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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

Posted on February 21, 2016 by RV Picklers

Since I am not the most gifted athlete in the world, I am always looking for ways that even I can improve. And I think I have landed on something. Newsflash: It is perfectly legal in pickleball to think. And despite what you might think, there are many instances during the game when you have time to think. Let me suggest three.

1. Before you serve: You have the ball in your hand. You have 10 seconds, which is a much longer time than you think it is. Take a deep breath, and think. What are you trying to accomplish? The first and most important is: get it in, legally. But if you are confident in your serve, and have practiced to perfect hitting a target…THINK. Does your opponent run around every backhand, creating a hole in the court? Is it time to mix it up with a lob serve? Do they like power? If so, perhaps a powder puff serve is in order. Keep in mind, the receiving team has a natural advantage in pickleball because one team member is already at the non-volley zone line. When you have the ball in your hand, try to level the playing field with your mind.

2. Before you receive: Where do you intend to return the ball? Pick a target! Not the court, but a specific spot. I learned from playing golf, the smaller and more precise the target you choose, the more your mind will focus on making that happen. And here’s another thought. Perhaps you might want to also communicate this to your partner so he or she knows what you have in mind and can respond accordingly. One other thought about before you receive: if you need a break take your time getting in position. Ever notice that professional tennis players turn their backs to the court and fiddle with their racket strings between points. Now I’m not suggesting that you do this every point, or become annoyingly slow or discourteous. But you are permitted to regroup and think between points. If you need to cool off. If you need to reset your mind. Be purposeful. You can do a lot in 10 seconds.

3. Between games: Did you lose the first game? Are you down 8-2 as you change sides during a 15 point lower bracket match. Unless wind is a major factor, it is unlikely you will have a better result when you change sides unless you and your partner do something different. Think, talk. Don’t give up. One of the best examples of using one’s mind to win a seemingly lapse-sided match occurred this fall at the Huntsmen World Senior Games. If you haven’t watched this match, when you have a spare hour watch Yvonne Hackenberg and Hilary Marold come back to win gold against Rachael Kroog and Cookie Drake. It is the finest example of using one’s head, and determination I’ve seen to date.

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