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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

"It works for me"

Hard work and proper technique will beat bad technique every time...

Most readers have not been following this blog since the beginning. I started the blog soon after I discovered pickleball. One purpose was to chronicle my learning experience. As a former tennis and racqetball player, I was able to learn pickleball very quickly. That early success made me a little hard-headed, though. I was able to beat many players by playing my way - grip, hitting technique, footwork, and strategies were all meaningless. "It works for me" was all I knew.

Then I started studying the game. I watched videos. I watched matches. I read everything I could get my hands on. I started to change my game. Many of the changes have been discussed in these pages. But I still experience the "it works for me" attitude...with students at my clinics. I used to show proper techniques but ended the demonstration segment with a statement similar to "whatever works for you". But I gave that up a long time ago. Instead, I now show the proper technique and explain the limitations of failure to adhere. I can't force anyone to adjust. But I can let them know how they will ultimately fail.

All of that is an introduction to the substance of today's post. I have used some tips from DJ Howard, an IPTPA instructor in Michigan in the past. This is a particularly good one.

Myth: Use whatever method (grip, stroke style, footwork pattern, etc.) works for you.

Truth: Biomechanics matter.

Ever wonder why a good coach taught you the things he or she did? Ever wonder why almost every single top athlete in any sport looks so similar to others in their field? 

(P.S. I already know this is where many of you are going to say to yourself or chime in, "no way! I know so-and-so and they are unique! They don't do it like everyone else! They are not all the same!" Yeah, I get it. True, they may have a SLIGHTLY different way of doing things or a unique STYLE. However, their biomechanics are still similar enough and fall within the parameters of the acceptable range. So there. Please continue.)

Proper biomechanics (the study of the structure and movement of the body) really do matter. A lot.

Proper function of the body through sport and exercise matters because it will improve performance as well as prevent injuries. To use incorrect biomechanics disallows a person from performing as well as he/she can and also puts him/her at risk for injuries.

What are proper biomechanics - can't I just decide for myself?

No. You can't. Not usually, anyway. Not unless you have an extensive background in studying athletics and the sport you are engaged in and can reproduce those biomechanical techniques on your own. But that is a VERY small minority. The rest of the population has taken lessons and been TAUGHT how to use proper biomechanical techniques.

Ever known a self taught pro golfer? (By the way, after winning the Masters one year, Tiger Woods modified his swing a little to make it even better. Just saying.)

Ever known a self taught pro tennis player, Olympic gymnast or pole vaulter? I bet you don't. 

(Again, P.S. Save your example of your Uncle Charlie who was an amazing self taught whatever. He ain't a household name and he is an outlier if he really was a self taught pro anything.)

Proper biomechanics are taught by someone who knows and are learned through repetition. Good technique takes time to develop. This explains why tennis players are often so good at pickleball very quickly. They have the experience of good, sometimes great, technique. They understand how to control their body to hit and control the ball.

Are there variations that may be used and still be considered excellent biomechanical technique (like slightly different grip positions, for example)? Of course. However, once you fall outside of those tried and true parameters, you're asking for trouble. You cannot reinvent the wheel, so don't try. Otherwise, your performance will suffer and you may injure yourself. It's not worth it.

Next time you think to yourself, "I don't care what the experts say, I'm gonna do it my own way," watch out! It may be a train wreck waiting to happen.

Biomechanics and technique matter. Listen to the experts who know how to teach you properly. You'll perform better and reduce injuries. What could be better than that?

Til next time, keep reppin' (with proper technique)!

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