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Friday, March 31, 2017

Defensive Lob Positioning

Running in circles...

Hitting a defensive lob is often the preferred shot when the opposing team first lobs over you. Their shot forces you to retreat and make a return from an awkward and moving position. Sarah Ansboury addresses some of the techniques to make the shot as easy as possible.

There are lots of things to think about when running down a lob. Which partner is going to retrieve it?  Is the wind effecting it? Can it be hit in the air? Should I drop or drive it? All these things are important, but none is more important than doing it safely!

Safety First!

Moving properly to retrieve a lob safely, is numero uno. I have seen people shuffling back on their heels,  looking up, and perhaps tripping over their own feet. Others shuffle sideways, which may also lead to tripping. Balance as always is key. But is is also important to pick up your feet.

Proper Technique for Running Down a Lob

Ideally, you want to hit a forehand after running down a lob. To do this, you need to learn the proper technique:

Read More >>>

Thursday, March 30, 2017

When to Hit the Defensive Lob

When you run out of time...

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Following up on the discussions of the offensive lob, let's turn to the defensive lob. We will start with an article from Sarah Ansboury.

Last week we talked about running down a lob safely. Today, we focus on what’s next. What do you do with the pickleball lob return…How do you communicate to your partner…Where you might or might not want to aim.

Pickleball Lobs and Communication

I always say the easiest way to be a doubles player is to be a better doubles partner. Of course, communication is critical to being a good partner. When I am playing with a new partner for the first time, I will try to discuss a number of items with my partner. For example, we will discuss:
  • Who should take balls down the middle; or
  • The fact that I prefer my partner to move forward as I hit a third shot drop; or
  • If one of us is more mobile than the other…who will be responsible for running down a lob.
My preference is to play the forehand (i.e. the left side) court. As such, I am often the person responsible for running down most pickleball lobs. I also will often tell my partner to stay in place, and sometimes will even tell them to “duck”. For me, it is important for the lob retriever to be the primary communicator. What he or she says, goes. I don’t believe there are any absolute rights or wrongs when it comes to whether you should switch. Much of this is just personal preference.

Again, communication is the most important thing. Talking about whether we should stay or switch; and what kind of shot we will hit when in these positions. The more you talk about specific situations you might come across the more comfortable you will feel when something similar happens.

What Shot Should I Hit?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Battle of the Paddles (Tiger, GA) Results

You earn medals at practice. You just pick them up at tournaments...

Some local players participated in the Battle of the Paddles last weekend in Tiger, GA. Photos are from various Facebook pages.

Teri Siewert and Janey Jacobson went 4-2 in Women's Doubles 3.0 and won a bronze medal.

Congratulations Teri!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mecklenburg County May Tournament

A good tournament is one in which you play...

The 5th Annual Queen City Open Pickleball Tournamnet is set for May 20-21, 2017 in Charlotte, NC.

Monday, March 27, 2017

2nd Annual Gatlinburg Smoky Mountain Pickleball Classic Results

You earn medals at practice. You just pick them up at tournaments...

Some local players participated in the Gatlinburg Smoky Mountain Pickleball Classic May 18-19 in Gatlinburg, TN.

Valarie Marott competed in Women's Singles and won a silver medal.
Congratulations Valerie!

Todd Seeleman and Rick Frye competed in Men's Doubles 60-69 and won a bronze medal.
Congratulations Todd and Rick!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Peppy the Pickle on the Lob and Other Shots

A pickle is a cucumber with experience...

Aspen Kern manages the Pickleball Forum and contributes a character he has created - Peppy the Pickle. Today's Peppy feature is a set about the lobs and other shots.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

NVZ Myths Debunked

Separating the myth from the truth...

The past couple of weeks have been focused on play at the Non-Volley Zone line. Emphasis on this area is important because this is where games are won. In addition, beginners are not comfortable at the line so we have focused on drills to improve that comfort level. We will return to NVZ play next week but the RV Picklers had a timely article about myths that will help players understand what they can and cannot do at the NVZ line.

