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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Focus on the Controllable

In tough situations, the natural tendency is to become tense, both mentally and physically. One reason for that reaction is uncertainty about the outcome. But a more important factor is related to how one's own actions contribute to the ultimate outcome. Tension often creates over-exertion and - in pickleball - unforced errors. Sarah Ansboury addresses how to minimize this reaction in How Can I Keep the Ball Low.

How Can I Keep the Ball Low

One of the questions I often get from students is, “How can I keep the ball low when I am on the run.”  The fact is we often try to do too much. Less is more.

Less is More

When we are on defense, perhaps chasing the ball, your focus should be to get to the ball and return the ball safely across the net. However, when we feel under stress we have a tendency to overcompensate. In our rush, we tend to over hit or overrun the ball, leaving us off the court.

When we tense up, we tend to hold our breath. This puts even more stress on our bodies and puts us in REACT mode.  In “react” mode, our bodies attempt to avoid or try to pull ourselves out of a situation.  In contrast, if we are able to remain in ACT mode, we control the movement of our body.

Trying to Do Less

When we are dinking, and want to to keep the ball low, I should focus on doing a little bit less. 
Think of catching the ball with your paddle and pushing it back, rather than striking it. When you are blocking, do less. Don’t flinch or flail at the ball. Rather, try to keep your paddle steady and simply allow the ball to rebound off the paddle face.

Just as breathing is important to staying calm, balance is the key to hitting a ball squarely on the paddle face. By putting our bodies in the best position to execute the shot, we begin to hit better shots more regularly.

Be Aware of Your Body

Our tendency is to focus so much on the ball, and getting it over the net, that we lose focus on our body. Perhaps it would help to think of it this way….focusing on getting the ball over the net is focusing on an outcome. I believe you will have greater success if you focus on the process. In fact, I believe the key to being a great competitor is to focus on what they can control (the process) rather than what they cannot (the outcome).

Try to focus on how your body feels. Try to do this with each shot. By being more aware of how we feel when we hit the ball well, the better we will be able to replicate it. Instead of reacting to the ball, you will act.  Do less if you want to keep the ball down.

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