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.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Pickleball in the Olympics?

Marcus Luke, likely North Carolina's best player, visited Cummings Cove for a series of lessons this week. Last night at dinner he mentioned that there were some rumblings in the pickleball community about the possibility of pickleball in the 2024 Olympic games if Los Angeles is awarded the host city status. It seems some folks are thinking even sooner, though, as the 2020 Tokyo games are discussed as a possibility in a Pickleball Central article called Does Pickleball Have a Shot at Olympic Gold?.

Does Pickleball Have a Shot at Olympic Gold?

With the 2016 Olympics in Rio now firmly in the rear-view mirror, we thought we’d take a look ahead at what it might take to get pickleball into the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. As we said in this article about it back in 2014, getting a sport into the Olympics is a long and winding road. But four things make us hopeful that pickleball has a better shot (heh heh) than most sports at getting a coveted spot under the Olympic rings.  

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Pickleball Technique Basics

Occasionally, I find it is a good idea to go back to the basics, especially after digging deep into strategies for an extended time. Coach Mo has written tips that remind us of the basics of shot-making called 10 Ways to Improve Your Pickleball Technique.

10 Ways to Improve Your Pickleball Technique

Point your shoulder towards your target when hitting on the backhand side on all shots and point your left shoulder toward your target on forehand side on all shots.

Aim your paddle motionless where you think you will be making contact with the ball early before the ball comes over the net on all shots. Early preparation is very important.

Do not drop the paddle below the wrist and bend your knees on low balls. Pretend you are sitting in a chair and stay down until you completely follow through toward your target.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Strategic Breakdown of a Single Point

I wrote a post in March called Analysis of a Single Point in which I broke down the strategies employed by players in a high level match. The Pickleball Channel has now done the same thing with top women's doubles player Alex Hamner providing the analysis in a video titled Fantastic Doubles Point with Strategy Breakdown.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

2016 Connestee Falls Scholarship Pickleball Tournament Results

The 2016 Connestee Falls Pickleball Tournament was completed under beautiful skies last week. As a local tournament, lots of local players participated and won medals. Congratulations to all players and especially to those who earned their awards. The results and photos come from the tournament organizers.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Gigi LeMaster

I rarely post articles about pickleball personalities. I don't think that type of article fits the goal of this blog. But I got the opportunity to meet Gigi LeMaster at the Georgia Mountain Pickleball Fall Classic and quickly became a fan despite never seeing her play. She is the friend of a friend and I took the opportunity to introduce myself and have a short talk.

Gigi has a wonderful friendly personality and is a great representative for pickleball. That alone isn't enough to justify a blog post, but PickleballCentral coincidentally had a recent article on Gigi called Meet The Pros - Gigi LeMaster that gives some good background.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Off beat Sunday: A Short Work of Pickleball Fiction

A short story from Jeff Napier's blog.

Our pastor, although a very nice, and well-educated guy, isn’t very good at counseling, and he knows it, so I have taken over most of the lay counseling that happens at our church. One day I had an appointment with Jeremy, a 21-year-old fellow who according to rumors, had recently inherited 78 million dollars.

On a Tuesday at 3pm on the dot, he walked into the little church office, and I met him for the first time. He was huge. I mean, he was around 6″ 3′ tall, and big-boned. Well, fat, actually.
His pale skin, short blond hair, whispy beard, and goofy sweater made him look even larger. He greeted me with a somewhat unsteady, high-pitched voice.

We started off with small talk. I always like to make my clients feel comfortable as soon as I can. He started slowly and hesitantly, but fairly quickly steered the conversation to his problems, evidently comfortable enough with me already to let go of some of his inner secrets.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Running Down the Lob

Yesterday's post was from Sarah Ansboury and the RV Picklers about the lob. The same duo also has an article about defending the lob called Running Down a Lob…a Pickleball Must. The general techniques in retrieving a lob were covered in my post Moving as a Team Part 3 - Defending the Lob. Sarah discusses a couple of additional items in her article.

