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.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: Pickleball with the Famous

Esquire Magazine recently interviewed George Clooney. There is one interesting point in the article (my emphasis added).

Let's get a couple things out of the way.

No, I did not meet Amal. You go to hang with George Clooney these days and that's the first question anyone asks.

Second, George made me a Nespresso. That fact seems to amuse people. It wasn't a big deal—he didn't call it Nespresso—he just asked if I wanted a coffee and then went over to his Nespresso machine and made us each a cup. I'd been hoping for tequila, but then again, it was only about 2:30.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Third Shot Drop = Winning

I posted several articles recently on drop shots. I've often said that drop shots are the most important shot in the game, while adding that they are also the most difficult. It is nice to see reinforcement of my advice from top players and such is the case with a recent Pickleball Channel video called Third Shot Drop Makes the Difference Between Winning and Losing.

When their opponents in the Mixed Doubles 45+ Gold Medal Match at the Minto US Open Pickleball Championships came back in the second game with a new fire, forcing the match into a third tie-breaker round, Dave Weinbach and Gigi LeMaster had to adjust their strategy. Hear their winning tip about what changed to give them the win and what shot they felt was the key to their success. Plus check out exciting footage of their dynamic game play!

My favorite part is when Dave Weinbach says "The most important shot in pickleball, really, is the third shot drop, and I don't think people practice it enough back at home. It isn't an easy drill to do, but if you can effectively hit a third shot drop in the kitchen, then your partner and you can get into the kitchen line where you have to be to play effective pickleball."

Good - and reaffirming - advice.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Change for the Better...I Hope

Regular readers may have noticed a new look to the site. I am currently reconstructing it piece by piece to make it more universal and enhance the reader's experience. I have widen the posting area to allow images to be larger...and who doesn't like photos! Unfortunately, this means going back through every post to adjust image size as well as clean up some other issues. As I write this post, I am about 50% finished with that work.

Concurrent with the post adjustments is the work to make a new reader's experience easier. Every post will have a header image indicating the subject matter relates to a specific topic. This is helpful because the site will include navigation icons along the right column associated with the normal play in a rally. For example a button will take you to Skills and Strategies and then allow you to drill down to a specific shot. As of this writing, very little of this functionality is operational...but some is and more will be added on a regular basis.

The bottom line is that change is painful but good. Please pardon the mess while work progresses. Thank you for your patience.

Oh, the site has a new name - A Pickleball Life. The address remains the same.

I hope you like it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

2016 USA Masters Games Results

The Powerade State Games were played on Friday-Saturday with several local players participating. The results are shown below. Photos are from the Pickleball in the Triangle Facebook page.

Bruce Birdsall and David Kelly, both of Crosswalk in the 4.5 Mens Doubles (50+)

Photo from the Powerade Games

Bruce and David win the gold medal. Congratulations!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Is it OK to Hit Another Player

The topic of intentionally hitting a ball at an opponent can be controversial. It seems to be acceptable at high levels of tournament play but opinions are all over the place at the recreational level. Pickleball Central has an interesting article on the subject called Pickleball: A Contact Sport?.

By: Glen Peterson

You’re not likely to get knocked down by a pickleball, but it doesn’t feel good to get hit! (Image credit: Chad Ryan)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Charlotte Open Play

Charlotte opened some new outdoor pickleball courts at Tuckaseegee Park in late June. The pickleball group has posted that the courts will have open play every Monday evening from 6:00 - 9:00 PM for all skill levels. 

From Rodney Allman: This will be the first organized effort to establish regularly scheduled play at the new facility for all levels. We will have a challenge court (winners split after two games) blind draw round robins and try to mix it up weekly. Please spread the word and show up for great Pickleball and great fellowship.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: Del Webb Advertisement

I'm not here to sell Del Webb properties, but I find it interesting that they use pickleball to promote their communities. Look fast, it only lasts for for a couple of seconds at about the 8 second point.

