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, January 30, 2016

Greater Greenville Senior Sports Classic (GGSSC) Pickleball Tournment

Spring is a big pickleball tournament season in areas around the lower mountains. The organizers of the subject tournament recently sent me an e-mail announcing the 2016 tournament scheduled for April 14-15 in Greenville, SC. The great thing about this tournament is that no overnight stay is required for Hendersonville area players. 

This tournament is played on outdoor courts. For those who have never played outside, a whole new set of challenges, like wind and sun, must be managed. The format is slightly different than last year so I cannot offer any advice beyond the description shown in a copy of the e-mail shown below.

A direct link to the registration form is here.  It will be available February 2.  

Good luck if you enter...and you should!!! 

Scene from 2015 Tournament

Friday, January 29, 2016

Hendersonville Rec General Meeting - Jan 28

A meeting of pickleball players at the Henderson County Athletic and Activity Center was held during scheduled play hours on January 28. The primary intent of the meeting was to discuss alternatives to managing the growing number of players on the 3 fixed courts. Several alternatives were described by Ken Weitzen and Julie Fister prior to a vote of those present.

The ultimate choice, in a close vote, was for paddles to be aligned in two rows. One row would include the paddles of the winning team as they leave the court. The other row would include the paddles of the losing team from the same game. The first four paddles from the winners row would play together and the first 4 paddles from the losers row would play together. The process would continue throughout the scheduled play.

 a side note, I did not hear how the row is selected to fill the next available court. That is a clarification I need to determine.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Transitioning from Tennis to Pickleball

As discussed in Pickleball vs Tennis - And the Winner is..., more and more tennis players are also playing pickleball.  Some do it just to see what pickleball is all about. Others make it a permanent transition as their aging bodies are better suited to the smaller court.  These players have an edge over non-tennis novices due to their court experience, but there are 5 big differences to which they must adjust.

1. The stroke

A tennis stroke is much longer than a pickleball stroke.  The pickleball court, at 1/3 the size of a tennis court, is a much quicker game that does not demand the power needed to hit a ball the longer distance.  The tennis stroke starts with a long backstroke and a long follow-through as shown below.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Pickleball Terminology

After nearly 100 posts, I just realized that I have been using a lot of terms with which newcomers may not be familiar.  This post aims to rectify that omission. Here are the terms commonly used in pickleball (and other racquet/court games):

Approach shot - A hit while moving forward toward the net.

Backcourt - The area of the court within several feet of the baseline.

Backhand - A hit with the "back" of the paddle made by reaching across the body and leading the swing with the back of the hand.

Backspin - Spin on the ball in the opposite direction of the flight of the ball.

Backswing - The paddle movement from the ready position toward the back of the stance in preparation for the shot.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The 3D Game

Previous posts have discussed the most important strategies of the first three shots of a rally - the serve, return of serve and third shot drop. Each of the shots can be practiced individually with drills, but drills can be boring. I recently came across a "game" that incorporates each of these shots called the 3D Pickleball Game. Before going into details of the game, let's review the 3 shots.

In Service Strategies, I stated:
The most common strategy is to land the serve deep (within 5 feet of the baseline) in the opponent’s service court. There are 2 reasons to serve deep. First, a deep serve does not allow the returner to build forward momentum. It might even cause the returner move back. By contrast, a short serve is an open invitation for the returner to move toward the kitchen line. The team that controls the kitchen line generally wins the rally. A deep serve helps to beat those odds. Second, a deep serve gives the returner fewer options to hit an aggressive shot. A deep shot of any kind, including the serve, takes away a returner’s angles.
In The Return of Serve, I stated:

Monday, January 25, 2016

Doubles Strategy

I have been focused on lots of teamwork mechanics and strategies in recent posts. The following Joe Baker video called Doubles Pickleball Strategy 101-How to Play Smart Pickleball, Ten Tips highlights the ten main strategies of winning doubles.

The video discusses specific points based on the overarching theme that a team should get to the kitchen line as quickly as possible and do everything possible to keep the other team from doing so.

Tip # 1 - The Serve:  Avoid service faults.  Aim for the middle of the service box.

Tip # 2 - The Return of Serve:  Avoid service return faults.  Aim for a specific spot just left of the center line and back 1/3 of the court.

