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.

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.

There is little I can do to compensate for poor lighting. I prefer outdoor tournaments due to visibility but the Southeast US has too many indoor tournaments for me to exclude them. I have tried yellow lenses over my eyeglasses without benefit. The only answer I have for this problem is to avoid the known problem courts. Indoor courts like Aiken were fine. But I am not likely to play at Carolina Courts unless it a major tournament.


This falls into a single category - being focused and ready from the opening serve. We played 4 games in the tournament. In 3 games, we fell behind 8-1, 4-1, and 10-0. We lost the first and third games after coming back to make them competitive. We won the second game. But all of those scores indicate that we have unnecessarily slow starts. As competition improves through tournament brackets, slow starts become harder and harder to overcome. We have to figure out a technique to start more quickly.

As always, I try to seek advice for problems and I came across an article on a better warm-up routine. The article comes from the Mesa Regal Pickleball Club and is called The 5 Warm-Up Drills to Do Every Day to Jump-Start Your Pickleball Game.

The 5 Warm-Up Drills to Do Every Day to Jump-Start Your Pickleball Game

The Pickleball Guru’s The 5 Warm-Up Drills to Do Every Day to Jump-Start Your Pickleball Game  (Pickleball Guru Website Click Here)

These drills are designed for you to use during the first 5-10 minutes on the court to help you “warm up” your pickleball shots. They were specifically chosen for the situation when you’ve got 4 players on the court and you are warming up with the opponent opposite you. Obviously you can always adjust the number of practice shots based on the amount of time you have to warm up! I highly recommend that you do some basic muscle stretches & warm ups off-court, prior to beginning these drills.

Remember to always start every warm up session at the kitchen line and work your way to the back of the court, so you’ll be in position for the start of the game.

Drill #1: Split-Step

No, this isn’t a new dance, although if you’re moving well on the pickleball court it can almost look like dancing! A split step, if you aren’t familiar with the term from tennis, is a quick hop, with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Make sure you are on the balls of your feet with your weight distributed equally between your two feet and bring your paddle up to the ready position as you do it.

This is a great “neutral” position, which will allow you to move whichever the ball goes. As you do the rest of the drills, practice doing a split step each time your opponent is about to hit the ball. Once you get in the habit, it will go a long way toward making sure that you’re never caught “wrong-footed” again!

Goal: Split step every time your practice partner hits the ball.

Drill #2: Dink-Volleys

Standing at the kitchen line, dink the ball back and forth with your opponent. If they pop the ball up, hit a volley or put-away shot. (But try not to be too obnoxious about it, these are only warm-ups after all!)!

Remember, your goal is to make sure that the ball is always coming off your paddle at a downward angle over the net. Hit about 10 forehand dinks and then do 10 backhand dinks!

Goal: Don’t give your opponent an opportunity to hit a put-away shot at your feet.

Drill #3: Mid-Court Power Shots + Drop Shots

It’s always best to play at the kitchen line, but it often requires hitting a few shots from mid-court “in the mean time” as you work your way up! After drilling at the kitchen line, take a few steps back to mid-court and practice hitting 5 power shots on your forehand side, then 5 on your backhand side. Then switch to 5 drop shots on your forehand & 5 on your backside. You know it’s a good drop shot if you have forced your opponent to let the ball bounce in the kitchen!

Goal: Make sure that every drop shot you hit forces your opponent to let the ball bounce!

Drill #4: Baseline Power Shots + Drop Shots

From the baseline, repeat the previous drill. Hit 5 power shots on your forehand side, then 5 on your backhand side. Then switch to 5 drop shots on your forehand & 5 on your backside!!

Goal: Get all but 2 shots over the net!

Drill #5: Serves & Returns

Hit approximately 3 serves & 3 returns, aiming to place the ball within 2-3 feet of your opponent’s baseline!!

Goal: Hit all your serves & returns high, deep, and slow.

These sound like great warm-up drills to quickly prepare for the physical aspect of play. I'm not sure if they will help the focus aspect but I can see where concentrating on on a routine and related goals would help. I would probably recommend using this with my own partner across the net rather than opponents, though. I don't want to expose any more strengths or weaknesses to them than necessary before play begins.

No comments:

Post a Comment