that of the serve (and aligns with the second essential tactic) – keep it in play. Hitting the return of serve out of play results in a free point for your opponent.

 second goal of the return of serve is to hit it deep into your opponents’ court. This accomplishes several important results. First, it makes your opponents’ return more difficult by reducing their angles and options. Second, it gives you more time to get to the kitchen line. Third, it makes your opponents’ shot longer and gives you more time to adjust. Fourth, it makes it more difficult for your opponents to get to the kitchen line.

In contrast, the return of serve should never be short (with the possible exception of trying to catch your opponents off-guard). A short return allows the serving team an easier path to the kitchen or a winning shot.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

10 Essential Tactics

Many of the posts to-date are basic playing tips. Mastery of the basics will take you a long way toward success in pickleball. But there are at least 10 essential tactics that will help you regardless of whether you have mastered the basics or not.

So far, my posts have explicitly stated or touched on 4 of these essential tactics. It is now time to start collecting these in a post. I will add to these as they are developed in posts.

1. Always get your serve in

2. Keep the ball in play

3. You must get to the kitchen line

4. Use the soft game and dinking

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Keep the Ball in Play

In my post on Service Strategies, I stated “Service strategies start with a single principle – never, ever, ever lose your serve on a service fault.” That piece of advice applies to nearly every shot you make. I haven’t seen any pickleball statistics, but one statistic that is often repeated is that 75% of rallies end with mistakes. In other words, only 25% of rallies end with a winning shot. My guess would be that those percentages change as skill levels increase. A top-level match would have fewer errors and more winners than a lower level match. But errors remain a big part of the game at all levels. Clearly, a winning strategy should include the principle of keeping the ball in play.  A short video from Pickleball Channel called Keeping the Ball in Play is below.

Pickleball is as much a mental game as it is physical. That is a good thing as it allows experienced older players to compete with younger, more athletic players on an equal basis. But the mental aspect must be understood when applying the “keep it in play” principle.

Do you remember the great down-the-line shot that won a point for your team? How about the great lob that had the other team flailing at air? Sure you do. We all do. We love to remember our successes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Strengthening the Backhand Ground Stroke

Have you ever felt like you are a wearing a target on your backhand side as your opponents continuously pepper that side with shot after shot?

Monday, December 14, 2015

What is the USAPA?

From the USAPA Website:


The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was organized to promote the growth and development of pickleball, not only on a national but an international level. This organization provides players with official rules, tournaments, rankings, and promotional materials.

The USAPA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. It is governed by a talented Board of Directors, most of who chair one of the important committees of this organization.

Saturday, December 12, 2015


One of the phases most players go through is spinning the ball. Putting extreme spin on a shot makes it bounce in directions that are hard for an opponent to predict. That unpredictability often leads to a fault by the opponent – either a miss or a mishit. Even if the player returns the ball, it looks impressive. Sounds good, right?

The reality is that extreme spin might be effective against lower ranked players but it will generally become less effective as skill levels improve. Players with experience can predict the bounce though visual clues like the arc of the paddle swing and the spin on the ball. A spinning pickleball is easy to read.  Its construction includes lots of holes that contrast with the solid color. So, if spinning the ball won’t work against players that you will encounter in your future, why bother even spending one minute practicing it? My experience is that my time is better spent perfecting shots that will be effective.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Ground Stroke Drills

Drills are most effective when players learn to control their shots sufficiently well to sustain long rallies with their drill partners. That is especially true for these groundstroke drills. Players should try to hit a target area near the back corner of your partner’s court with firm strokes but not so hard that they are outright winners. The objective is to develop a feel for the shot and the muscle memory to execute it under pressure. That requires repetitive hitting of the same shot.

Basic Groundstroke Drills

These drills practice the most basic of groundstrokes – returning in the same direction from its origination. Completing all 4 drills means you will have practiced forehands and backhands both cross court and down the line from both sides of the court. These drills can be done with either 2 or 4 players.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hendersonville Holiday Schedule

The Hendersonville County Athletic/Activity Center has announced its holiday closings:

Wednesday, Dec 16 - Closed
Monday - Saturday, Dec 21-26 - Closed
Friday, Jan 1 - Closed

Brevard Holiday Schedule

The Transylvania Rec Center in Brevard has announced its holiday closings:

Friday, Dec 11 - Closed
Friday, Dec 18 - Closed
Thursday and Friday, Dec 24 and 25 - Closed
Friday, Jan 1 - Closed

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Backhand Ground Stroke

The forehand groundstroke is the most common shot for most players in the area between the baseline and mid-court as I discussed in The Forehand Ground Stroke. But no one can cover their entire area using only the forehand stroke. Your opponents know that your forehand is your stronger shot so they will make every effort to hit their shot to your other side. Therefore, you must know how to cover that area with a backhand groundstroke.

