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.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sports Tourism and Pickleball

One argument that folks make when promoting pickleball courts to local governments are the tourism benefits. Some towns have recognized theses benefits with different sports as discussed in the following article from American Way Magazine called Big Game. The article mentions the US Open benefited Naples, Florida to the tune of $2.5 million in 2016. That should give decision-makers something to think about.

Big Game

Forget the Olympics, it’s bass fishing that is reviving the fortunes of small-town America

Earlier this year, a pair of businessmen stood hunched beneath an archway in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu, watching a river of rainwater cascade along a cobblestoned street. “Ah well,” said one of them with a woeful smile. “Maybe we can have a boat race.” 

The men had reason to be concerned. They were in the midst of a publicity blitz for the 2016 Sibiu Rally Challenge, an annual car race in which they are heavily invested, and the relentless rain threatened to sink their plan to take reporters on a tour of the route.

But it wasn’t only the backers who had a stake in the day’s success. This medieval city is keen to bolster its flagging manufacturing industry with tourism, and sees the rally as a way to draw people in. As one of the organizers put it: “City Hall expects results.”

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ball Hopper and Catcher

Yesterday, I showed a solution for a player to pick up bunches of balls after practicing with a ball machine. Today's video shows a different solution for a similar - but not quite identical - situation. It also comes from Pickleball Channel and is called Gear Talk: Pickleball Hopper & Catcher with Beverly Youngren.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Ball Picker-Upper

Using a ball machine is great because it gives a player the opportunity to hit a large number of balls in succession. This helps to develop the muscle memory needed to take the stroke into game play. But it also creates an aggravating problem - how to get all of those balls off the court and back into a hopper. Steve Paranto and Pickleball Channel have an idea for an inexpensive solution in their video Gear Talk: Ball Picker-Upper with Steve Paranto.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Practicing Indoors

As much as I would like to practice with my new Tutor, it is the middle of winter here in the mountains of North Carolina. That means looking for alternative practice routines. Coach Mo has some suggestions in his Pickleball Channel video called How to Practice Indoors.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

New Gym Search in Hendersonville - a Survey

Most local players in the Hendersonville area are aware that the facilities at Crosswalk are no longer available. This leaves a large number of players who desire competitive pickleball without a suitable place to play. We will begin a search for new facilities with the start of the new year when folks return from holidays and facility operators are back in business mode. Before we begin discussions with gym owners in the area, it would be beneficial to get a feel for what players are wanting with regard to cost, location and hours. The following survey attempts to gauge specific areas of interest.

Several points should be noted before completing the survey.
  • It should only be completed by players interested in continuing Crosswalk-like play, i.e., intermediate level competitive play with skill development.
  • It should only be completed by players willing to follow through with a commitment to pay and play.
  • All players who are interested should be counted. One thought is that approaching gyms with a significant number of committed players improves the chances of reaching a win-win arrangement at reasonable costs.
Thank you for helping to move the process forward.

Tutor Ball Machine Review and Drills

Yesterday's post was about using a ball machine. I have previously posted about the Simon machine. Today's post is a review of the Tutor from Jordan Briones in a video called Pickleball Tutor (Pickleball Machine) Review.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Practicing with a Ball Machine

I just bought a Tutor ball machine (from for my personal and clinic use. I'm looking for ways to optimize it so articles like this new post from Sarah Ansboury called Practicing with a Pickleball Ball Machine grab my attention.

Practicing with a Pickleball Ball Machine

When I was introduced to pickleball, I met someone that had created a pickleball ball machine out of a pitching machine. It was very cool, and coming from tennis I instantly understood the value. When the Simon came out, my friend bought one immediately.

Teaching Aid

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Can Pickleball and Tennis be Friends?

For those interested in getting tennis courts converted to pickleball as well as getting local governments to shift investments from tennis to pickleball, the following article provides some interesting information that could be handy. The articel comes from Tennis Industry Magazine and is called Pickleball and Tennis: Can They Be Friends?

Pickleball and Tennis: Can They Be Friends?

Insiders say the explosive growth of pickleball can be a positive for the tennis market — if tennis lets it.

