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Friday, July 7, 2017

Movement Around the Court

Preparation requires awareness and movement...

The single most important element in becoming a better player is proper movement around the court. That means a lot of things and we will start a series of posts that cover much of the topic. Today, I want to start with early preparation, which means moving to the proper position to make the best shot...and nothing is more important at that instant.

Last October, I wrote a post - The Most Important Shot - in which I stated the most important shot is the next one. The basis for that statement is summed up in the following:
The only time that you control the rally is when the ball is on your side of the court. Therefore, your next shot will always determine how the rest of the rally will play out. A good next shot increases the probability of winning the rally and a bad next shot decreases that probability. In other words, your next shot is the best immediate opportunity to gain an advantage.
The post goes on to talk about footwork and positioning as key to making the best shot:

  • Take the extra step to be in a better position
  • Stop before hitting the ball

Maybe the best way to make the point is to look at a couple of examples. The photos below show 2 players making a similar backhand volley. Which is more likely to make the better shot?

Player A has stretched to her maximum reach make the volley. She has little control over the exact direction, height, or spin on the shot.

Player B is playing the ball in front of his body. This gives him much more control of the shot and, therefore, more control of the rally.

The difference in the 2 positions is a single step. If Player A can make 1 more step to her left, then she is much better position to control her shot.

I like to talk about golf when explaining this concept in clinics. Golfers practice the mechanics of the swing hour after hour to build the muscle memory to repeat it on the course. But the ball must be in the same place relative to their body to make the same swing. Therefore, they adjust their body by bending at the knees or or waist in order to play a ball on a slope or otherwise impaired.

Pickleball players practice their swing, too. They should learn where they are most comfortable hitting the ball relative to their body and develop muscle memory around that position. Then, they must make every effort to get their body into their comfort zone for the muscle memory to work.

We will conclude this movement introduction post with an except from Coach Mo's Tip of the Month Pickleball Early Preparation:
EARLY PREPARATION is the most important part of the game. It is the most common mistake, because players do not realize they are not prepared early enough. Players in their quest to get to the NVZ line tend to be running out of control at the point of contact of the ball on their opponents paddle. Players sacrifice early preparation for a better position on the court which is very poor technique because if you are moving at point of contact of the ball on your opponents paddle then you are not able to hit a low ball, go back for a lob, or move right or left as quick.

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