Tip # 3 - Return the Serve and Charge:  Immediately after returning the serve, the returner should charge to the kitchen line to join his partner.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What is Pickleball - Video

I briefly introduced pickleball in my first post - What is Pickleball.  I have since found an excellent video describing this great sport.  It is called What is Pickleball and is a long video  of nearly 30 minutes, but well worth the time.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Several months after I started playing pickleball I was ready to serve when I saw something like this on my opponents' side.

Since this was a social match, I stopped before serving to tell them I was ready and they should get into position. They told me they were ready as well and to start the game. I didn't know what to think so I just played my normal game. That was my introduction to stacking.

Stacking is a positioning strategy where players on a team stay on the same side - right or left service court - throughout the game.  To be clear, the rules state that players must receive and serve in the courts in a specific rotation or lose the point. But there are no rules about the positioning of players not involved in the service. Nor are there rules about where the players may go after the first hit ball on each side. This results in some odd positioning and movement compared to the normal player rotation described in the Doubles Scoring and Player Positioning post. Players will be positioned side-by-side or on the same side of the court. Players will run diagonally across the court. It seems like mass confusion.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Poaching is the practice of one player moving into his partner's court to return a ball that would normally be taken by the player's partner.  The poach generally takes place at the kitchen line but could occur anywhere on the court.  There are two kinds of poaching - planned and unplanned.  (Some would agree that there are two kinds of poaching but would change the labels to "good" and "bad".)  A poach is shown below.  The player starts in the left service court and returns the shot after crossing into the right court in front of his partner.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Beginner Clinic

My first true beginner clinic was held January 20 in the Hendersonville Athletic/Activity Center. We had 11 attendees who worked on the basics of hitting the ball. The goal was to gain an understanding of how the paddle angles direct the ball as well as the proper positioning and stroke techniques for the main shots.

The first exercise was tapping the ball while standing in place.  Tapping was done with the forehand side, then the backhand side, and finally, alternating the backhand and forehand sides with each tap.  The exercise was intended to show the players that swings should be made with a firm wrist and using the arm rather the wrist. Those who tried to flip their wrists soon learned that the ball was deflected due to the erratic paddle angles that resulted.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Forehand Takes the Middle

A commonly heard phrase in pickleball is "forehand takes the middle". This is one of those axioms that irritate players who have relied on individual skills and have yet to understand the strategies of playing doubles. Even as a novice player, I thought I had a strong backhand that I brought from my tennis background. I could not understand why I would cede that middle shot to a weaker partner. This post will try to explain why I was wrong.

The primary reason this phrase applies is that most players have a stronger forehand shot than their backhand shot.  Competitive players usually have partners with comparable skills, so the forehand would provide the better chance to succeed. This is not always the case, though, and the tactics to be used during a match should be part of the pre-match discussion.

Even in the case where one player's backhand is stronger than his partner's forehand, there is a physical reason the phrase applies.  A forehand is a natural extension of the paddle arm that allows the body to remain in a position to more quickly prepare for the next shot.  In contrast, a backhand to cover the middle causes the player to reach across his body and the player is not in a position to quickly recover.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Predicting the Future

Most endeavors in life are undertaken with a plan. That plan may be either formal or subconscious. Some actions to succeed in the endeavor can be reactive, waiting for someone else to act before acting. But the best actions are those that are based on accurately anticipating the actions of others before they are completed. Pickleball is no different. Anticipating the shots of opponents allows players to be prepared to make better returns and provides a competitive advantage.

Anticipating a shot is a matter of looking for visual clues when an opponent hits the ball. Most players have shot tendencies, i.e., they will use similar movements to hit a shot. But tendencies also are situational, where players will usually hit the same shot in a given situation (time and place). Human nature is such that players will rely on a favorite shot - and one in which they have confidence - when under stress. Tendencies can be learned by watching an opponent's games and warm-ups. At the very least, early play in a match will show opponents' tendencies that can be used later in the match.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Moving as a Team Part 3 - Defending the Lob

Defending the lob was briefly mentioned in Communicating with a Partner - During a Rally where I stated:

The rule of thumb is that the player on the opposite side of the court should run back on an angle for a lob over his partner’s head. Of course, the pre-match discussion should include the specific tactics used for this shot based on partners’ relative strengths. But the rule of thumb doesn’t always apply anyhow. If the lob is short, for example, then the player on the same side of the court should call “mine” as soon as possible to preclude his partner from running to the backcourt and allowing him to keep his position on the court.

