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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Speed Kills

I feel the need, the need for speed...

Today's post will continue the series on court movement with further discussion of the first big move - getting to the NVZ line. We have discussed this extensively in prior posts and I won't repeat much of that. Please refer to the Positioning and Footwork section of Chapter 5 - Earn the Net. Instead, we will focus on some new perspectives that I have gained in my learning curve - both on the court and from the experts.

We've all seen the guy that hits a ball from the baseline and races forward to get to the NVZ for his next shot. Sometimes it works. Other times the player is unable to change direction or adjust his next hit to account for the momentum of his body. Players race forward in obeisance to the pickleball gods # 1 mantra - "GET TO THE NET". But watching the pros and other high-level players will show that is not how it should be done. Instead, they move forward at a pace that keeps them on balance and under control.

Sarah Ansboury wrote 3 posts for the RV Picklers blog that discussed her observations of recreational play. One of those posts discussed the need to slow down. Relevant excerpts of the post are shown below. The entire post can be read at Pickleball Observations #2: Slow Down, Stop Shuffling.
The Slowest Player on the Court
When I join in during recreational play, I often am the slowest person on the court. Everyone seems to be in such a hurry!  They scurry from side to side, running to one spot while leaving another open.  They lunge forward, head first and paddle last, trying to get to the non-volley zone line.
Their movements are exacerbated by what we talked about last week…bending over.  The average human head weighs more than ten pounds, so it is only natural when we bend our backs and lead with our heads that we will be pulled off-balance and out of position.  If you are leaning left and then need to move right, the weight of your head pulling in one direction will make it more difficult to react.
Rather than focusing on “getting to the ball”, I want you to focus on being in control.  I want you to be balanced.  Instead, focus on what you want to do with the ball.
Watch the Pros
Take some time to watch the pros play.  You will notice that they seem to hurry a lot less than lower ranked players. They work, as a unit with their partner, to cover the whole court. They don’t both go for a ball, leaving a portion of the court uncovered. They aren’t scurrying about wasting motion. They seem in control…even though the ball is likely being returned more quickly than yours, they often seem to have plenty of time.
Getting to the NVZ Line
When I move from the baseline to the non-volley zone, I think of it as a walk rather than a run.  I always try to take smaller, deliberate steps that allow me to change direction naturally.  I hold my head high, over my feet rather than in front of my feet. I lead with my paddle.  I follow the path of the ball, knowing my partner will shift appropriately.
Watch the show video below to see Sarah and her partner slowly work their way from the baseline to the NVZ line. There is no racing to the line.

My personal experience confirms this style. I take only a couple of steps before making a judgment of where the opponent is likely to return the ball. If it looks safe to move farther, I will do so. Otherwise, I get ready to move in any direction with a forward bias.

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