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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.

But do you remember the 4 down-the-line shots that were out of bounds…or the 3 lobs that were way short and smashed back at your partner? We tend to remember those shots only when reminded of them or if we honestly analyze our game in the immediate aftermath of a loss.

The statistics help us to overcome the way our mind focuses only the successes and ignores the failures. Those statistics say that our winners are far more rare than our errors when our mind tells us the opposite to be true.

So what does this principle mean to our shot selection? Should we give up the down-the-line shot and the lob? Not at all. What it means is that, instead of targeting the area 4 inches inside the sideline, you should target 12 inches inside the sideline. Instead of hitting a smash as hard as you can, hit it 90% as hard as you can. In other words, give yourself some margin for error. Because when you make fewer errors, your opponent will inevitably make more errors. The statistics don't lie.

This principle and a couple more points are discussed in the following video called Keeping the Ball in Play from Norm Davis.

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