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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Ready Position from Mid-Court

Have you ever noticed that some players make the game seem effortless compared to the energy that you expend in a match? In some cases, like mine, it could be a fitness differential. But the difference in most cases results from 3 factors – positioning, anticipation, and being ready. This post is about the ready position.

One of the most important elements of a good return is early preparation. Your body should be positioned to move in any direction in order to respond to an opponent’s shot. Your paddle should be positioned to move most efficiently with your body and quickly to the ball. And all of this must be done at just the right time. 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 ready position in the area from mid-court to the baseline prepares you to move in all directions and cover a lot of area. Since I just had a series of posts about the serve, I will now focus on shot preparation for the 2 shots following the serve – the return of serve and the server’s first return, both of which occur with players starting at the baseline. The ready position at the kitchen line will be discussed in a separate post.

You should be in the ready position when your opponent strikes the ball. A server should assume the ready position immediately after serving. The opponent receiving the serve should be in position when the serve is made. The ready position has your elbows and paddle in front of your body. Your paddle should be up, above your wrist, and pointed toward the net. Your non-paddle hand should hold the paddle face. Your feet should be parallel to the net, about shoulder width apart, with your knees bent slightly and your weight on the balls of your feet, not your heels, in a position ready to move to either the forehand or backhand side.

After hitting the ball, you should advance forward to the kitchen line when it is safe to do so. Stop immediately and assume the ready position when your opponent is about to hit the ball. You should never sacrifice early preparation for position on the court. A common error is rushing to get to the non-volley zone and continuing to move forward while your opponent hits the ball. You should NOT be moving at this time. If you are moving, your body is committed to a specific direction and it is much harder to adjust to a shot away from your direction. Early preparation is always more important than court position in executing a shot.

Let’s look at several examples of the ready position – ready or not.

This is a good example of the ready position. She is positioned such that she can move quickly in any direction and the paddle is centered and high. My personal preference is to grasp the paddle face with the left hand (as shown in the first 2 pictures above). This allows me to pull the paddle across my body and position my shoulders for a backhand. But the position of the non-paddle hand is less important than having it centered by touching either the paddle or paddle hand anywhere in front.

The player on the left is not in the ready position. Her feet and body are positioned such that she is not prepared to move at all. She is flat-footed and standing tall. Her paddle is low and at her side, making it difficult to hit any shot, especially a backhand.

This is another example of not being in the ready position. The player on the right has his feet positioned such that he cannot move to his right without at least 1 extra step. In addition, his paddle is low and at his side.

Both of these players are in relatively good ready position, although it appears they may be a little flat-footed.

A couple of videos help explain the ready position.  The first is a tennis video from eHow Sports called Ready Position Footwork but the concept is identical to pickleball.  The second video comes from Beginner Pickleball Program (The Villages FL) and called Grip Ready addresses 2 topics, with the ready position as second part of the video.

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