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Friday, March 30, 2018

The Jerry Drill

Expanding your mind from the standard programming...

After playing 4 years of pickleball, several principles have been embedded in my mind and, therefore, in my play. Some actions have become almost dink low balls and attack high balls. One other action that is ingrained is to move to the net after a drive to an opponent at the baseline. The Jerry Drill is primarily a groundstroke drill but I found the mental challenge to be equally enlightening.

The Jerry Drill has one rule - every ball must bounce before it is hit. Instead of the 2-bounce rule, it is the always-bounce rule. Players can position themselves anywhere on the court, but, much like the positioning for the serving team, it only makes sense for all players to position themselves at the baseline so a ball can bounce in front of them.

Any player can start the drill by hitting a ball that bounces to an opponent. Then, each player hits a groundstroke until a fault occurs. Faults include a volley. The drill can be turned into a game with scoring just like a regular game - play to 11 and win by 2.

As simple as the drill sounds, it has several great learning opportunities we will discuss below.
  1. The first is the most obvious - groundstroke practice. This drill will provide lots of opportunities to hit groundstrokes - both forehand and backhand. You will get to practice direction, speed, spin, and height.
  2. The second is strategic learning about angles. As you explore hitting to different parts of the court, you will soon learn which shots can be used against you. For example, if you hit a sharply angled shot, you might discover that your opponent can return it with an even sharper angle. In contrast, if you hit a ball down the middle, your opponent will have a much more difficult time creating an angled return.
  3. The third is also strategic but is related to depth. The safest shot is drive the ball deep. But a short shot can be effective in 2 ways. It can create an outright winner if the opponents cannot get to the ball. But most of the time it will be returned. The advantage is now that your opponent is closer to the net than he would like. He may not get back to the baseline or be scrambling to get there. Either position makes him vulnerable. If he is up, a drive directly at him causes him to volley...and fault. If he is scrambling, a shot to his feet or behind his momentum creates a winning opportunity. There are dangers of a short shot, though. It can be hit a very sharp angle or as a drop shot. Your taking a risk could have a reward...or not.
If all of that is challenging enough, trying to overcome the embedded principles was even more so for me. It has become habit for me to charge to the net after a drive to an opponent at the baseline. I learned that was a big mistake in the Jerry Drill as the ball kept coming to me without bouncing. A friend commented that it takes me a point to adjust to new rules. The reality is that it took about six. But after falling behind 5-1, we won 11-9.

The drill was very fun and enlightening. In addition, it was exhausting. There is a lot more ground to cover from the baseline and the groundstroke swing takes a lot more effort. Yet another reason to get to the net.  Just not in the Jerry Drill.

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