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Monday, December 11, 2017

What Advice Should You Consider?

Trust what you see, not what you hear...

A recent Pickleball Forum discussion got me thinking. I contributed a couple of comments to the discussion and wanted to show them to readers of this blog. But, more importantly, it brought to mind a couple of issues. The first is whose advice should you trust. The person who started the discussion seemed to imply that consideration of any pickleball advice should be related to the advice-giver's skill level. It later was apparent that it was more of a rant than his actual thoughts. But a great discussion ensued. That issue and discussion is the subject of this post.

A second issue will be addressed in a series of posts to follow.  I will not say too much here except that different coaches advise different techniques or strategies for a given situation. How do you know which option to choose? We will discuss some of those situations.

For now, though, let's address the Forum discussion from my perspective. Here was the kick-off post:
Suggestion: If you're giving pickleball play advice/instruction on the forum, put your skill level in parenthesis at the end of your post/comment so people who don't know any better can estimate how big a grain of salt to take your advice with. I see a LOT of questionable advice on the forum and don't have the time/motivation to respond as often as I would like to. Thanks in advance.

My first post was buried after dozens of others that both supported and denied the suggestion. My post:
Many, if not most, top level coaches in other sports were never top level players, but studied the game. They can apply what they have learned to different players' abilities and desires. Pickleball is not unique to this principle.
Top level players are capable of doing the same but are very likely to give advice that worked for them even when their students may have different abilities. In other words, coaching is a skill that must be learned just as playing skills must be learned.
To be 100% honest, I was defending myself and this blog to some extent. Readers know that I am a 4.0 player. I am up-front with that and my advice should be with that consideration. 

After another long series of replies, I posted again:
I get where Glenn is coming from with his post. It is analogous to someone posting a rules interpretation without knowing the rules. Both bad play advice and bad rules advice only cause problems for all of us over the long term.
I write a daily pickleball blog and I read, watch, and research a lot of advice from players and non-players all over the ratings spectrum. I also give clinics to local groups ranging from beginners to intermediates. I've learned a lot about giving advice through my blog and coaching experiences.
First, advice must be tailored to the player's abilities and aspirations. I could talk about using a drop shot until I'm blue in the face but an immobile player with the inability to move quickly to the NVZ and no aspiration to learn the soft game won't use it. We must learn to explain the inadequacies of his methods while maximizing his abilities so he can enjoy the game at his desired level.
Second, sometimes there really is no single right answer. One example that recently came up was about whether to take a dink in the air or step back and let it bounce. A Pickleball Channel video showed Steve Dawson and his emphasis on taking the ball in the air. Then a video of Morgan Evans playing at Nationals showed him regularly stepping back to hit his dink. The video was posted by Mark Renneson who also explained the logic behind the strategy. 
By the way, Mark is great at exploding conventional wisdom, one reason I call him a contrarian on my blog. It is meant as a compliment because he shows and explains how and why the myth is not always reality. Really good stuff.
Here's the point. Players who both give and receive advice should recognize that its application may or may not be relevant, depending on the giver's relative abilities compared to the receiver. The advice should be relevant to a strategy that fits the receiver's current perspective. Techniques and skills must be adapted to players and situations.
One last comment in this (too long) post. I've learned to say "never say never" as well as "never say always". It is rare advice that applies in all situations.
So there it is. The Forum discussion summarized from my perspective. Readers of this blog are looking for advice. I try to present experts' advice frequently, sometimes with my spin on it. Other times I write advice from my own learning curve. In this regard, some of my advice has changed as my experience and analysis has improved. Some of my early posts have been superseded by later posts. Check the "book chapter" to ensure that a later posts didn't change the advice from an earlier post. I will always leave the original in place. I hope that such admissions serve to help earn your trust.

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