Let's dive a little deeper into what this means for player movement by looking at an example as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Moving as a Team Part 2 - Baseline to Kitchen

The single most difficult decision in pickleball is when to move from the baseline to the kitchen line. That decision becomes doubly hard when playing with a partner. A basic rule of thumb in doubles is that players should move together (Let's Stay Together). Therefore, the decision to move forward must be shared by two minds.

First, we must acknowledge that getting to the kitchen is a worthwhile goal. A previous post - written by Prem Carnot and titled You. Must. Get. To. The. (No-Volley) Line - detailed the reasons why getting to the line is important so I will not revisit that issue.

It is easy for one player to advance to the kitchen. He can almost walk to the line when a ball is hit to his partner.  So, why not have that Player A advance and then allow his partner to work his way to join Player A at the line? The answer is simple - the gaps created are huge and both players are put into hard-to-defend positions. Let's revisit the 3 lanes available to opponents as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Moving as a Team Part 1 - At the Kitchen Line

When a team is at the kitchen line, it seems natural for each partner to be accountable for the most of the service court in which he is positioned. It also seems reasonable that the best place to defend that court would be to stand at its mid-point as shown in Figure 1 below. The prevailing theory among top pickleball doubles teams is that 2/3 of the court should be covered just by where a team is positioned. This positioning covers t least 2/3 of the court. So, is it the best positioning strategy? 

Figure 1

Before we can answer that question, we need to understand the opponents' options when returning their shot. I like the concept that a returner has 3 lanes in which to hit the ball. Lane 1 is down the middle and is the safest option.  Lane 2 is down the line and is a higher risk return. Lane 3 is crosscourt and is the highest risk return. A team must position itself to defend the easy shots and force the opponent to make the difficult shot. Let's first look at the mid-court positioning of Figure 1 with the 3-lane options of a corner return.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Beginner Clinic in Hendersonville

I will be holding a clinic for new pickleball players next Wednesday (January 20) from noon until 2:00 pm. The clinic will be held at the Hendersonville Athletic/Activity Center at 708 South Grove Street, Hendersonville, NC. The facility has regular play scheduled at the same time on 2 courts. The clinic will be held on the third court. Players can rotate in and out play as they choose.

My plan is to focus on one topic - hitting the ball solidly, whether hitting a groundstroke, volley, serve, or any other shot. The ability to hit the ball serves as the basic foundation for playing the game.

The clinic will be free.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Moving as a Team - Let's Stay Together

Everyone has heard the saying "Two heads are better than one". In pickleball, two players are better than one...if they play as a team. Pickleball is a game of quick shots and strategy. A team must be properly positioned to to account for both factors in order to maximize the probability of winning a rally.

Before beginning the discussion of team positioning, let's review the court dimensions.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Pickleball Magazine - Free First Edition

Last year, I posted that a new Pickleball Magazine would be available in January 2016. That first edition is now out and Pickleball Rocks is providing a complimentary copy! Just click on the photo below and the magazine will be linked as an Adobe file where you change pages by finding the arrows in the right and left centers of the page. It may take a few minutes to load since it is a large file. Enjoy!

Remember, electronic copies are free for all USAPA members. Go to my post Pickleball Magazine to find out the membership or subscription information.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Jan 1, 2016 Rule Changes

Rule Revisions: January 1, 2016

10.F. Calling the Score: The score should be called as three numbers. The proper sequence for calling the score is: server score, receiver score, then, for doubles only, (server) 1 or 2. To start a match, the score will be called as: zero – zero – two. Prior to the potential final game or match point, DO NOT add any phrase such as “potential game point” or “potential match point.”