A reader recently asked us a question regarding his club’s “local” pickleball rule. It was related to the non-volley zone. As we travel around the country, we encounter many players that have been told lots of things about the non-volley zone. Some are true…others no more than local lore. Today, we debunk three common non-volley zone myths.

NVZ Myth #1:  “Must Bounce First”

We were recently playing in Palm Springs when I overheard a disagreement on a neighboring court. Two relatively new players were introducing two friends to the game of pickleball. That’s great! However, during the course of play, a fault was assessed when a player entered the non-volley zone before the ball bounced.  Wrong!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Another Open Letter - to the Town of Fletcher

The best way to predict the future is to create it...

As I have previously written, I have renewed an emphasis on contacting local governments about pickleball facilties. This week I sent a letter to the leaders of Fletcher, NC as they plan the development of their new town center. The letter is shown below.

I was pleased to read the forward-thinking plans for Fletcher in the Gaston Gazette article The Heart of a Town. I am a Henderson County resident and am always looking for quality places to shop, dine, and recreate. 

This note is intended to plant a seed with regard to the recreation part of the plan as mentioned in a more recent Times-News article - State of Community: County, municipalities look to future. A forward-looking plan like yours must consider the recreational activities that residents will demand in the future and minimize legacy sports that are fading. There is a sport that fits that criteria but has been largely ignored in western North Carolina. That sport is pickleball:

  • Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America with an estimated 2.5 million players in 2015
  • That growth is reflected in Henderson County. It was reported in the Times-News article Pickleball’s popularity grows in Henderson County that the number of players at the Henderson County Athletic and Activity Center has grown from 20 to 150 in 4 years. An additional 50+ players compete at Xcel Sportsplex near Fletcher and two of those players are national champions.
  • The demographics of players in the USA is dominated by retirees with 66% of players 60+ years of age. The younger age groups are rapidly developing as professional tournaments are growing but are still in their infancy.
  • The Henderson County demographics are even more skewed toward retirees due to the lack of court time in the evening hours after school and work.
  • Retirees looking for a permanent residence and vacationers looking for a temporary place to visit are seeking vibrant pickleball communities, especially in an area like Henderson County with its focus on outdoors activities.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

St Jude National Indoor Pickleball Classic

A good tournament is one in which you play...

A new tournament is set for May 22-24, 2017 in Emerson, GA. The St Jude National Indoor Pickleball Classic is a USAPA sponsored and sanctioned event. Entrants must be USAPA members. Volunteers for referees and other activities are needed. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More NVZ Drills - Offensive Lobs

No one wants to drill, everyone wants to improve...

This post continues the series of Non-Volley Zone drills with the focus on offensive lobs off the dink. It follows drills for volleys and dinks. It continues the focus on NVZ-first learning in alignment with the RV Picklers' recent articlePickleball 101. 

NVZ Line Drills - Lob

Ball Toss Drills for Lob

As comfort levels at the NVZ improve, additional shots can be added. One of those shots is the offensive lob off of a dink. Lobbing is the act of hitting the ball in a soft high arc over the opponents’ head so that it lands in the opponents’ backcourt. Offensive lobs are hit near the NVZ line. The first lob drill consists of tossing the ball in order to get players comfortable with the arc and effort necessary to clear the opponents' reach and stay in-bounds. A drill to improve technique and shot-making follows.

Simple Ball Toss
Description: Two players stand at opposing NVZ lines facing each other.  One player stands erect with his paddle held over his head. The other player should have a bucket of balls to supply his drill. Using the paddle hand, this player tosses a ball underhanded over their partner’s paddle and into the backcourt.  Toss 20 balls and then switch positions.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hitting the Offensive Lob

When "over your head" is a good thing...