The movements for a backhand groundstroke have many similarities to a forehand groundstroke. All you do is reverse the direction your body is facing. The forehand requires your paddle shoulder and foot to the back. The backhand requires those parts of the body in the front. But the similarities exist in the motion. Your body should turn so your front shoulder is aimed at your target. Your weight should shift to your back foot. Your paddle should be drawn back in the backswing. Your weight should shift forward onto the front foot simultaneously with the paddle swing toward the ball. Your paddle should follow through toward the target. All of these are identical to the forehand groundstroke motion.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Forehand Ground Stroke

The forehand groundstroke is the most common – and comfortable – shot for most players between the baseline and mid-court. A ground stroke is simply hitting a ball after it bounces, a regular occurrence when players are deep in the court.  The forehand is a more natural shot on the stronger side of the body and, thus, more comfortable for many players. The forehand groundstroke is so common that all players should master the basic techniques.

The body position and movement for a forehand groundstroke is very similar to The Service Motion. Your body should turn so your front shoulder is aimed at your target. Your weight should shift to your back foot. Your paddle should be drawn back in the backswing. Your weight should shift forward onto the front foot simultaneously with the paddle swing toward the ball. Your paddle should follow through across your body. All of these movements are identical to the service motion.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Pickleball Magazine

In this month's USAPA newsletter, Pickleball Magazine, a new publication focused only on pickleball was announced.

Pickleball Magazine launches January 2016
Pickleball Magazine is the official publication for USAPA

The USAPA is excited to announce the launch of Pickleball Magazine, the only magazine 
featuring one of the fastest growing sports in America. Each issue ofPickleball Magazine offers readers the opportunity to learn more about the sport and the people involved with it. Beginning January 2016, all USAPA members will receive FREE electronic editions of Pickleball Magazine delivered to their email inboxes! Members will be able to read these on any computer, phone or tablet. For those who are interested, you can also subscribe to the magazine and have it delivered directly to your home. 

Visit to learn more about Pickleball Magazine and how to subscribe.

Welcome to Pickleball Magazine!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Moving at the Kitchen Line

We have already discussed the need for fast paddle reaction times at the kitchen line in the post The Ready Position at the Kitchen Line. But the need for quick reactions isn’t limited to just your hands. Foot movement along the line must also be quick due to the close proximity of your opponent. A complicating factor to foot movement is the potential for a kitchen line fault, especially if you have taken the proper position within 2-3 inches of the line (You. Must. Get. To. The. (NoVolley) Line).

The primary objective of moving to hit the ball when at the kitchen line is obviously to reach the ball. But simply reaching the ball is not enough if you are caught out of position for your opponent’s next return. Therefore, your movement must be efficient as well as effective.

If your opponent’s shot bounces, you can move anywhere on the court, including into the kitchen area. A step into the kitchen area should be taken with only one foot while leaving the trail foot in place behind the kitchen line. Then simply bring the forward foot back alongside the trail foot and into the ready position just behind the kitchen line. The pattern is step forward, hit, step back, ready position. Below is a photo showing the step.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Ready Position at the Kitchen Line

My earlier post The Ready Position from Mid-Court discussed being prepared early for the next shot by taking a proper stance and paddle position. It included the following caveat:

Being in a ready position applies to all shots all over the court. But the ready position changes slightly at the kitchen due to the nature of the shot you will likely have to defend. You are more likely to get a ball in the air for a volley than the low ball requiring a ground stroke or half-volley you will see deeper in the court.

The change in the ready position at the kitchen line is subtle but meaningful. While the body position remains the same (see the previous post), the paddle no longer is above the wrist and pointed toward the net. The paddle is instead held with a backhand grip and is parallel to the net. Below is a comparison of the 2 positions.

Mid-Court Ready              Kitchen Line Ready

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pickleball for your Health

There are plenty of reasons to play pickleball - fun and camaraderie among them.  But let's never forget the health benefits.

In September 2014, an online blog ( included the following:

"Most who give pickleball a try find it addictive and challenging. It also provides plenty of exercise, burning about 250 calories in 30 minutes for casual play if you weigh 150 pounds, 335 calories if you weigh 200 pounds. If you play more aggressively, then you can burn approximately 360 calories in 30 minutes if you weigh 150 pounds, 475 calories in if you weigh 200 pounds. Pickleball works most of your muscle groups at the same time and improves your balance, dexterity, mobility and agility. It’s great for interval training with its quick bursts of activity and intermittent resting. Pickleball also helps with speed, overall fitness, discipline, social skills, and even sportsmanship. What a fun way to stay fit!"

Another blog ( included the following:

Pickleball, a Great Cardio Workout
It’s important at any age to keep your health in tip-top shape. Along with eating right, getting enough sleep and keeping your stress low, another important element of wellbeing is physical exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of intense activity per week.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Georgia Mountain Pickleball

We have some beautiful mountain views in Western North Carolina but we can't forget that the state to our south, Georgia, has some pretty mountains too. When you have those views, why not build some pickleball courts? That is exactly what Towns County did in Young Harris, GA. This complex opened in September 2015 and a tournament was held that same month. 