By Mary Helen Sprecher

Sports that are skyrocketing in popularity can usually point to a youthful, testosterone-fueled athlete base and a bucket-list appeal (we’re looking at you, obstacle racing.) But when was the last time a sport absolutely exploded off the charts because of an aging demographic that couldn’t get enough of it?

Not before, and not until, pickleball. And with 68% of all its players over 60 years of age and more players coming in every day, it’s sneaking up on the tennis market.

Not that anyone in the industry really wants to admit that.

“It’s gaining,” says consultant Doug Cash succinctly. “There are more than 2 million people playing it today. In a few years, we expect there to be 8 million. It’s gaining popularity and it’s gaining players.”

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Fun "Dink" Drill

Pickleball is a game of footwork, and no shot sequence requires more footwork than dinking. Mark Renneson highlights that point in a video called Pickleball Dink Fun!. The video contains a fun drill to practice dinking footwork without a paddle. It has to be seen to be understood.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2017 DInk for Pink Pickleball Tournament

I recently received an email announcing the Dink for Pink Tournament held in Leland, NC on Wednesday March 15th - Sunday March 19th. The email announcement is shown below.

Dink for Pink - Lump to Laughter - Charity Pickleball Tournament.
We are announcing our annual March Pickleball Tournament benefitting the Wilmington based Lump to Laughter Breast Cancer Support Organization. The tournament dates are Wednesday March 15th - Sunday March 19th. All 2.5 & 3.0 level play is scheduled for Wednesday & Thursday. All 3.5 and above level play is scheduled for Friday & Saturday with practice time on Thursday afternoon. Sunday is reserved as a rain make-up day.

This tournament is a regional tournament. So, especially for the Friday and Saturday play there will be many participants. Registration opened on December 15th  and we already have almost 100 participants registered. I expect the Friday and Saturday events will fill quickly. If you wish to play, please don't delay registering and risk being shut-out.

We use a compact schedule of play, so usually all play within your group is completed within a 5 hour window. For all levels up to 3.5 we use a two round format. Round one is a mini round-robin and Round 2 is a single elimination. For levels 4.0 and above we use the standard double elimination format.

For lots more information about the tournament please visit our website.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dink Options on the Middle Drop

The typical return hit after a drop shot is a dink because a good drop shot will require the ball to be hit upward. But we have seen in the last several posts that more aggressive volleys can be hit from the odd and even court positions. The same is true of a middle drop shot. Deb Harrison has a video describing a high-risk option of hitting to the sideline in a video called Middle Ball Options. The intent of this shot is to attack a player charging toward the net by hitting the ball outside his comfort zone.

With the forehand shot, the paddle is cupped around the ball and rolled toward the sideline while keeping the ball low.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Defending the Drop Shot from the Odd and Even Courts

In yesterday's post, we discussed the technique of returning a third-shot drop with a topspin volley. Deb Harrison has 2 more videos showing the strategies of defending the drop shot from specific spots on the court - the odd (left) side and the even (right) side of the court. The concepts of these are similar so they will be discussed together. The videos are called 3rd Shot Drop Defense from Odd Court and 3rd Shot Drop Defense from Even Court.

The general concept of these shots is to hit to space, at feet, or the line of doubt. The shots can be made with a volley when the ball is in the air or with a groundstroke when the ball bounces. They can also be made with either a backhand or a forehand. In all cases, the targets remain the same, but the techniques vary. The 3 targets consist of the crosscourt front corner, down the middle, and down the sideline.

Crosscourt Front Corner

Monday, December 19, 2016

Defending the Drop Shot

We spent last week reviewing the drop shot. The next logical step is to understand how to play the drop shot when it is hit by an opponent. A video from Deb Harrison called Returning the Third Shot Drop will be used to discuss this skill.

Deb's focus on this shot is a volley of a third shot drop that is hit below the level of the net but has not yet bounced. Her objective is to hit a return that keeps the serving opponents deep. Her choice of volley to accomplish that is a topspin shot and this video explains how it is hit.

As always, the first step in any shot is preparation. Getting ready for this shot means moving the paddle down to be prepared to take the ball in the air or on a short-hop if necessary.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: Club Logos

I've been thinking about forming a pickleball club in the area. My research has led me to lots of other club logos.

