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Thursday, July 20, 2017

SE Regional Ambassador Retreat - Balance

The mountains are calling and I must go...

I have previously mentioned that a group of 41 USAPA ambassadors plus guests recently held a 3+ day retreat at the Beech Mountain Club. The retreat consisted of various learning sessions, one of which was about balance. Sharon Mackenzie gave the presentation based on her experiences with physical education and play in her area. Sharon's handout is shown below. Her handiwork and advice is exactly what is needed after our discussions the past couple of weeks.

Proposal to the USAPA and USAPA Ambassadors

To encourage Ambassadors to alter the skill progression they use teaching Pickleball in their newbie clinics, especially to seniors.

Skill progression: Start with Footwork (includes balance principals, wide stance/low center of gravity, split step/jump stop, sidesteps at the NVZ and drop step, forehand, backhand incorporating the drop step).


  • Adults focus on “the ball”- hitting it, chasing it, and “playing” once the game is introduced. With the excitement of playing the ball the brain has no real idea what the feet are doing.
  • Adding safety at the end of a course and telling participants, “now DON’T do ABC or XYZ “(back up, cross feet, reach, etc) is ineffective.
  • I have heard that 80% of mis-hits or misplayed balls are caused by poor footwork.
  • As people age their personal fitness components decline. The effect of a loss of strength, flexibility, and endurance has a devastating effect on balance. Unlike children, when seniors fall, they break.
  • A better understanding of footwork lends itself to better movement especially if introduced without the distraction of the ball, paddle and “playing” – This should help eliminate the lack of mobility that causes reaching and tipping, forcing the body off balance.

Progression of Skills:
  • Introduction of Pickleball including balance principals and personal fitness components (see balance principles below).
  • Ready position emphasizing the wide base and bent knees.
  • 1st activity taught: How to pick up a ball. Wide stance with bent knees. (Most beginners spend more time picking up the ball than hitting the ball.)
  • Introduce foot work in 2 segments, getting to and from the NVZ line and playing at the NVZ line.
  • Getting to the line: Instructional Key: Balance!
    1. Starting in the ready position at the base line, move forward on command stopping on command with balance using the jump stop (emphasizing the wide stance and bent knees AND balance!). (Coaching suggestion: once stopped, lift the big toes up to touch the shoe. If this is not possible, something needs to be adjusted, )
    2. Repeat with a coach on the other side of the net using a paddle swing. As the paddle starts back, the participant stops using the jump stop to maintain balance. (Better success playing the ball being set, with balance!)
               REPEAT until most have the idea, balance is more important than speed.
  • Getting back from the line: Instructional Key: Keep feet wide, avoid crossing the feet! Crossed feet eliminates the wide base… decreasing balance. 
    1. Demonstrate then teach the drop step. Have the whole group practice before starting on the line. 
      1. Ready position - drop the right (then the left) foot back toward the baseline, be sure to lift the toe on the opposite foot so that foot pivots and feet are parallel. 
      2. From this position, the player can use either a side shuffle position or a run, stepping toward the base line with the right foot followed by the left. FOCUS: not crossing feet, wide stance and bent knees to maintain balance.
    2. Practice with 2 players at a time at the NVZ line. Be sure to have each player drop toward the center line. Be sure to have players switch sides. Add a ball. Two players in the ready position; toss or hit a simulated lob. Now the players will watch the ball and move at the same time. Great opportunity to see if they have some muscle memory developing. * Remember, speed is not important, the correct footwork without crossing feet is! , (getting to the ball is not the purpose of this drill. Watching the ball, moving the feet and starting toward the ball with balance is.)
    3. Be sure to have players change sides. Repeat. You will see players increasing speed as they repeat this exercise.
  • Using the Drop Step to introduce the forehand and backhand. Key: drop step to get body in position and paddle contact with control.
    1. Using the drop step reinforces the motion, and emphasizes the correct body position for executing the forehand and backhand at the same time.
    2. Start with a toss to the player, progress to a toss over the net then hitting over the net.
Personal Fitness Components:

There are 4 basic personal fitness components that we all possess but sadly they decline as we age. Never fear!! They can all be improved!
  1. Strength; The muscles ability to do work.
  2. Endurance; The ability of the muscle to do work over a period of time.
  3. Flexibility; Range of motion in a joint.
  4. BALANCE; The ability of the body to stay upright.
Balance becomes more important as we age; however, the lack of strength and flexibility definitely affects the bodies’ ability to balance

The body uses the following senses to maintain balance:
  1. 1. Vision
  2. 2. Inner ear
  3. 3. Sensors in the joints Aging, & joint injuries can affect the sensitivity of the joints leaving balance to the other senses. Using the following principals definitely helps.
Balance can be improved with practice! Know these two simple Principals of Balance! Just the cognitive awareness helps improve seniors balance.
  1. The wider the base, the better the balance.
  2. The lower the center of gravity, the better the balance.
PICKLEBALL application: wide stance, bent knees!

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