Running Down a Lob…a Pickleball Must

Hitting an overhead or running down a lob is crazy hard. The mechanics of doing it may seem unnatural if you didn’t come from tennis, or badminton. But even if you did play one of these sports, it is still a challenge.

Stay Calm

Some people get so stressed out about getting lobbed that they lose the point before they attempt to return the shot. But running down a lob is part of the game. It is a skill you can develop, just like learning to hit a forehand or backhand. So rather than complaining about it, prepare for it by making it part of your practice routine.

Friday, September 23, 2016

To Lob or Not to Lob...that is the Question

I have written very little about lobs for one reason - they are not a much of a factor in advanced play. Therefore, there is not much discussion about them in expert articles and videos. But I did write a post called The Lob where I discussed techniques and strategies. But the transition of tennis players to pickleball has brought more lobbing into play at intermediate and beginner levels. Sarah Ansboury has written an article for the RV Picklers called Pickleball Lobs…To Lob or Not to Lob that is shown below.

Pickleball Lobs…To Lob or Not to Lob

While hitting a lob is fairly common among new pickleball players, it is used less frequently among advanced players. But any player can learn to hit an effective pickleball lob if they follow these pointers.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Pickleball Life - the New Blog

I started this blog in November 2015 with the express purpose of helping to grow pickleball in the Hendersonville, NC area. I focused on local issues and skills/strategies to develop players' abilities. While none of that has changed, the blog appearance and name has. I briefly touched on the changes in a previous post, Change for the Better...I Hope. Now is the time for a more comprehensive review of the new blog.

Several weeks into the blog last winter, I realized its limitations and usefulness to a reader. I was writing articles that built a pickleball knowledge base that started from the basics and progressed to the advanced and from the first shot - the serve - to specialty shots. I was trying to do so with some semblance of order. As new materials became available about which to write, the order rapidly became disorder. I tried to adjust by providing "labels", e.g., serve, return of serve, drop shot, etc., which would allow a reader to pull out the relevant articles. But I was not satisfied with that solution either.

Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that a "book" was the best way to build a knowledge base. But a blog, with the first articles of basic building blocks buried pages deep, was a horrible way to create such a book. Thus, a new blog was developed. There were (and will continue to be) daily articles on new topics. But the book will group these into relevant chapters that are easily accessible to readers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Taking Risks on the Serve

How many times have I posted that unforced errors are the bane of a pickleballer's existence? I don't know the number but the answer is...a lot. That principle was no different when I discussed the serve. In Service Strategies, I posted:
Points are not won with the serve but can be immediately lost with the unforced error of hitting it out of bounds. That’s why principle # 1 is to get the serve in-bounds. When you watch top players serve, it looks effortless. That’s because they know it is most important to just get the serve deep in the service court.
The thought behind the principle is that the opportunity to win that point is lost when serve is out of bounds, but an unknown number of additional potential points are lost.

But Mark Renneson has a different viewpoint, one which he discusses in an article called PB Myth # 18: You Should Never Miss Your Serve.

PB Myth # 18: You Should Never Miss Your Serve

The conventional wisdom is that you should always make sure your serve lands in. We don't want you to hit out either but here is something to consider: if you are always playing it safe for fear of missing, are you losing out on a great opportunity?

Yes. You are. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

2016 Georgia Mountain Pickleball Fall Classic

The Georgia Mountain Pickleball Fall Classic was played last weekend at Hiawasee, GA. Several Western NC players were among the entrants. Their results are shown below.

Dee Ezrol of Xcel and Michele Boswell in the Women's Doubles 4.0 10+, 50+, 60+
- Lost to Carrie Palmer and Tammy Lentini 11-5, 11-4
- Defeated Joanne Bogan and Holly Gonzaga 15-12
- Lost to Anne McMahon and Susan Chambers 15-7

Dee (in light green) in action

Monday, September 19, 2016

Cummings Cove Invitational

Cummings Cove is hosting their inaugural Cummings Cove Invitational on Sept. 21st. The organizers are pleased to announce that Marcus Luke is the featured “pro”. Marcus is a USOpen medalist, an ambassador and certified instructor. The purpose of the event is to showcase some of the talent of Western North Carolina to resident members and management with the goal of future court development. 