The Local Clubs

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Third Shot - Summary #1

I have often noted that more pickleball information becomes available daily. I try to keep the blog updated with both new ideas and new perspectives on old ideas. Those pertinent to the third shot are archived in Chapter 4: The Third Shot, the third chapter of the "book" from A Pickleball Life that can be found along the left side of the blog. While I like the idea of the book chapters - it was mine, after all - I love the idea of an occasional synopsis of where we are...based on the archive to-date. This is the first synopsis about the third shot. We'll start with a list of the most important learnings and then summarize their sources.

The 10 Commandments about the Third Shot
  1. Hit a drop shot when opponents are at the kitchen line.
  2. Hit the drop shot high and deep enough to clear the net. Do not hit into the net.
  3. Hit the drop shot softly with an arc about 6' at its peak (when hitting from the baseline).
  4. Get into proper position before the shot.
  5. Hit a low driving shot instead of a drop when the return of serve is short.
  6. Target the opponent's backhand, the area between opponents, or diagonally cross-court.
  7. Use a topspin drive to set up a fifth shot drop.
  8. Stay behind the baseline until the return of serve is hit.
  9. Split-step into the ready position while advancing to the kitchen line.
  10. Practice, practice, and practice some more.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Drop Shot Drill from Deb

We have seen that the drop shot is very important. We also know that the shot is hard to execute, especially as it gets deeper in the court. So how does a player learn the shot and get better at it. Learning is hard but there have been several posts on the subject (see Chapter 4 - The Third Shot along the left column of the blog). Getting better isn't hard but takes time and practice. A good practice routine is shown by Deb Harrison in her video Don't Stop the Drop.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Drop or Deep?

The last couple of days we have learned that the goal of the third shot is to gain the kitchen while preventing opponents from getting an offensive shot. The best shot to do that is typically a drop shot. But "typically" means that your opponents have done everything right and attained the kitchen line on the return of serve. Even if that has not happened, wouldn't a drop shot work when an opponent has stayed back? Well, no...and an article from Prem Carnot called The First Commandment of the Third Shot (And It’s Not “Hit a Dropshot”) explains why.

The First Commandment of the Third Shot (And It’s Not “Hit a Dropshot”)

First off, let’s just say that this is obviously NOT the only commandment to live your life by (unless Pickleball truly is your only religion).  But when it comes to pickleball, this is a biggie.

In this article, I’m going to clear up a misconception about the “third shot” (a.k.a. the return of the return of serve, a.k.a. the first shot your team hits after you serve the ball).  On my teaching tours, I have found this misconception to run rampant in the pickleball world. Players from coast to coast, north to south, and newbies to long-time ambassadors all believe that the best shot they could ever hit for the third shot is a drop shot. National champ, Enrique Ruiz says “The drop shot is overrated” and that’s because there’s a big problem with how most people hit a third shot drop shot, and this is what it is:

They are using the drop shot at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Mark's Third Shot Drop

Yesterday we looked at a comprehensive review of the third shot based on a video from Jeff Shank. Today we will drill down a little more by looking only at the third shot drop as discussed in Pickleball Strategy: Third Shot Drop, a video from Mark Renneson. 

Many coaches, like Jeff Shank in yesterday's video, talk about gaining the kitchen as the primary goal of the third shot. Mark's focus is using the shot to prevent good net players from driving the third shot back for winners. Hitting a hard groundstroke from the baseline toward opponents at the kitchen line often results in an even harder ball hit back to the serving team's feet. Hitting a third shot lob from the baseline often results in an overhead smash. The drop shot is a ball that stays below the top of the net and forces the opponent to hit their return upward rather than downward.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Third Shot Review

This week will be focused on the third shot. We opened with a short article revisiting the topic yesterday. We will continue it today with a video from Jeff Shank called 100 Pickleball Strategies HD part 2 of 7.

