This summer I will be playing in my first pickleball competition. While not an officially ranked tourney, we have organized a league from a subset of our regular groups – about 8 to 10 teams are playing. We will play each team at least once before we head to an end of season tournament.
As someone who has played sports all my life I am genuinely excited about structured competition and wins/losses. When you play something that counts there is an extra bit of intensity and passion. While drop-ins and organized play are still fun I hope this ratchets up my level of focus.
In order to prepare for the opener I plan on focusing on the following:
We all play in drop ins or group play. You are often changing partners regularly and find yourself in situations where a ball goes down the middle where you are caught staring at your partner saying sorry, or slapping paddles together as you both swing.
Partnering with DinkTank Norm we will have to settle on a formal strategy. Even though it would be a good fit for our games, we initially will not be going with stacking. However, we do need to lay out some ground rules.
- General Court Coverage – How much of the court does the forehand cover?
- Drop vs. Drive – What balls are we going to drive vs. drop so we move as a unit to the net and don’t expose ourselves.
- Kitchen Coverage – Does the person on the right slide over and set up backhand volley and focus? When do we attack for Ernes (trick question, it is as often as possible)?
I often try to attack yellow and even red light balls while at the net as I grow impatient in dink battles. If there isn’t an offensive opportunity I need to commit to staying with the dink. I have a strong partner that I can rely on and don’t need to feel like I need to win points by myself. Make the right play and keep my mistakes to a minimum and keep my ratio of winners to unforced errors up.
Serve Depth / Return Depth
We have covered this a few times but time and time again it proves the best way to get on offense and win points. Even put others in position to make unforced errors. I want to serve it deep and I want to return it deep with consistency. For returns I want to make sure the player has to keep both feet on or behind the back line.
In a previous article we highlighted a Ben and Collin John’s match. The pros achieve deep returns on the regular.
Amateurs don’t and it lets players step into the play and drive the team back.
Look at this image of Matt Wright backed into a corner by Ben John’s for the 3rd shot drive or drop. There aren’t a lot of good options. Returning it into two guys firmly planted at the net.
Pretty excited about our league. But there is work to be done to smooth out the game.