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Saturday, May 13, 2017

What is the Proper Paddle Position?

Being different isn't a bad thing...

So where are we in learning about the proper positioning of the paddle when at the NVZ line and anticipating your opponents' shot. We know that lots of players think that "paddle up" is the best advice that they've received. We know that several well-known instructors teach the "paddle up" concept. But we also know that many pros do not use the technique when they play. That dichotomy makes it hard to reach a conclusion.

When instructors teach the "paddle up" technique, it means the paddle is held at chest level or higher and out in front of the body. Mark Renneson demonstrates the position below.

Note that Mark is demonstrating the most extreme example with paddle at nose level just below the eyes. That conforms with the "paddle tracking" technique taught by Sarah Ansboury.

But most pros drop the paddle to a much lower level. The first is a waist level position with the paddle out in front of the body and is shown by Stephanie Shouse Lane.

The second is also at waist level but the paddle is held out to the forehand side. The same technique is shown by the current best team in the world, Kyle Yates and Dave Weinbach.

Mark Renneson theorizes that the lower paddle position is used to allow for better movement though a more balanced overall stance. I agree that there is a lot of truth to that. But my experience tells me there is another element at play - the targets at which opponents aim.

High level players are not aiming for the torsos of their opponents because those are among the easiest shots to return. Instead, they aim low, especially targeting the feet in order to get a high ball for the kill. Where is the best paddle position from which to return a low shot? It certainly isn't easy to drop the paddle from nose or chest levels. It is much easier to drop from the waist to lower levels.

The answer we seek is becoming more clear to me now. The waist level position seems better. But why do the men above hold their paddles to the side? I believe this is where Mark's "balance" theory is correct. Watching a lot of videos has given me a great appreciation of the quickness and fluidity with which the top players moves. That requires balance and their body position exudes it with arms extended equal amounts to each side.

But, as Mark also stated, gaining balance and movement results in a loss of quick reactions to balls farthest from the paddle - high and low to the backhand side. Also, hard shots between the paddle arm and the body create problems. The videos showed shot after shot missed from that area.

The Bottom Line

In my judgment, the proper paddle position is...a personal choice. The answer is dependent on several factors including a player's hand speed and reactions as well as the quality of the opponent.

Players lacking quick hands should consider a higher position so they can protect their face. Players facing mid-level and below players should also consider a higher paddle position because their opponents are more likely to keep the ball high and bang it.

Players with quick hands or facing opponents who hit the ball downward should consider a lower paddle position. I like the mid-torso position taken by Stephanie above because it is equidistant to all 4 corners of the body. I never like the paddle to the side except for the best players who can overcome its deficiencies with sheer ability.

Regardless of the paddle position relative to the body, the paddle head should never be pointed downward. "Paddle up" is still a relevant phrase in this regard.

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