The video is a comprehensive discussion of the third shot. It begins with positioning. First, remember what the third shot is. The first shot is the serve, the second shot is the return of serve, and the third shot is the serving team's first opportunity to play a regular shot. The disadvantage to the serving team on this shot is that they must allow the return of serve to bounce. Therefore, they cannot advance from the baseline until they know where the return of serve is hit. Jeff emphasizes that the serving team must stay behind the baseline and not move into the court. Moving into the court can create a difficult play if the return of serve is hit deep to the serving team's feet.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Revisiting the Dropshot

The last few weeks have included discussions on the serve and the return of serve (in conjunction with groundstrokes). These topics were chosen based on a review of the Sarah Ansboury article 3 Ball Pickleball Drill: 1-2-3 Drill and my follow-up article titles Deep, Deep, Drop, Dink. We will continue the review of the most basic shots in pickleball with an article from Jeff Napier called Pickleball – The Dropshot.

Pickleball – The Dropshot

As you know, the serve must bounce in your court before you can return it. And, your return must bounce in the opponents’ court before they can hit it back. After that, you can do anything you want. Most beginners believe the best response for the third hit is to hit it hard and low to the opponents backcourt. As it turns out, that is seldom the most successful strategy, especially when playing with experts. The approach they usually use, for good reason, is called the “dropshot.” The idea is to drop the ball just over the net, so it ideally lands in the non-volley zone, and does not bounce high. you then follow your shot by coming quickly to the non-volley line.

This initiates a classic quality pickleball rally, in which the ball is hit softly with control back and forth within the non-volley zone until someone makes a mistake. The common mistakes are to hit the ball into the net, or to hit it so it is high enough that the opponet can smash it, or place it where you cannot reach.

Beginners and some intermediate players will assume that the drop shot is not important. They may even assume that it is guaranteed to fail because they do not yet have the skill to place drop shots well. This assumption is actually OK when you’re playing a game with non-skilled players, although even for them, the drop shots will generally confound them. But with advanced players, you really need a good drop shot. Otherwise, they’ll be able to come to the non-volley line while keeping you in the backcourt, and that’s not a successful place to be.

One of the best ways to learn the drop shot is to purposely practice it. During warmup, or with someone who is willing to help, try rallying with you in the backcourt, and the other person at the non-volley line, where you try to execute drop shots continuously, and the other person returns the balls to your backcourt.

If you find the opponent has an overwhelming response to your drop shots, either smashing them or placing the ball strategically, your drop shots are going too high over the net, or too fast. Slow them down so they’ll drop soon enough, and keep them low over the top of the net, so they won’t bounce too high.

If you often hit your drop shots into the net, you might notice what’s happening when you make the shots. Most people with this problem are moving forward at the time they hit the ball. Instead, make your move forward, if necessary, as early as possible, so you can come to a stop, and focus on a good hit. You might also try watching your paddle strike the ball.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: Pickleball Stylin'

Pickleball players wear all kinds of clothing out on the courts. Today we will highlight the "matchy-matchy" style.

First up, the Ladies looking good:

Next, the men are at least trying:

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Carolina Courts "Indoor Series" Pickleball Tournaments

I previously posted about some new tournaments in 2017 in Concord, NC. Some additional news was recently announced about these and other future tournaments. From North Carolina Pickleball:

It has been 3 years in the making and yesterday, an agreement was reached with Carolina Courts (Concord) to host pickleball tournamens for the next two years. The first tournament is scheduled for February 4, 2016 and will feature a round robin. Tournament Director Bob Nibarger said: “I was comletely shocked as the tourament had 20 enroll between 12 midnight and 6 AM. By 6 PM on Tuesday November 2nd, the tournament was full in severa brackets with wait lists established”. All of the tournaments are fueled by Pickleball Tournaments. All 2017 tournaments are posted and may be accesses by clicking on the pickleball tournaments web page. CLICK HERE Mark your calendars as these tournaments tend to fill up quickly.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Year in Medals

Players in the NC Mountain area ventured far and wide to play in tournaments in 2016. They represented the area well, bringing home a carload of medals. The list below includes the medal winners I have reported during the year. I'm sure I missed some and I apologize to them. One clarification is needed - local tournaments like county Senior Games and Connestee Falls are not included as they were mostly filled with local players from top to bottom.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Volunteer Survey

I recently got an inquiry about holding a small pickleball tournament next May/June. The sponsor is a local organization most folks would know. They would use the tournament as a fundraiser. One of their concerns is that a sufficient number of volunteers would be available to help manage the tournament details.

