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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Pickleball Strategies and Shot Selections

I previous wrote that I am in the process of becoming a certified pickleball instructor through the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA). My last post - Basic Pickleball Strokes - discussed a set of basic elements of good pickleball strokes developed by the IPTPA founders. This post switches toward strategies and the list developed by that same group. The following is based on that list.

1. Respect the net (hitting every ball over the net will minimize your net errors and lead to more success).

2, Serve Deep and once mastered direct to different target areas.

3. Return Deep and once mastered direct to different target areas.

4. The return team should approach the NVZ line right after the return of serve.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Basic Pickleball Strokes

As I previous wrote, I am in the process of becoming a certified pickleball instructor. The certification would be issued by the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA), an organization which I discussed in the post International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association. The IPTPA founders, a list of the "best of the best" in the pickleball world, developed a set of basic elements of good pickleball strokes. The following is based on that list.

1. A simple and fluid pendulum swing initiated from the shoulder and introduced with the dink can be consistently used for all strokes.

2. The basic stroke requires a shorter backswing than tennis or racquetball and a good follow through, swing from low to high.

3. The continental grip is the preferred grip as it eliminates switching between forehand and backhand grips.

Monday, August 29, 2016

International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association

I am in the process of becoming a certified pickleball instructor. The certification would be issued by the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA). They provide some very good information about the skills and strategies of the game. I will cover some of these in future posts so it would be good idea to establish some background about the organization. From their website:

The IPTPA is the world leader in developing teaching standards in the sport of Pickleball.

The IPTPA has a mission statement of:

The purpose of the IPTPA is to certify and elevate the standards of the Pickleball Teaching Professional

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: Divorce and Pickleball

Doug Baker writes a pickleball blog called The Challenge Court. The following is an amusing story from his blog.

I am reluctant to bring up sensitive subjects. I have no expertise in relationship counseling. However, I received an email from an international subscriber who needs help. I have decided to give my opinion in the hope that I can be of service to the troubled parties involved. I have changed the people’s names to protect their privacy.

Dear Doug,

I read your articles and I think you are a person who may be able to help me with my problem. I love pickleball and I play every time I can. I thought my husband was supportive of my interest. Sadly, I was wrong.

Last night he said that I have been neglecting him, and I have to change my ways or else…..he didn’t say what ‘or else’ was.

What should I do? If I don’t think of something I’m afraid I might be headed for a divorce!

Coco K.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Half Volley

The importance of getting to the kitchen has been emphasized to the point where I don't need to reiterate that point. Instead, today's post will discuss a shot needed to to overcome the disadvantage of being in no-man's land as progress toward the net is made. 

The subject shot is called a half volley. The name is a bit of a misnomer, though, as it is actually a groundstroke. The shot is defined as "A groundstroke shot where the paddle contacts the ball immediately after it bounces from the court and before the ball rises to its potential height." A half volley is needed when an opponent hits a shot to a player's feet, thus requiring a return made on the "short-hop". The most likely area where this occurs is in the mid-court as players earn their way to the net.

Let's start the discussion with a video from Deb Harrison called Half-Volley Pick Up.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Rethinking the Ready Position

I have written a couple of articles regarding the ready position including The Ready Position at the Kitchen Line and The Ready Position from Mid-Court. Those articles discussed that positioning on the court required different ready positions, specifically that the paddle position was different. When at mid-court and back, a neutral paddle position was recommended because there is sufficient time to move the paddle to the side or even switch grips if necessary.

However, the time to react is significantly reduced when at the kitchen line. I preferred a strong backhand grip because the paddle face is already in a position to take a shot.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Think First

Many new players succeed with athleticism alone as it is sufficient to allow them to beat other inexperienced players. While athleticism will always be advantageous, it will not be enough to beat less athletic, but experienced, players. One adage in pickleball is "Pickleball is a game of placement, not power".

Placement is not instinctive, though. It requires pre-planning. In other words, it requires thinking...and thinking is not limited to placement but all aspects of the game. The RV Picklers discussed this topic in an article earlier this year.

Newsflash: You are Allowed to Think

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Reflections from Beech Mountain

The 2nd Battle on Beech Pickleball Tournament was played August 18 - August 20 at Beech Mountain Club, NC. I played in the Men's Doubles matches on Friday. As usual, I will post my thoughts on the tournament. I will include some photos from the Beech Mountain Club website since the weather on Friday was not conducive to great photography.

The Beech Mountain Club is a fantastic facility with tennis courts, swimming pool, dining, workout rooms, and, of course, pickleball.  There are currently only 3 courts but Elizabeth Higginbottom, the tournament director, told me they may be at 5 or 6 next year.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Battle on Beech 2 Results

The 2nd Battle on Beech Pickleball Tournament was played August 18 - August 20 at Beech Mountain Club, NC. Several Western NC players participated with the results shown below.

JoAnnah Michael of Asheville and Les Massengale in the Mixed Doubles 4.0

Les and JoAnnah are on the left.

