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Thursday, August 3, 2017

How to Win a Rally Without a Swing Part 3

Are you here to play or to watch...

The topic of not hitting balls that are out is interesting. The first article on Tuesday covered the mental part of the concept - recognizing players and body language that give an indication that those balls are likely to go out. The second article on Wednesday covered the physical part of the concept - slow down and keep your paddle up. Today, we will conclude with an idea briefly mentioned by Coach Mo - training our brains to recognize balls that will go out.

One of Coach Mo's tips in the first article sates "Play some points with your friends and don’t keep score; let some questionable balls go, so you can learn to recognize out balls. If you recognize just two balls a game, your game will improve about 20%." We will dive deeper into that using a video from Joe Baker called Pickleball Strategy 301 - Six Rules of the Fast Game. This video covers a lot of topics and the relevant part - Rule 6 - starts at about 10:56.

Joe first discusses how beginners ignore the idea of balls being out.

The next discussion compares beginner play with pros whose smart decisions earn points the easiest way possible - watching the ball go out of bounds. Advanced players will allow many more balls to go by without a swing. They aren't always right, though. But Joe's theory aligns with percentage pickleball - if the odds are in your favor, play the odds. That means you will win more points than you lose by virtue of the decision.

There are at least 2 ways to improve your decision-making ability and improve the odds:

  1. The first is discussed in Joe's video - partner communication. The non-targeted partner may have a better angle to see whether the ball is headed out of bounds. As soon as it is recognized, the partner should yell "out" or "bounce it" to let his partner know to allow it to go past.
  2. The second is Coach Mo's tip about training the brain. Much like stroke drills develop muscle memory, the brain can be trained to recognize which balls are in or out. This brain-training is tough though. It means letting lots of balls go past in practice games. This means that lots of points (and games) will be lost. Wins and losses shouldn't matter in recreational play, but it may be important to some players. Be sure to ask your partner if it is OK for you to practice this technique before using it.

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