The Invitational will consist of 2 separate round-robin events. The morning session (9:00-1:00) is a 4.0+ pro level demonstration. The current line-up is:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sarah's Slice in Slo -Mo

Yesterday's post, Sarah's Slice Shots, centered on a full-length video from Sarah Ansboury's site in which she explained the techniques of the underspin return. Today's post has the same subjects - Sarah and the slice return - but focuses on slow motion replays of the shot in a Pickleball Channel video called The Slice with Slow Motion.

Below are some screen captures from the video.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sarah's Slice Shots

Sarah Ansboury's video Pickleball Slice illustrates the techniques of hitting a groundstroke with slice or underspin. I'm not a big fan of adding spin to a player's game because their pratice time can be better spent learning the more basic shots of the game. But players may reach a point where adding topspin or slice shots can help them advance to the next level. As usual, Sarah's techniques are very good and well explained.

Sarah demonstrates both the forehand and backhand slice shots in the video. This is one of those rare occasions when the backhand is actually the easier shot. The reason is the physics of the shot combined with the mechanics of the body.

The backhand shot requires minimal body rotation as the paddle rotates around the body using the shoulder as a pivot point. This can be seen in the following 2 photos, the first taken at the start of the swing and the second at the end of the swing.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Playing Up and Down in Open Play

I am still searching for advice for managing play with varying skill levels. Sarah Ansboury has an article called Pickleball Open Play: Playing Up and Down. As always, Sarah has some good tips.

Pickleball Open Play: Playing Up and Down

Coming from tennis I wasn’t quite sure how pickleball open play worked. In tennis we set up our games and didn’t mix around a lot. I recall the first time I went to the courts near Surprise which were hosting one of my first tournaments.

My partner and I were trying to find a game during warm-up. Would someone let us in? Luckily I asked the right person, “How do we get a game?” And to this day she is one of my closest friends. She was so happy to let some new players in and she was a 5.0 player without a clue who we were.

Pickleball Open Play

Sometimes I will go to places and it’s not always easy to jump into open play. At times someone will invite me to play, but will intentionally exclude the person I am with.  I don’t like that.

I understand that we all want good practice and we want to keep it challenging. I realize that people feel that they will improve more if they “play up”. In fact, I play better when I play up. However, I believe you can do both…practice and play.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

When You are the Better Player

As I previously mentioned, I recently volunteered to manage a pickleball court gymnasium. My focus on the new court practices are to make it a learning environment for players who want to play competitively and advance their games from the 2.5 and levels. This requires some attitude adjustments for many players so I have been researching materials from other who have more experience than I. One article I found is from the RV Picklers called When You are the Better Player.

When You are the Better Pickleball Player

You can learn a lot by watching a better pickleball player. In fact one of the many things we learned when playing with Sarah and Linh over their recent visit, was how to be a better person when you are the better player.

Being the Better Pickleball Player

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

How to Play Up

As noted in a previous post, I recently volunteered to manage a pickleball court gymnasium that was being abandoned by the current users. I had identified some needs among the local players and created a mission statement for the courts to fit:

Our mission at Crosswalk is to provide an opportunity for competitive players to drill, play, and improve their game. We will only support friendly and positive play.

I also wrote an email explaining how the courts would be managed including:

Since this is a learning environment, all players should be willing to give or take advice freely without pushback...Lower level players may request to play in higher level games but there should be no expectation of open play during restricted hours.  

I also added that a good guideline for both higher and lower level players to follow is a Prem Carnot article titled How to Graciously Get to Play with Better Players (a.k.a. How to Make Sure You’re NOT That Person Everyone Hates Playing With). That article is shown below.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The New Crosswalk

Some great news about courts in the Hendersonville area recently has recently developed. A private club was formed that will make additional courts available to area players at Xcel Sportsplex. The new club is currently limited to advanced players but will ultimately expand to accept others. 