JoAnnah and Les win the silver medal. Congratulations!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: Musings of a Young Player

A nice story from a new player (originally in a 2011 USAPA newsletter).

So, as you know, my family and I recently attended a pickleball tournament in sunny Southern Utah. I learned quite a few things and not all of them had to do with the game.

First, yes we got creamed. By creamed I mean mutilated to the fullest extent. Going into the tourney the only thing we had to rate ourselves by was pickleball videos on the Internet. These are deceiving because pickleball is not necessarily a fast sport. You cannot tell a difficulty level from an online video. Our honest opinion was we were either going to be really good, or get humbled. Believe me, by the end of the day we were ready to throw up from humble pie.  If this isn’t bad enough, most of the people we played were well above 60. One team member of the particular duo that gave Lance (23) and me (28) an old-fashioned schooling was 75. His partner was not much younger.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Stay on your Toes

What comes to mind when you witness a great athletic play? Many people think of the speed or quickness of the player. But the element that is often overlooked is the preparation made immediately before the play. 

Players in a defensive position must be ready to react to an opponent's action. The defender may have a good guess what is coming his way but cannot be 100% certain. Think about the positions taken by a shortstop on a baseball team, or a defending guard on a basketball team, or a cornerback on a football team. Their reactions are dictated by actions of the offensive opposition. They have to be ready to move in any direction. The same is true in pickleball.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Special USAPA Newsletter Promotion

From North Carolina Pickleball:

I hear from time to time “why do I need to join the USAPA?” – It would take quite some time to enumerate all the reasons so I will just list a few. If there were no USAPA then the following would be gone – 1. USAPA Web page 2. Places to Play 3. Ambassador Program 4. Tournaments 4. Referee training 5. Liability insurance for tournament directors 6. Rules development 7. Newsletter 8. Grant programs 

Below are some features from the USAPA August Newsletter….Join the USAPA at

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reflections (and Lessons) from Aiken

I played in the Palmetto Doubles Invitational tournament on Monday. I like to sum up the experience with a post if there is anything of least to me.

The tournament took place in Aiken, GA, a town I have never visited. My wife researched it and found the business district to be full of interesting shops and restaurants. We headed off early Sunday expecting to spend the afternoon walking the downtown area and then having dinner at a one of the fine local dining establishments. As we drove around town to get our bearings, we quickly learned our plans would need adjustment. The entire downtown was closed on Sunday. Shops, restaurants, even the visitors center - all closed. Oh well, I guess it was meant to be exclusively a pickleball trip so off we went to watch the mixed doubles matches.

The tournament was held at the Odell Weeks Recreation Center with 8 indoor courts (at least on Monday) split between 2 gyms. The facility was set up very well for pickleball. It was well lighted with minimal glare from the polished wood floor. The courts were separated by temporary plastic "cardboard" triangular dividers. These generally kept the balls contained but were a visual distraction with the changing background.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

USAPA Great Lakes Regional Results

The USAPA Great Lakes Regional tournment was held this past weekend in Fort Wayne, Indiana. One Western NC player participated with the results shown below.

Valerie Marott of Crosswalk and Eric Sumner in the Mixed Doubles 4.5 19+,35+
- Lost to Nicole Cameron and Tony May 15-3
- Lost to Kat Smalley and Joe Rokicsak 15-2
- Lost to Cricket Miller and Frank Rytlewski 15-4
- Lost to Carrie Bilotti and Brandon Schmeling 15-3

Valerie Marott of Crosswalk and Eric Sumner in the Mixed Doubles 4.5 19+,35+
- Lost to Kris Carey and Nicole Cameron 21-1
- Lost to Kelly Stauffer and Cricket Miller 21-3
- Lost to Pebbles Monte-Abby Grubbs 21-7

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Palmetto Doubles Invitational Results

The Palmetto Doubles Invitational Pickleball Tournament was played August 13 - August 15 in Aiken, SC. Several Western NC players participated with the results shown below.

JoAnnah Michael of Asheville and Yira Pia Sanchez-Brugal of Crosswalk in the Women's Doubles 4.0 50+
- Lost to Trish Snyder and Carol Bohn 15-10
- Lost to Helen Burgess and Carrie Palmer 15-10
- Defeated Trish Snyder and Carol Bohn 15-10
- Lost to Helen Burgess and Carrie Palmer 15-14

Yira Pia and JoAnnah win the silver medal. Congratulations!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Deb Harrison Clinic comes to NC

North Carolina Pickleball

Deb Harrison

North Carolina Pickleball is pleased to announce that we are bringing Deb Harrison to the Charlotte area. The date will be on Friday November 18th at Carolina Courts in Concord NC.

Registration coming soon at    Call 757-685-5909 for clinic information or email    

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: How to Pick up Balls (The Heel Kick-up)

Last week's Off beat Sunday post was an easy way to pick up balls. This one is a little harder, but is much more impressive. It also comes from Jeff Napier and is called Pickleball Heel Kick-Up.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

10 Essential Tactics - an Update

Many month ago, I posted a short list of 4 essential tactics that I had addressed in my posts to that date. I've covered a lot more ground since and it is time to update the list.