A couple of posts last week discussed the 2 primary situations for a lob - the offensive lob from the NVZ line and the defensive lob when needed to buy time. 

Note that an offensive lob from mid-court or the baseline is not among the best strategy options. There are a couple of reasons for that omission. First, it is extremely hard to hit a lob to the other baseline from that distance. A short lob generally results in an opponent's overhead smash. Second, the distance the lob travels also gives the opponents plenty of time to react and get into position for a good return. In short, the risk vs. reward relationship does not make this a smart shot.

But today's post is not about strategies. It is about the lob technique. Some of this was covered last year in my post The Lob. We will cover it in more detail today, using Deb Harrison's video How to Hit a Lob that illustrates the offensive lob. The video shows 2 distinct lobs - the regular lob and the topspin lob. 

The regular lob is the simpler of the 2 options. The paddle face is open and angled to establish the desired trajectory of the ball. The paddle face must not be too flat or the ball will be high and short. Nor should the paddle face be too steep or the lob will be too low and more like a groundstroke. Much like Goldilocks’ taste for porridge, the paddle face must be just right.

Monday, March 20, 2017

2017 Trussville Pickleball Charity Classic Results

You earn medals at practice. You just pick them up at tournaments...

Some local players participated in the Trussville Pickleball Charity last weekend in Trussville, Alabama. Photos are from various Facebook pages.

Scott Siewert went 5-1 in the Men's Singles and won the gold medal.
Congratulations Scott!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Don't Partner with this Guy or Gal Again

If I only knew then what I know now...

I love the Pickleball Forum - for much more than the fact it provides material for my Sunday fun posts. Here is another example.

David Letterman's TOP 10 reasons you probably shouldn't partner with that person again. 

1. Still receiving death threats in the mail. 
2. You are now known as "the weaker of the 2 chokers".
  • You paid $70 and only hit a ball in warm-ups.
  • His very first shot was a lob from the baseline.
  • Doctor said you'll need to keep the stitches in your forehead for at least a week.
  • He says "dinking is for sissies"
  • They're a 4.5 in another universe and play 3.0 in yours!
  • When he asked you to partner, he said "do you really think you're that good?" 
  • Your male partner text's you the night before and asks if you want to wear matching outfits.
  • They were your ride home and left you 8 hours before you were finished with other events.
  • Any ball they can't reach, they call it out.
  • No refs are willing to take your games because of your partner’s attitude.
  • Your partner falls on the floor with disgust when you miss an important shot!
  • You get a lesson telling you what you did wrong and what you should have done after a bad shot and just another excuse when they do.
  • They text you 5 minutes before start of play and say "wait, that tournament is THIS weekend?"
  • They put the ball up for the opponents to blast at you and blame you for not getting it back.
  • Clothes seem to be optional at tournaments for them.
  • Your partner thought mixed meant mixed race and kept talking to the ref in Navajo.
  • They say "I don't take advice from anyone. My game is all good."
  • They spend more time on the Pickleball Forum than the Pickleball Court
  • At registration he thought 5.0 meant age fifty.
  • They keep talking about getting their paddle restrung!
  • You ask them if they have a soft game and they respond with, "soft game, what's that?"
  • They complain about the sun being in their eyes and the wind is blowing too hard and You are playing indoors.
  • They unfriended me during a timeout
  • They have two bodies in the trunk of their car sitting in the parking lot!
  • They think timeouts are a waste of time.
  • They still play tennis.
  • The last time you saw or spoke to that person was...the last tournament.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Use the Lob to Gain Advantage

Adding to your game means improvement...

Continuing on yesterday's topic, a couple of pros discuss the use of the lob. I previously posted an article - To Lob or Not to Lob...that is the Question - from Sarah Ansboury and the RV Picklers in which she affirms the use of a lob from the NVZ line as an offensive weapon and also using the lob as a defensive tool to reset the point. A Pickleball Channel video called The Secret of the Lob is shown below that has a similar message. 