The video Hiawassee Georgia Pickleball Rocks shows the complex.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pickleball Meeting in Brevard - Update

Per a comment from Kathleen Watkins, the subject meeting scheduled for Thursday, Dec 3 has been postponed until 2016.

I will update the meeting particulars when made available.

Drill Baby Drill

Playing any game is fun only if you feel comfortable with your ability to be competitive – no matter the level. That is especially true in a 2-person team sport where your partner is dependent on you holding up your end of the partnership. Nothing drives players away from a game faster than frustration with their playing abilities and sensing that frustration in a partner. All of this is true in pickleball…and that is why practice, practice, and more practice is important. Practice means drilling and not playing. Playing is the fun way to implement the skills learned from drilling. Drilling is the best method to master any skill. 

I learned a long time ago to take on the hard part of a task first in order to be successful. Doing the hard part up-front makes completing the task a more pleasurable experience. Drilling is the hard part of pickleball. Identify the weakest parts of your game, find an appropriate practice drill, and spend a few hours working the drill. The hard part is over. Go play the game and identify the next weakest element. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Dinking Drills

Drilling is the best method to master any skill. Dinking is a skill that must be mastered and is easily learned in a 2-person, 3-person, or 4-person drill. While drills can be tedious and boring, some of these are easily turned into games that make learning a lot more fun.

Drill 1 for 2 players

 2-person drills range from simple to complex. The simplest is to have the players stand across the net from each other and hit dinks back and forth as shown in Diagram 1 below. Try landing your dink 3 feet from the net. Start by hitting directly at your partner and then vary the direction to his left and right. Remember the objective is to keep the ball in the kitchen area.

Diagram 1

Pickleball Meeting in Brevard

From Deb Richter:

Hello Transylvania county pickleball players and Friends of Transylvania County ie folks who play at the rec. center in Brevard:

I hope all of you had a nice Thanksgiving and have enjoyed these last couple of days on the courts, working off a few of those stuffing calories. Now it's time to get to some business. 

The county rec center has indicated that pickleball would be considered more seriously if we had a "program". A few ideas have surfaced, but it would be great to have a potluck social meeting where we can gather ideas from the players, explain the ideas that have been collected, maybe hear from rec leaders what they envision, and most importantly, demonstrate our numbers and our passion for the sport. 

So you and all your pickleball friends are invited to gather at the rec center on Thursday, December 3 at 530 pm for a potluck dinner/meeting. We'll see what kind of interest, and energy there is in the community to grow this wonderful sport. This should only take 90 minutes. Please join us, bring ideas, passion, a dish and your best "can do" attitude. 

Deb Richter, USAPA Ambassador, Connestee Falls 877-2543

It is important that pickleball enthusiasts from around the area support actions such as these. Many players from outside Transylvania County play in Brevard and a formal county program would be a wonderful continuation of the pickleball growth efforts for the entire area.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Dink Game Strategies

In my last post about dinking, I described the dinking technique as similar to sitting in a chair. For many players, that description also applies to their attitude about the dink game. They think dinking is a passive game of patience where the strategy is just to keep the ball in play until their opponent makes a mistake. That certainly works for some players – those with amazing patience and skill. Others need to use different strategies with the dink game.

First, let’s discuss when to dink. A dink should be an option only when both opponents are at their kitchen line. If one or both opponents are back, a better shot is to keep them back by hitting a ball to or just behind their feet. If both opponents are at the kitchen and you have to hit a ball from below net level, then you should hit a dink. Otherwise, your return will be upward and give your opponents a chance to smash it downward and win the rally. This same thought process works in reverse. If your partner is caught away from the kitchen line, a soft shot - like a dink - will give him an opportunity to regain position.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

It Should be Called Dinkball

Recent posts have been about moving from the baseline to the kitchen line. Prem Carnot’s article in a recent post made clear why you need to get there. If you haven’t read it yet, please do. Prior to my recent tournament, I planned to follow those posts with a series on kitchen line play ultimately leading toward several posts on dinking. However, my experience at the Holiday Smash has caused me to move dinking to the head of the line.

So, what is dinking and just why is it so darn important? A dink is a ball hit low and soft into your opponent’s kitchen. It is important because it is effective either in a defensive or offensive mode. Its importance grows as the skill level of your opponent rises. It provides you a significant competitive advantage against opponents who can’t or don’t prefer to dink. I saw match after match won and lost by the dinking game in Concord.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Brief time off

I'm travelling for the Thanksgiving holiday so posting will be light, if at all.

I have lots more pickleball to talk about and will back in full swing soon.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Holiday Smash Final Results

The Holiday Smash was held on Saturday at Carolina Courts in Concord, NC. 

Local medal winners include:

Sandro Francioni and Paul Aaron, both of Cummings Cove, won bronze medals in the.3.5/3.0 Men's Doubles. 

Sandro and Paul