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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Targeting: Practicing Serves and Returns of Serves

Be sure to positively identify your target before hitting the ball...

I mentioned yesterday about the priority order of implementing targeting strategies and that players should move down the priority list as their skills improve. In addition to the drills shown in Chapter 2 - The Serve and Chapter 3 - The Groundstroke and Return of Serve, this post discusses how to practice these shots to improve your skills.

We will start with a Keith Bing video - Serve & Return Serve Drill: Hit the landing zone. This video shows 2 players marking off an area 5 feet from the baseline with the objective of hitting both the serve and return of serve into that area. The video cannot be embedded so click on the link above to view.

Next, Sarah Ansboury has some advice of practicing both serves and returns of serves in her article Practicing Pickleball Serves and Returns.
Practicing Your Serve
As you practice your pickleball serve I want you to be conscious of every aspect of serving.

  • Begin by choosing a target….not the entire service box, but a specific spot. The narrower your focus the more likely you will hit the target. (Practice tip: take chalk to the court or place a hand towel on the court. Try to hit your target.)
  • Practice your pre-shot routine. Your routine might be: select a target, visualize the ball hitting the target, take a deep breath, bounce the ball, then fire.
  • Allow your body to be loose and move so you are extending from your shoulder. Use your full range of motion. I like to think of letting my hips open to the net as I finish my follow through.
  • Observe where your paddle is finishing…is it close to your body or extended toward your target? Always stop and take a look at what just happened.
Practicing the Return of Serve
Practicing returns you want to create some of these same habits. Stop and visualize where you want the ball to go. Make sure your body feels in control, relaxed and balanced. I want to feel loose and able to move. Just as when serving, you have many choices on a return of serve. Take time to make a conscious decision before you return the serve.
  • You can focus on deep and hard; or
  • You might want to float the ball high and deep if you need more time to get to the line; or
  • Attempt a short return to mix things up and perhaps catch the other team behind the baseline.
Our returns of serve are much like a groundstroke. Though we want to use our body to propel the ball forward, we don’t want to run through the shot. Take your time. Take your steps, make contact and guide the ball towards the target. After you actually make your shot, then move forward.

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