This post contains a poll to gauge interest in volunteerism. Please respond with a “Yes” if you think that you would be likely to help with the tournament. A “Yes” response is anonymous and is not a binding obligation. I will use the response counts to provide feedback to the potential sponsor. Thanks for your help.

free polls

Consistent Groundstrokes

Last week we talked about the strategies of the return of serve. Since that shot is just a groundstroke, it might be helpful to review some of the basic techniques of the stroke. We started with that yesterday and will continue today with a Mark Renneson video called Better Groundstrokes.

Mark focuses on the contact point to establish a consistent swing that can be replicated time after time. The contact point should be about thigh high and in front of the body.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Basic Forehand Groundstroke Lesson

Since the forehand groundstroke is one of the most elemental shots of pickleball, I first wrote about it nearly a year ago in The Forehand Ground Stroke. That article discussed the techniques of the stroke in detail. The Beginner Pickleball Program at The Villages has a basic instructional video called BPT Forehand that illustrates some of the basic elements of the forehand groundstroke.

As always, the shot starts with the player in the ready position - feet shoulder-width facing the direction from where the ball will come and the paddle up and in front.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

More on Choosing a Paddle

Following yesterday's paddle advice from Sarah Ansboury, we have another expert sharing his thoughts about the different factors involved in the process of selecting a paddle. Today's post is an article from the Mark Renneson called How to Choose a Pickleball Paddle.

How to Choose a Pickleball Paddle

Depending on how often you play, a pickleball paddle can be a very personal purchase. If you are a daily pickler you may spend more time with your paddle than some of your close friends. So when looking to buy a new paddle, it is important to make a good choice. Here’s a guide to help you…

Know Your Game. Pickleball paddles come in all shapes and sizes and have very different characteristics. Some are designed for power while others for feel. Some are made to create as much spin as possible while others are meant to be super quick and maneuverable.

In order to choose the right one for you, it is important to be clear on how you play. Is your game based around power or are you more of a soft game player? How important to you is spin? Are you a new player who would benefit from maximum surface area or an advanced player who consistently hits the centre and wants something more nimble? Not everyone needs the same thing from a paddle so make a list outlining your game -- or ask a friend to give you their thoughts on how you play -- and take it with you when you look to buy.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Paddle Tips from Sarah

I posted an article last week discussing how to narrow the choices for buying a new paddle, a good idea with Christmas right around the corner. I mentioned that several experts have provided some advice on how to view the different factors involved in the process. Today's post is an article from the RV Picklers and Sarah Ansboury called 3 Keys to Choosing a Pickleball Paddle.

3 Keys to Choosing a Pickleball Paddle

Every week it seems a new vendor is joining the ranks of pickleball paddle manufacturers. Perhaps this is because so many players are open to buying a new paddle in hopes it will improve their game. With that in mind, let me suggest a few things to consider before you purchase your next pickleball paddle.

Pickleball Paddle #1:  Don’t Limit Yourself

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: Thankful for Pickleball

While I am posting this a week late, the RV Picklers had an article called Top 5 Reasons We are Thankful for Pickleball that is worth sharing.

Top 5 Reasons We are Thankful for Pickleball

We truly hope you enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends. It seems only fitting that we reflect on why we are so thankful for pickleball.

We moved to The Villages because we were both avid golfers. With over 600 golf holes, The Villages really is a golfer’s paradise. But as we quickly learned, with over 200 pickleball courts it is also pickleball heaven. Over the nine years we have lived, and played, here we have decided we are thankful for pickleball because:

Thanks for a Small Court

Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Paddle Guide

(Almost) everything a player does on a pickleball is done better if that player feels comfortable doing it. One of the most personal of preferences is the choice of a paddle. There are more and more paddles entering the marketplace with different combinations of weight, grip size, length, and materials. It is hard to narrow the search down to the right one. 

Experts provide some guidance about how these factors effect play. I included an article from Prem Carnot about a month ago doing just that...and I will include a couple more next week. They can provide some recommendations but every individual's skills, strength, and mobility will ultimately determine the best combination of factors and, therefore, the best paddle for them.