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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Predict the Shot

Body language gives away tendencies...

Yesterday's post was Aspen Kern's advice about reading body language to get cues about your opponent's shot. Today we will continue that topic with another view of the topic with more specific recommendations. This post will include excerpts from 2 Prem Carnot articles.

Prem's first article briefly discusses the options available to a player in order to analyze the direction of his opponent's shot before it is moving toward him. This article is titled How to play pickleball: Determining the direction of the shot.

QUESTION: When receiving a shot from my opponent, should I be watching the ball, the position of their paddle, or the the position of their shoulders?

ANSWER: When learning how to play pickleball, some players and coaches will tell you to watch the paddle for where they are going to hit the ball. However, I find that that doesn’t give you much of a head’s up as to where the ball is going, because you don’t know where the paddle is going to be facing until they are about to hit the ball.

There are really two options when trying to keep track of the ball AND the shoulder.

1) You can develop your peripheral vision such that, while you keep your eye on the ball, you can still take in information about your opponent’s body position. (My wife, Wendy, swears that this is what I do, but it’s not easy to do, much less teach).

2) Watch the ball when it is coming in your direction but look at your opponent’s shoulder/positioning when the ball is headed toward them, i.e. after you or your partner have hit the ball.

Prem's article Pickleball Strategy: How to predict the future…so to speak discusses the value of the time gained by reading clues and specifies where your focus should be to get those clues. It also explains of his choice of the first article options. 

...the further in advance you know (or can make a strong prediction) about what direction they are going to hit the ball, the more time you have to prepare, get in position, and plan YOUR next shot.

In this article, my hope is to give you at least an extra second of time to prepare for your shot.

Whether you’re a beginning player or an experienced tournament player, having even just this short amount of extra time is likely to have your opponents ooh-ing & ahh-ing over your “quick response times” when, secretly, you know that you were getting ready before they even hit their shot.

Here is best tip for how to “see into the future” and predict your opponent’s shot…

Look at their Leading Shoulder

There are other parts of the body (such as the foot and the wrist) that provide a “tell” as to where the ball is going to go, however for the majority of players, the majority of the time, the only thing you need to pay attention to is where their leading shoulder is pointing, and that will tell you where the ball is going.

What is a “Leading Shoulder”?

The leading shoulder is the shoulder on the opposite side of where they are hitting the ball. For right-handed players, the leading shoulder on a forehand is their left shoulder. On the backhand, it’s their right shoulder.

For left-handed players, the leading shoulder is their right shoulder on a forehand and the left shoulder on the backhand.

What does the Leading Shoulder tell you?

The leading shoulder pretty much tells you exactly which direction they are going to hit the ball. Wherever that shoulder is pointing, is where the ball is most likely going to go.
If the Leading Shoulder is pointing left, get ready for the ball to come to your left side. If it’s pointing right, get ready for a ball at your right. 
(Even if many good players couldn’t consciously tell you that this is how they know where the ball is going, they probably pick up on it subconsciously.)

In the photo above, the most likely shot that I would hit would go to the near left side of the court. Do you see why?

Why is This So?

It has to do with the mechanics of the arm and shoulder. Once you are in position & your shoulder is planted, that’s virtually the only shot you can hit if your wrist is firm & in line with your forearm.

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