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Saturday, May 6, 2017

Paddle Up

I'm ready so bring it on...

Yesterday's post included a list of some of the best advice that players have received. One of the most popular pieces of advice "keep your paddle up". This is a common element taught by instructors like Prem Carnot, Coach Mo, and others. One of the most prominent experts teaching this is Sarah Ansboury with her paddle-tracking technique. 

Over the next several days - today and next week - I will show some of Sarah's advice in greater detail. Before starting, let me lay out where this is heading. There is a contrarian view to the "paddle up" mantra. As usual, the contrarian view is set forth by Mark Renneson. After reviewing Sarah's advice, we will use Mark's work to reach a conclusion. Stay tuned through the series.

The first look at Sarah's advice comes from an article she wrote for the RV Pickler website.

I am certain at some point you have been told to keep your paddle up. Someone may have even whacked a ball at you to make the point. While we all know we should keep our paddle up, we don’t always do it. Rather than pointing out your mistake, I would rather teach you how to keep your paddle up!

Instead of focusing on keeping your paddle up I want you to focus on two things: 1. Maintaining a neutral posture which faces the ball, and 2. Tracking the ball with your paddle. Let’s review each of these:

Your Neutral Position

Here is a picture of me in what I like to call my happy, neutral zone. You may have heard the term “ready position” or “compressed position”. You’ll notice that my feet are a bit wider than shoulder width apart. You can’t see it here, but trust me I am not flat-footed. Ideally, I feel light and agile on the balls of my feet. I bend forward from my hips, not my waist. I keep my chest and head up. You’ll notice that I am holding the paddle in front of me at about chest height.

I should be maintaining this position whenever I am not running or hitting the ball. I call this the neutral zone because it allows us to move in either direction, side to side, or forward or back.

When you assume the neutral position, I want you to face the ball. I am not suggesting you turn your head, but rather you angle your body so that you are facing the ball. Imagine you were hitting a cross court dink. You wouldn’t stand square to the net and attempt to hit the dink across your body. Instead, you would angle your body so that you are facing where the ball is intended to go. After hitting the ball, return to your neutral position, angling your body in the direction the ball will be traveling to you.

Use Your Paddle as a Tracking Device

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