2.E.3. Size: The combined length and width including any edge guard and butt cap shall not exceed 24 inches (60.96 cm). The paddle length cannot exceed 17 inches (43.18 cm). There is no restriction on paddle thickness. (revised January 1st, 2016, effective July 1st, 2016)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Upcoming Southeast US Tournaments

Silver Palms RV Resort, Okeechobee, FL, United States

Fri 01/29/16 thru Sun 01/31/16

Registration Started: 09/25/15

Final Deadline: Mon 01/11/16 

Clinics offered to players and the public on Thursday, Jan. 28. 
Registration Fee $35. Men’s, women’s, mixed doubles. Skill/age combination. 
10 lighted courts. 
Complimentary poolside “Meet & Greet” Thursday night, Jan. 28 (cash bar). 
A night with the Tom Jackson Band (“The Voice” finalist) Saturday night, Jan. 30. 
Tickets $15 each; 2 for $25. 


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: How to Lose Games

From the USAPA:

Always remember that about 75% all lost volleys are unforced errors. The following are common mistakes that we all make that can give up points or lose serves. Usually, there are only 11 points in a game. You make a few of these mistakes, your opponents make a few good shots and you’ve lost. Neat! After successfully performing one of these techniques, be sure to carefully examine your paddle. Your opponents will think you were actually trying to make a good shot. We give these suggestions here as recommendations with tongue in cheek but they are very real. 
  • Serve really hard. A lot of balls will go into the net or over the baseline. 
  • Stand in the playing area to receive a serve. When players return the ball deep you can try to reach behind you to hit it. Holler “Great Serve” 
  • Return serves hard. This causes lots of hits to go into the net or over the end line and gives you less time to get to the non-volley line so you’re still trying to move in when the ball gets back to you. You get lots of chances to hit balls at your feet this way. If you return the serve soft and deep your opponents have to let the ball drop before they can hit it, you could actually win the volley. No! No! 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Rethinking the Dink

Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows that I try to include lots of videos to show how the descriptions within the posts translate to action on the court.  One of the video sources I use in many posts - because she does a lot of videos and does them well - is Deb Harrison, an instructor at The Villages in Florida.  Deb has just released a new video on dinking in which she changes her recommendation for dinking technique on which I would like to comment. 

First, let's revisit my post on dinking, It Should be Called Dinkball.  That post included 3 videos that detailed different dinking techniques.  Two of those videos, including Deb's (shown below), had similar instructions.

(Video removed by owner)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Communicating with a Partner - Changing the Game

We have discussed a couple of partner communication essentials – off-the-court and during a rally. There remain 2 periods of time that have yet to be discussed. These are the breaks between rallies, including time-outs, and post-match. Let’s first focus on the between-rally breaks.

Most play allows very short time periods between rallies, necessitating very brief communications. Generally, these should be limited to one of two quick statements:
  1. A player informing their partner of a very specific shot or tactic that may be attempted 
  2. Encouragement and compliments 
If Player A has noticed a weakness or tendency that was not discussed pre-match, he might choose to try something outside his normal style of play, such as a lob, poach, or alternate third-shot. Player A should communicate this intent to his partner so he can be properly prepared. This type of communication will likely be rare during a match.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Communicating with a Partner - During a Rally

We have introduced the topic of communication between partners and how important it is to a winning and enjoyable experience. The previous focus was on off-the-court communications in developing a game plan and building a supportive atmosphere. Now, we will change the focus to communicating on the court, first during play.

Players need to communicate any (and every) time any doubts, problems, or tactical changes potentially come into play while in the midst of a rally. Several examples are listed below:

  1. The most obvious example is when a ball is hit between players and there may be confusion about who should take it. A player should yell “mine” or “yours” as soon as possible. This ensures that the ball does not go unplayed – a gift to your opponents – and that both players can optimize their positioning for the next shot – instead of converging on the ball. This communication either reinforces the pre-match tactical discussions or overrides that discussion when a player is better positioned (such as in front of their partner).

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Chili Cook-off and Fund Raiser

From Deb Richter of Connestee Falls:

Connestee Falls Mountain Picklers are hosting our first Chili Cook-off and playday on Saturday, Jan 16 from 1 pmtil the chili is gone. Please pass this information on to "your people". This event is also a fund raiser for our club so have them bring $5, a paddle, an appetite, and be prepared to taste several Chilies, corn bread, and we'll also have the makings for S'mores. BYOB We are asking that people RSVP so we have enough of everything. We are also asking people to carpool because we have another big event in Connestee Falls that day and parking will be tight. Attached is the flyer that has all the information on it. If people need directions, they can get that information on our website,,

Communicating with a Partner - Off the Court

All of us have relationships with other people - like spouses, children, co-workers, or friends. As a result, we all know how important good communication is to maintaining a healthy relationship. A pickleball partnership is no different, regardless of whether the partnership lasts only one game or extends for years. Good communication strengthens the team and leads to better results.