1. Always get your serve in

2. Keep the ball in play

3. You must get to the kitchen line to control the rally

4. Use the soft game and dinking to force errors from opponents

5. Play as a team by communicating and moving together

6. Play and hit shots under control in order to reduce unforced errors

7. Put the ball away when the opportunity occurs but don't try it prematurely

8. Stay aggressive physically and mentally

9. Follow the ball and get in position

10. Keep it friendly before, after, and between rallies.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Positioning after the Serve

Several posts have focused on positioning and I want to continue that theme with a post about where players should go immediately after serving. Many players take to heart the rule of thumb about getting to the kitchen line as quickly as possible by stepping forward after the serve. This can be a risky strategy if the return of serve is hit deep. A better strategy is to stay on or behind the baseline.

The photo below shows a team that has stepped into the court after they served. This is extremely common with most players. Note the player in yellow is at least 3 feet inside the baseline.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Positioning for the Serve

The serve is typically not viewed as a weapon even at the highest levels of pickleball. But there are a couple of factors that can help the server be more successful in setting the tone for the rally. The first factor is placement of the serve, including depth, direction, and speed. This was discussed at length in Service Strategies and reviewed by Sarah Ansboury in Sarah Talks Serving. The second factor is the position from where the serve is hit. That is the topic for this post.

One consideration is the best position from a defensive perspective. A server should be positioned where he can play the return of serve with his forehand. Most players have a better forehand than a backhand from the baseline. When a right-hander puts this in action, he is on the far left of the service court, as illustrated by Deb Harrison in her video included in Service Motion.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Use your Paddle to Stay Engaged

Previous posts have focused on Follow the Ball and Face the Ball as guidance for team and individual positioning, respectively. Now, we'll add to those with a video from Sarah Ansboury called Paddle Tracking. Sarah communicates that using the paddle to follow the ball keeps the body in the right position as well as keeps the paddle up.

In a nutshell, Sarah's technique is to point the paddle at the ball while holding it up and in front of your body. The following photos show the technique as the ball moves.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Face the Ball

I previously posted an article called Follow the Ball in which the RV Picklers discussed how teams should move depending on where the is located in their opponents' court. The most important lesson from that article is:
""Follow the Ball" means exactly that. If the ball is hit down the left sideline one partner covers the left sideline and the other shifts toward the center line. When the ball is then hit cross court, closer to the right sideline, both players shift to the right, often times causing the “center” player’s foot to literally be on the T of the non-volley zone (NVZ) line."
But there is more to proper positioning than your teams' location on the court. The individual player's most effective position is to face the ball...or as Mark Rennesson calls it "Staying Square" in a new video.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Side or Serve?

My fall tournament season started a couple weeks ago but will reach full bore next week with tournaments at Aiken and Beech Mountain. One of the decisions that rarely arises in social play is the option of taking first serve or taking choice of the side of court. I have some opinions but Sarah Ansboury has written an article with her views. My comments will follow her article.

Serve vs. Side, a Pickleball Dilemma

One of my favorite questions is “What should you choose if you are able to choose between serve vs. side?” I find this very interesting because people seem to have very strong ideas about the “correct answer” and their justifications for their views are so varied.

Some say, Always Serve First

I have heard people say always serve no matter what, while others say I want the chance to break the serve and get the opportunity for 2 serves rather than one. Frankly, I don’t have strong feelings in most cases. I played a tournament recently where we lost the choice so we just choose the side we started on in the first game for the entire day. That way we didn’t have to think about it and we seemed to be having some good mojo.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Offbeat Sunday: How to Pick up Balls

I used to play tennis long before I discovered pickleball. Other than some basic racquet skills, I didn't bring much of my tennis game with me when I switched sports. But one thing I would like to learn is an easy way to pick up balls and tennis might have an answer.

Tennis players don't like to pick up balls. Instead, they get creative in developing methods to get them from the court into their hands. A tricky technique is to use the springiness of the tennis ball to the player's advantage and bounce it up.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pickleball Summit - Indianapolis

Back in April, I wrote about a great opportunity to play with and be coached by some of the top players in the game at a Pickleball Summit in Charlotte. Several local players attended and the reviews of the experience were outstanding. For those who missed that event or those who want to repeat the experience, opportunity knocks again with a second Pickleball Summit - this time in Indianapolis in October. Click on the icon below to go to the website. The overview is shown below the icon.

Imagine The Perfect Pickleball Day...

Friday, August 5, 2016

How Close to the Kitchen Line?

I've posted many times about the strategic goal of getting to the kitchen line. I've also posted about what it means to be at the line, i.e., within 6 inches. Mark Renneson has a video called Get to the Line that highlights the reasons why this is important.

Mark exemplifies the correct positioning in the first photo. Note his position is within inches of the kitchen line even after shifting to his left.