I will add that the pickleball facilities at Del Webb's community in Bluffton, SC are outstanding as I've mentioned in posts about the Lowcountry tournament.  That club alone has in excess of 900 members. Pickleball IS a factor in their marketing.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Deb's Drop Block

The post Deaden the Volley included an article from Prem Carnot about taking pace off of a hard-hit ball when volleying. This post will use a video from Deb Harrison called Block Drop When You Don't Get to Net to illustrate her version of the shot.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Deaden the Volley

Several articles have been focused on shots that initiate the dinking game. I first posted about the drop shot, which means hitting the ball after it bounces. This post will move to the next type of shot from which a pace-slowing shot can be made - the volley.

Often, a drop shot is returned before you have advanced to the kitchen line. If the return bounces, another drop shot can be made. But, when the ball is hit to you in the air, a volley is necessary. How do you soften a hard-hit ball to make it land softly in the kitchen? That is a subject discussed by who else but Prem Carnot in an article called My Top 5 Pickleball Strategies to Play Against Slammers.

Maybe you’ve learned the value of the dink, or you’re beginning to consider it at least…

If you’re like one woman who wrote to me this past month, maybe you have a group of people with whom you regularly play the dink game, and you’ve gotten pretty good at it…

Thursday, July 21, 2016

When Drop Shots go Bad

I have often said that the third shot drop is the hardest shot in the game. Even 5.0 players make mistakes with the shot. So what do you do when you hit a bad shot? Prem Carnot has an answer in his article What to Do When Your Drop Shot Doesn’t Drop.

Let’s admit it: Even if you are convinced about the merits of the third shot drop, sometimes you don’t hit a perfect drop shot. (ahem, perhaps even more often than not…)

And even if you believe you are (or actually are) amongst the blessed few who can drop them shot after shot like a pro basketball player sinking free throws, chances are you’ll be on the same side of the net sometime soon with someone else who can’t.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Third Shot Drop with Sarah

I previously posted about controlling the pace of the game with an article from Prem Carnot. That post, Third Shot Drop, was a written description of the shot. Now we will go deeper into the technique of the third shot drop with a Sarah Ansboury video called Basic Third Shot Drop -- Building A Solid Foundation.

I always tell attendees at my clinics that the third shot drop is the single most difficult shot to learn, but the shot is so important that it must be part of every player's repertoire. Sarah states the same thing and concludes that the practice needed to gain confidence in the shot is worth it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Third Shot Drop

When I schedule a specific shot clinic, I try to prepare both attendees and myself by writing about that shot. For example, I had a series of posts about dinking starting with Dink Like the Pros prior to a dinking clinic. I'm now thinking of the next clinic - as yet unscheduled - that will demonstrate how to initiate the dinking game. Therefore, this particle will kick off a series about controlling the pace of the game by slowing it down. 

This post will focus on the first opportunity to do so with
 the third shot drop, a topic previously discussed in The Third Shot. That article included the various options for the third shot and concluded that the drop shot was the most effective option to deal with opponents positioned at the kitchen line. Now we will go into the technique of the third shot drop with an article from Prem Carnot called 4 Secrets to Get Your Dropshot to Go Where You Want (and Not Where You Don’t). Tomorrow's post will have a great video demonstrating and discussing similar concepts.

Before going to the article, I should note that that the drop shot is not limited to the "third shot" as the name presupposes, but applies to any shot that is struck after the ball bounces. The name comes from the the most common usage of the drop shot - when a serving team makes its first return and the opponents are positioned at their kitchen line. The shot is appropriate at any time in the rally when the ball bounces. Keep that in mind as we progress through this series.

4 Secrets to Get Your Dropshot to Go Where You Want (and Not Where You Don’t)

Last month I had someone write in asking for advice on how to better calibrate their drop shot.

