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Friday, May 20, 2016

In Pickleball...Movement is Not Optional

I have frequently mentioned footwork and movement in my posts. It has been a while, though, where a post was devoted solely to what is likely the single most important factor in pickleball. It was several months ago when I posted Moving at the Kitchen Line and Split Step. A couple of recent videos highlight the importance of focusing on movement and are worth discussion.

Mark Renneson's video Pickleball You Move You Win uses clips from top players' matches at the recent US Open to show the value of movement. Mark shows the players' movements to position their bodies for the optimal shot. But, beyond the positional movement, he emphasizes the high energy of staying light on one's feet with athletic stances and active feet. The dynamic movement of small quick steps allows the adjustments needed to get properly positioned.

The second video is from Sarah Ansboury titled Moving, Footwork, and More Split Steps. Sarah's focus is training specific movements to teach muscle memory and improve fitness. Sarah's first exercise is a warm-up drill that I discussed in Dinking Drills where 2 players move side-to-side along the kitchen line while dinking back-and-forth.

During this exercise, Sarah emphasizes staying on the balls of your feet, breathing while making a shot, keeping your head up, and shifting your weight for extra power and control. Development of these aspects will lead to better shot-making.

Sarah then moves on to the split step. In my earlier posts on the topic, I included:

"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 the 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."

The act of stopping in the proper position is the split step. It means taking a small hop and planting your feet perpendicular to the spot where the ball is contacted by your opponent.

This position allows movement in any direction to get to the ball. Moving to your right or left involves simply pushing off with the leg on the side of the desired direction.

The timing of the split step is very important. It should happen at the moment an opponent contacts the ball. Otherwise, your continued forward movement commits you to a direction that may not allow getting to the ball for a return.

Finally, Sarah talks about the footwork needed to get the forward weight of the body into the stroke though a 3-step process. She plants her rear foot, transfers her weight forward by stepping with her front front, and then swings the paddle. This assists her to get under and lift the ball as well as add power.

Enjoy the video.

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