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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Slow Down for Better Decisions

When the why is clear, the how is easy...

The series on targeting has reached the point where it is appropriate to discuss decision-making. The first 2 parts of the series on the serve and the return of serve require little decision-making "on the fly". All 4 players are essentially locked in place and decisions about targets can be made well in advance of making the shot. But the third part of the series - the third shot - and future shots will require much more fluidity in the decision-making process. A couple of concepts will make the process easier. We will use 2 Sarah Ansboury articles to highlight the concepts

First, Sarah emphasizes that a quality shot is of paramount importance, regardless of strategy, in this excerpt from her article The Third Shot Drop is Important…But Not Your Only Option.
Hitting a Quality Shot
It is important to try to hit a quality shot each and every time. Often we rush through shots, trying to get ready for the next shot. If, instead, we had focused on hitting the best shot at that moment, we would have set ourselves up for a better next shot. If I am not in a good position to hit a quality third shot drop, I will drive the ball and work on getting into position for the next time it comes back over the net.
Always remember there is never a shot you have to hit every time you go out there… you always have options.

Second, Sarah discusses decision-making in this excerpt from her RV Pickler article Pickleball Decisions: Most Often, You Get What You Give.
Pickleball Decisions: In an Ideal World
In an ideal world, we would be planning two or three balls ahead of ourselves. We would have a target for every shot. We would also be able to anticipate exactly what shot would be coming back to us. When we are first learning to play, it will seem nearly impossible to do these things. We are so concerned with “just getting the ball back”, we really aren’t thinking about what we are doing with the ball. But even new players can learn to think during a game. In fact, the RVPicklers wrote an excellent post about thinking while playing that can help every level of player...
You Can Practice Making Pickleball Decisions
Making good pickleball decisions is often easier than we think. However, it is something that is best practiced outside of a competitive match. The more you take the time to practice, outside of a competitive game, the easier is to focus on what you want to accomplish.
Start by focusing on the simplest things. Before you start any point pick a target for your serve. Then pick your target for your third shot, and whether it’ll be a drop or a drive. Likewise, before you return, decide where you want your return to go and if you want a forehand or a backhand. If you want a forehand as soon as they start hitting the ball just start shifting your paddle towards your forehand side and move your feet into position.
A big key to making good pickleball decisions is slowing down enough to take a breath and make a conscious choice. We need to start by focusing on what we want. We also need to give ourselves a break if things don’t go exactly as we planned. Move on and keep working towards it. We’ve all been there…it is just part of the process.
The key takeaway from these articles is that shots should not be rushed. Obviously, there will be times when all you can do is react and attempt to return the ball in any possible way. But most shots can be mentally slowed down enough to make a conscious decision of where to hit the ball based on consideration of the elements at play. This comes with experience.

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