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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

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.

Players with tournament aspirations should be even more serious about drilling. They should set up weekly sessions to practice specific skills needed for their level of tournament play. Skill development requires attention to detail and performing the skill properly. Only repetitive practice will develop the muscle memory necessary to perform under tournament pressure. In addition, practice provides a boost in confidence that these players can perform a shot when needed.

One phrase comes to mind when this topic comes up:
"Remember, practice may not make you perfect but it will not make you worse!"
One other quick note on drills - they shouldn't be done alone.  Obviously, 1 or more partners are needed to drill.  What I mean is that someone should be available to observe as well.  The observer should be qualified to assess whether the practiced skill is being done properly.  Practicing the wrong doesn't help you get better.  It could make you worse, despite the above phrase.

Deb Harrison has a short video called Pickleball Tidbit: Drilling that discusses the importance of practice.

Having said all of that, don’t forget what drew you to pickleball in the first place – pickleball is fun! Drilling is important but it can be tedious and boring. I will usually post a set of drills for each skillset. Among those drills will be something fun to break the tedium. But the bottom line is...drill to get better but play to have fun.

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