But that club is NOT the subject of this post. It is relevant only due to the ripple effect of some of the club's players leaving the Crosswalk facility. Their departure means the Crosswalk courts are now available to supplement play at Henderson County Athletic and and Activity Center (HCAAC) and other local sites. 

Crosswalk and other background

Before progressing into the future plans, some history of Crosswalk is important to know. Crosswalk is an activity center associated with the First Baptist Church of Hendersonville. The church was gracious enough to allow the previous sponsors of pickleball play to set up 3 courts in the gym and allow play from 9 AM - 1 PM Monday through Thursday. As a private facility, the players were required to provide all equipment including nets, balls, and the taping of lines on the floor. While the facility was rent-free, the sponsors donated residual funds (after expenses) to the church and Crosswalk employees for their help and maintenance of the court surface, respectively. The sponsors chose to fund the expenses by collecting a daily fee of $2 per player - a fee that was a bargain for quality courts (with air conditioning!).

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Reflections and a Warm-Up Lesson from the NC Senior Games

I and my partner recently competed in the Men's Doubles at the NC State Senior Games. While our final placement was likely appropriate (we lost in the round of eight - or tied for fifth, as I like to think), I was not happy with my play. After giving it lots of thought, I have determined that my falling below standards was due to 2 factors - vision and preparation.


I suspect that all players greatly rely on vision to succeed. But I'm not sure whether all players are as dependent as I am or if many players have an ability to see better in low-light conditions. Either way, other players seemed less impacted by the darker courts in some parts of Carolina Courts than I was.

My game is very dependent on judging the speed of the ball coming toward me from the instant it leaves my opponent's paddle. I have often been told that I have extremely quick hands. The quality of my kitchen line play is determined by my ability to get my body and paddle into proper position early. If my vision is slightly impaired, my quick hands can actually be a detriment since I can be ahead of the ball.

My play is also impacted from the baseline and mid-court areas under poor lighting. The timing of hitting a hard groundstroke or volley is important...and timing means judging when the ball will be in the right place for the paddle strike in order to go in its intended direction. At Carolina Courts, my timing was off just enough to cause shots to go high or wide of their intended target. That made me throttle back to play a less aggressive game than I like. It showed in the decline of my play.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Drop Shot Drill

As I've discussed many times, the drop shot is the single most difficult shot in pickleball. But the drop shot is - by far - the best option for a third shot since it provides the best opportunity for the team to get to the kitchen line. Therefore, it must be developed into an effective shot.

I've also stated that the best way to perfect a skill is to drill. Here is a simple drop shot drill from Pickleball Channel called Improve Your Drop Shot with this Easy Drill.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

An "Earn the Net" Drill

Many drills focus only a single skill, e.g., volleys, dinks, etc. Those are great as far as they go. Sarah Ansboury has developed a nice drill that works on the multiple skills needed to advance from the baseline to the kitchen line, as well as a few other skills thrown in. It is a great drill in that both participants work on the same shots in a seamless transition started with a lob.

Sarah describes the drill as follows:

This drill is for all levels of player, working on third shot, drop shot, volleys, blocking, overheads, lobs and running down lobs. You can make adjustments for your level. one player starts at the back line while working their way to the No Volley Line to reset the point, once there they lob the other person and the process is reversed.

Sarah has a video called Pickleball Drill showing how she and Stephanie Lane use the drill to give each other a good workout.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How to Practice

Posting about drills resulted in my finding an article from Sarah Ansboury called Focused Pickleball Practice. Having a plan before going to practice is important to achieving the desired results.

Focused Pickleball Practice

Last week we discussed how to identify what parts of your pickleball game you need to practice. Today we discuss how to move from mindlessly hitting some balls to focused pickleball practice.