Monday, July 18, 2016

2016 Connestee Falls Scholarship Pickleball Tournament

The 2016 Connestee Falls Pickleball Tournament application package was recently released. From their website:

Join us at the sixth annual Connestee Falls fundraiser pickleball tournament on September 23 and 24, 2016 in Brevard, NC. Our first five tournaments provided competitive play for players from NC, SC, GA, FL, CO, AL, and SD. This year we hope to continue our trend of raising more funds to support student scholarships in Transylvania County and to get players from a wider universe of states to participate. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Poaching: Mixed Doubles Troubles

Sarah Ansboury's view on poaching was one perspective. A little different perspective from Mark Renneson is below as he answers a question about aggressive men taking over the play.

Reader: I've recently joined a club that has a mixed doubles league. I'm surprised to see how aggressive the men are when poaching. I'm not just talking about intercepting the odd put away shots but even run-of-the mill dinks or returns of serve. They practically push their partners off the court and play by themselves!

My inclination is to say "back off!" but thought I should check in with you first. What's going on? 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Poaching: Sarah's View

I haven't discussed poaching much...because it is a small part of the game at mid-skill levels and below. One post - Poaching - talked about what it is, when and how it should be used, and the etiquette of poaching. A couple of my favorite resources have written articles on poaching and I'll post both in order to compare perspectives. First up is Sarah Ansboury and How to Poach Like a Pro.

How to Poach Like a Pro

Do you ever poach? Though poaching is more common among higher skill level players, it can be used at any level. But there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to poach like a pro.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pickleball Talk

Want to talk pickleball? Henderson County's own Chris Allen, creator of the PBX Club, has also created a forum called Pickleball Talk, a site where people can discuss any pickleball-related topic. Action on the site is limited as a normal start-up, but will be sure to improve as membership grows. Be sure to stop by and check it out. Click on the icon below or link above.

But now, the important question. Why aren't you commenting on this site?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Recognizing Volley Mistakes

Pickleball 411 has new video called 3 Mistakes to Avoid when Volleying. It features top 5.0 player Scott Moore discussing the volley.

Remember, a volley is a return made by hitting the ball before it bounces off the surface. Most volleys occur near at or near the kitchen line. With that in mind, Scott has identified 3 primary mistakes made in the volley game.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Video - Kitchen View Only

Today's post is interesting because it shows the play of top players by isolating only on the kitchen. It comes from Poach PB and is called Pickleball Kitchen View.

The first thing you will notice is how little play is missed by not showing the rest of the court. Almost all play occurs in the area between the kitchen lines. Obviously the serve and return and return of serve are hit beyond these lines. But the return of serve is almost always answered with a third-shot drop to allow the serving team to join the other team at the kitchen line. Some other key points to note:
  • Once all 4 players are established at the kitchen line, the dinking game ensues. As discussed in the dinking series, many dinks are not just tapped across the net but are targeted to get opponents off-balance or out of position. A couple of examples follow (the red arrow shows the position of the ball).

Monday, July 11, 2016

We Need Referees - an Opportunity

I didn't write about it, but I'm sure many of you have heard that the recent US Open had its sanctioning revoked by the USAPA. Sanctioning is a big deal because it effects player rankings. Due to the revocation, many players will lose any ranking points received through their play in the biggest tournament ever played.

As it turns out, the size of the US Open was a factor in its sanctioning being revoked. I have read that there were 2,500 games played in the tournament. In order to get sanctioned by the USAPA, a tournament must agree to have a referee for every game. The US Open failed to do so. Apparently, they had arranged for volunteers from the community to serve as referees and many left for their northern homes before or during the tournament.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: World’s Lamest Pickleball Excuses

I would love to give credit to the source for this, but I don't know where I found it.

Could It, Maybe, Possibly, Conceivably Be ME??? We have run out of ways to blame external factors like the paddle, the ball, your partner, or the court. Which leads us to the inevitable conclusion:  

“Maybe it’s me!” 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Smooooooth Dink

This post is about dinking. But not just any dinking. I ran across a video of the smoothest dinking I have ever seen.

