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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Controllables - Direction

Don't let opponents control you...

One of the most important articles I have written for this blog was The Most Important Shot. That article talked about controlling the rally with your next shot. It is all about focusing on the aspects of the game within your control. Today's post will start a small weekly series based on the contributions from an outside pickleball instructor. 

Daniel Joseph (DJ) Howard is an IPTPA instructor in Michigan. He is also a member of the Pickleball Forum where he offers a weekly tip. DJ has kindly agreed to allow me to include his Forum tips on this blog. I previously posted one his tips in Watch to Learn. This post will include 2 of his Forum tips about the controllables of a pickleball. The first is an introduction to the series and the second focuses on the first controllable - direction.

Ballers, here is your weekly tip:

There are several things you CANNOT control about a pickleball- color, size, shape (no dura jokes here, please), weight, density, among others.

Meanwhile, there are only five (5) characteristics of a pickleball you CAN control. Does anyone know what all five are without looking below?

Listed in no particular order, they are as follows: 
  • Direction
  • Height
  • Depth
  • Speed
  • Spin
Each week for the next five weeks I will break down each one of the five characteristics that you are able to control and explain it in more detail.

This week in practice, control what you can and don't worry about what you can't control.

Here is your DJ's weekly pickleball tip:

Remember from last week that there are only five different flight characteristics you can control about a ball.
  • Direction
  • Spin
  • Speed
  • Height
  • Depth

Let's address "Direction":

Without going into too much detail about all the nuances of various angles from various positions, the most basic directional options are diagonal or straight, also called cross court or down the line. 

While it is sometimes wise to hit toward the middle of the court, it is also very important to be able to control the ball toward one side of the court or the other (deuce court vs ad court, or right side vs left side).

Typically, sending the ball cross court is a higher percentage play, as hitting straight ahead involves less court space and a higher net. However, this does not mean hitting straight ahead cannot be done. Sometimes it is smart or necessary in order to hit a winner or simply to keep your opponent from anticipating your every shot, to cite just two examples. While you ought to play smart, high percentage pickleball, you can't afford to be too predictable!

Being able to change the direction of the ball will 1.) keep your opponent guessing where you may send the next ball, and 2.) allow you to move your opponent to various widths on the court which creates openings.

This week, make sure to practice controlling your shots toward one side of the court or the other to see how you can manipulate the position of your opponents. Mix it up a bit and see what happens. See how well you may be able to change the direction of the ball. You may do this with your serves, returns, dinks, or third shots. Just make sure to focus on the direction you want the ball to go and get into good and balanced position first. Then have at it.

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