We all multi-task…or at least we try to. We seem to take pride in the number of different things we think we can do at one time. But are we doing any of them well? Frankly, I think most of us suffer from PADD, Pickleball Attention Deficit Disorder. Especially when we think we are practicing.

Instead of focused pickleball practice we:
  • Arrive at the court without a plan or purpose;
  • Fill up the Tutor hopper…Pound balls…Gather balls…Fill up the Tutor hopper…. etc;
  • Chat aimlessly with our practice partner while dinking.
Focused Pickleball Practice

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Effective Drills

I mentioned how drills are necessary to perfect skills in a recent post. But drills are a useful tool only when they positively affect a player's ability. Marke Renneson wrote an article on the subject earlier this year titled Are Your Drills Duds?. It covers a lot of ground but I would add one more point. Drills should be observed by a someone qualified to identify if the player is exhibiting proper technique. A drill is a dud if the wrong technique is learned and ingrained into a player's mental and muscle memory.

Are Your Drills Duds?

This was originally posted in May 2016...

As a pickleball coach it is exciting to see more people taking seriously the idea of practicing. The explosion of instructional videos on YouTube (including those from yours truly) seems to suggest that people are eager to not just play pickleball, but to play it better. This is a good thing for the growth of the game and pickleball’s shift toward mainstream sport. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Practice Makes you Better

Nobody is perfect...and there are no perfect pickleball players. Acknowledging that fact is a start to getting better. Understanding that practice is the activity to accomplish that is the next step. To help us better understand how to use practice to get better, here is an article from Gale Leach called How to Practice Pickleball.

How to Practice Pickleball

I asked a few players what they do to practice. A few said that they don't practice and just play, working on shortcomings at the same time. Most, however, said that practice is essential to improving their skills. They say that only with practice do elements of their game become automatic, allowing them to play better all around, and I agree. Most people's practice fell into three categories:
  1. Correcting something that isn't going well;
  2. Perfecting a skill;
  3. Doing drills to stay on top of things.
Whichever group fits you - practice, if done correctly, will get you there. First, determine what you need or want to work on. Second, make sure you're doing it correctly so you don't have to “unlearn” it later. Most practice requires another person to help you by throwing or hitting balls to you.

Correcting Part of Your Game

Saturday, September 3, 2016

2016 North Carolina State Senior Games Results

The NC Senior Games Finals were played this week at Carolina Courts in Concord. Many Western NC players were among the nearly 500 players involved and those with successful results are shown below. Photos are taken from sources, but mostly from various Facebooks pages.

Melinda Splain and Yira Pia Sanchez-Brugal, both of Xcel, in the Women's Doubles 50-54

Yira Pia and Melinda win the gold medal. Congratulations!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Why Dink Crosscourt

Since dinking should be a big part of everyone's game, the strategies of dinking can't be over-emphasized. Mark Renneson's video Get More From Your Dink! discusses the reasons why a dink should go crosscourt.

Mark analyzes some of the top players at the US Open and concludes that almost all dinking goes crosscourt for the following reasons:

Advantage 1 - the net is lower in the middle

Advantage 2 - avoids the down the line attack

Advantage 3 - the target area is bigger than the target area hitting down the line

The crosscourt shot is not without risks, however. An extreme angle shot opens the possibility of an around the post shot thatis almost impossible to defend.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

High Percentage Winning Pickleball - Patience

My recent experience at Aiken and the information from the IPTPA has got me thinking about one subject - the need to wait for the optimal time to go for the kill shot. It is not a new topic for this blog but the combination of events and some unique phrases have caused the idea to gel a little more in my mindset. Before I get to the punchline, let's review how we got here.

January 25, 2016 - Doubles Strategy

Based on a Joe Baker video called Doubles Pickleball Strategy 101-How to Play Smart Pickleball, my article included 10 tips with one very relevant tip:
Tip # 8 - Soft or Hard:  When your opponents are at the net, hit the ball softly when you must hit up at the ball.  You may hit hard when you can hit down on the ball.

February 6, 2016 - Less is More