On-court communication seems obvious and will be discussed in a separate post. But good communication starts off the court with pre-match discussions about what will happen on the court. This is true for all competitive matches and especially true if the partnership is new or in its early stages.

With 2 people on the court, both can’t start in the right court and both can’t serve first. Basic discussions such as starting positions and service rotation are necessary before going onto the court. An honest discussion of each player’s strengths and weaknesses can help determine who should start where and who should serve first.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Pickleball and Business Relationships

Today's post will be a copied article from the Aug 25, 2015 Forbes Magazine and written by Victor Lipman.

What A Casual Game Of Pickleball Can Teach Us About Management

I’ve long since come to the conclusion you learn management lessons in the darnedest places. This morning it was in a conversation with a young friend of mine who played her first game of pickleball last night.

For those who might not be familiar with pickleball, it’s a variant of tennis played with a net, paddles and a wiffleball-like ball. But no matter. The game could be ski jumping, surfing, horseback riding or ice hockey. The sport doesn’t matter. The interpersonal dynamics do.

Pickleball (Photo by Craig Lassig/Invision for Humana/AP Images)

So my young friend (we’ll call her “Pickle”) told me the story. She was at an instructional
clinic introducing new players to the game, with two games going on at the same time on adjacent courts.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Overhead Drills with Lobs

Overhead drills work in conjunction with lob practice. An effective overhead drill requires a good lobber to feed the ball properly. But these drills benefit both players as one gets to practice overhead smashes while the other gets to practice a lob return off the overhead smash.

Drill 1 for 2 players – The lobbing feeder stands at the baseline and hits lobs to the overhead player across the net. The feeder tries to hit high lobs that land between the kitchen line and ¾ court. The other player tries to hit overhead shots back at the feeder so that the ball can be lobbed back. The overhead shot should not be hit at full power. The focus should be on form and control instead. Rotate the feeder and overhead roles often.

Drill 2 for 3 or more players – Two lobbing feeders hit lobs to a single player across the net as in Drill 1. The overhead player practices hitting shots to the center and both corners of the court. After 4 consecutive successful shots, the overhead player can try to win the rally with more emphasis on power and angles. Players rotate roles regularly, including rotating in from the sidelines.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Lob

The lob is a high and deep shot over the opponents’ heads. It is a specialty shot that should be only used as a change of pace offensive shot or a recovery defensive shot. It is very easy to make a mistake with a lob and leave it short, resulting in an overhead smash from your opponent, or hit it long, resulting in a fault. A good lob requires lots of practice.

The swing for a lob is low to high with the paddle face angled to establish the desired trajectory of the ball. The paddle face must not be too flat or the ball will be high and short. The paddle face must not be too steep or the lob will be too low and more like a groundstroke. Much like Goldilocks’ taste for porridge, the paddle face must be just right.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Overhead Smash

Recent posts have discussed raising the level of controlled aggressiveness in your game. It is time to talk about the single most aggressive shot in pickleball – the overhead smash (or slam). While balls hit above the net can be volleyed aggressively, even to the extent of a swinging volley, nothing compares to the overhead. This is due to one factor – the height of the ball at contact point. A high ball allows the overhead to be hit downward using the leverage of a full arm extension and wrist snap (or pronation).

Overhead shot opportunities always result from an opponent’s mistake, generally a lob that is either too low or too close to the kitchen. An overhead should be hit only when the ball is high enough that you can reach it with the center (sweet spot) of your paddle using a full arm extension. A volley should be used on any ball below that height. Hitting an overhead on a lower ball will usually result in a ball hit into the net.

The overhead is a forehand shot and, therefore, a forehand grip is necessary. The continental grip is recommended because it naturally allows the paddle to slice through the air during the swing and then to open in order to hit the ball squarely at the contact point. See The Grip for a proper continental grip position.