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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Recycle Sunday - The 80% Rule

A blast from the past...

This week's Recycle Sunday article was originally published February 20, 2016.


As you might imagine, I watch a lot of pickleball. I watch videos of players of all levels. I watch live games while waiting for recreational play. I watch live games during tournaments. I watch to get ideas to write about. But mostly I watch to learn.

Many games have extended periods of dinking during which I have questioned why opportunities to make an aggressive play passed without avail. After reading the statistical analysis about Conversions, I wondered even more. The author wrote "that a team strong in offensively executed conversions would see a forced error in their opponent or score a point within two hits of their executed conversions". There is no more offensive conversion than turning a dink into an aggressive smash. So why wasn't it done?

Several weeks ago, I had my question answered in a conversation with Jerry Peterson, a multi-gold medal winner in national tournaments in 2015. Jerry told me that the best players do not jump on the first opportunity just because it may create a win. These players wait for an opportunity that presents an 80% chance for a winning shot.  They will not take the shot if it is 50/50 or even 75/25. They wait for a near certain winning shot.

Jerry Peterson

My first thought was that is a great strategy for 5.0 players who can dink all day without hitting the net, or hitting out-of-bounds, or hitting it up so the opponents can smash it back. But, as a 3.5 player trying to get to 4.0, my dinking skills aren't at that level yet. Waiting for an 80% shot will likely mean that I will be the first mess up. But then I remember the conversions statistics. These say that even if I mess up sometimes, being aggressive will be in my favor. The key for me is to learn while constantly raising my personal threshold toward the 80% level.

Obviously, players aren't performing percentage calculations in their heads in the middle of a rally. Instead, they use their experience hitting winning shots and their experience failing to hit a winning shot to develop the ability to make split-second judgments such as these. 

The only way to develop the judgment of the 80% shot as well as the ability to wait for it is to practice through both drills and play. So go play!

*One side note: In my conversation with Jerry, I was so focused on the concept that I may not have properly remembered the threshold number. Instead of 80%, the rule he quoted may very well be 90%. The number isn't as significant to me as the strategy.

1 comment:

  1. According to Joe Baker it should be closer attacks should be taken closer to 70% or even 55% win to lose ratio.