The video first talks about using the lob offensively - to force opponents to chase the ball from the NVZ line. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Offensive Lob from the NVZ Line

Don't be predictable...

Mixed among the multitude of tournament and miscellaneous posts lies the theme of play at the NVZ line. That topic is important because we know that is where games are won. One aspect of play that many players ignore is the lob from the NVZ line. Over the next few days, the lob will be the primary topic of discussion. We will start today with the portion of an article from Prem Carnot that relates to the NVZ lob.

This may be the first time I’ve dedicated an entire article to a single shot, and it’s not even about the dink or the drop shot. This month, we’re talking about The Sometimes-Boring-and-Annoying-But-Sometimes-OH-SO!-Gratifying Pickleball Lob Shot.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Aspen's Advice: Plateauing

Everything can look like a failure in the middle...

Aspen Kern is the creator of the Pickleball Forum and often adds his thoughts on pickleball topics. Aspen is a top player in the game and knows what he is talking about. Since I wrote of a recent setback in my game, this recent topic was particularly relevant.

Aspen's Advice

As a Junior tennis player, I would become frustrated when I didn't see improvement in my game, My coach explained to me that as a player we go through peaks and valleys, but think of it as each time you hit the ball you are putting a penny into a piggy bank. You may not see it filling up but one day it will be full. His advice has helped keep me motivated when I start to think I have hit a plateau. There will be times that you have what appears to be setbacks, but from experience I can tell you the things that set you back are also the things that make you a stronger player. Many improvements in my game have been the result of little inconveniences, a minor injury that forces you to play slightly different, a court at dusk without lights will make you focus on the ball closer, even something as petty as forgetting your sunglasses at home can make you re-realize the power of a lob hit into the sun. Don't get discouraged when things don't seem to be going your way, there is indeed a Pickleball silver lining.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Reinventing My Game - A Temporary Setback

Change is hard, then messy, then good...

I wrote a post in February, Reinventing My Game - The Grip, in which I discussed the thought process and decision to change everything about my grip. I always tell players in my clinics that change will not yield positive results immediately. The reality is that change will likely degrade the level of play during the adjustment period. Then, when it "clicks", all will be well with the world again.

That was my attitude when I changed to a continental grip. I expected to struggle for a while and I did have some trouble with even basic shots like groundstrokes, volleys, and dinks for a couple of weeks. Then..."click"...I got better. But, just as I was getting comfortable with my new game, all of my low backhand shots at the NVZ line became my partner's worst dream. All of those shots - volleys and dinks - were popped up and pounded back at us. I was shouting "look out" frequently.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Defend the Line

You have to defend your honor, your family, and the NVZ line...

Over the last week, I highlighted the importance of teaching from the NVZ as the first step and focused on that with drills to make players more comfortable at the NVZ. Sarah Ansboury's article for the RV Picklers adds to the power of that position.

What is so important about holding your line? Everything! Pickleball is played at the non-volley zone line. If you are not positioned at the non-volley zone line for the majority of the game, you are playing a different game.

Getting There

The first step to holding the line is to get there. If you don’t get to the non-volley zone you will not improve. If you have mobility challenges, consider hitting a high, loopy service return rather than driving the ball. Hitting a high, deep return gives you more time to move to the line. There are many players that have perfected this shot and can actually walk to the line. Consider using the line as a guide. If you are properly positioned at the non-volley zone, your paddle will be extended over the non-volley zone in front of you.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Aspen's Advice: Drilling

Practice puts brains in your muscles...

Aspen Kern is the creator of the Pickleball Forum and often adds his thoughts on pickleball topics. Aspen is a top player in the game and knows what he is talking about. Since I have been posting a series of drills, his recent topic was particularly relevant.

Click on the article to make it larger.

Aspen's Advice

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Sport Named Pickleball - A Song

I'm like Johnny Cash.  I only wear black...

A not so short video and song about pickleball.