The player to watch is on the left in the foreground. His name is Dan O'Toole and he is one of the top players in the country. His control of all shots is amazing but there are several aspects I would like to highlight.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Comfort…Your Key to Better Pickleball

I am about to embark on scheduling a bunch of tournaments for the rest of the year. I will be entering some tournaments without a partner and asking for the tournament organizers to find me a partner. I have only done this one time in the past and it had good results with a gold medal in Hilton Head. But the comfort level of playing with a complete stranger is something that concerns me. This article from Sarah Ansboury came at very good time for me.

Comfort…Your Key to Better Pickleball

We all play better when we have fun!  We have fun when we are comfortable … with ourselves and the people we are playing with. So it seems, comfort is a key to better pickleball.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Professional Pickleball Federation

I used the phrase "big time" regarding pickleball when the first televised match occurred following the US Open. The phrase applies again with more news. A new organization was recently announced called the Professional Pickleball Federation. 

There was some speculation about its purpose that was clarified with a press release from the USAPA. The PPF will attempt to develop a "pro tour" for pickleball's top players. The press release is shown below. Click the image to make it larger.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

New Venue for Outdoor Play - Cummings Cove

Cummings Cove is a private club in a gated community, in Henderson County, between Horse Shoe and Etowah. The pickleball courts have been made available for guests to play with members on Wednesdays during the months of July – September. There are 2 courts, 3 time slots (9 - Noon, 1 - 4 p.m. and 5 - 8 p.m.) and a $5.00 charge per person. To make arrangements to play contact one of the representatives below, and state the date and time you would like to play. 

The opportunity for guests to play is subject to member and time slot availability. Upon booking with a member, guests will be given a code to access the facility via Hebron Road Construction gate.  The Cummings Cove Pickleball Club (CCPC) looks forward to hosting guests for competitive, outdoor, round robin type play. This offer is for 3.5 level and above competitive players. CCPC representatives include: Paul Aaron: Kathleen Watkins and Sandro Francioni

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A New Serve

Unbeknownst to me until now, there is apparently some discussion in the pickleball world about the difficulty of determining whether a serve is legal or illegal. Steve Paranto, a well-known player who has been involved with pickleball for 42 years, has proposed a change to the service rules to address the "legal" question. Watch the video and let me know your thoughts.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: My Brush with Death in the Kitchen

My brush with death in the kitchen

In our second day at Retirement Camp (that’s what I’ve decided to call these 10 weeks in this “active adult” community in Arizona), I guess I agreed to play pickle-ball.

It happened like this. We were driving around the area, each of us getting more and more excited over all the offerings that we’d be able to take advantage of.

Kathy: “So would you like to play pickle-ball sometime? Oh look, there’s a Culver’s.”

Pam: “Great!”

You see what happened here, right? She thought I was excited to play pickle-ball, when in fact, I was anticipating a Butter Burger and scoop of frozen custard in my future.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Dinking Strategy - Part 3

We have previously discussed advanced dinking strategies as presented by Joe Baker in his video called Doubles Pickleball Strategy 201 - Dinking Strategy. This post will pick up with a discussion of several individual shots that can help offensive or defensive execution.

Dinking Strategy - Part 2 ended with a discussion of well-disguised defensive lob. But disguising a shot is not limited to that situation. It is an important part of advanced net play.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Dinking Strategy - Part 2

Dinking Strategy - Part 1 started the discussion of advanced dinking strategies as presented by Joe Baker in his video called Doubles Pickleball Strategy 201 - Dinking Strategy. This post will pick up with a discussion of where to avoid hitting the ball and how to defend against players using the same tactics.

Advanced players avoid hitting to the opponent directly in front of them, especially to that player's forehand. Such a shot sets up an opportunity for your opponent to attack with a hit to your body. In addition, an opponent can more easily execute a lob when given a forehand dink. As stated yesterday, it always a better strategy to make an opponent reach, move, or scramble.