This is an article you can skip over if you live in the warmer climes of Naples or Scottsdale or Palm Springs, or if you’re a snowbird that skips over the indoor pickleball season we experience in Chicagoland. We’re aren’t jealous. Really, we aren’t. Move along…
For those of us in reality, though, keeping up our pickleball addiction through the winter months is a challenge. Ideally, we can play at indoor tennis clubs, but even that has challenges: it’s expensive, sometimes the nets are wrong, sometimes the space is tight, and there’s always limited court times.
What’s more available, it seems, are gym floors, and more and more indoor gyms are painting pickleball lines on wood floors to keep people flowing through the doors.
Gym floors aren’t perfect, but it’s the game we love, and I rarely turn down the chance to play when asked.
I’ve been fortunate to get most of my winter play in at a tennis club of late, though sprinkled in between my weekly games have been some wood floor games. As such, I’ve observed some of the changes in my own game when I move from the hard court to the wood court and back again.
Upon my last back-and-forth, I came up with 3 changes I noticed that were potentially bad habits that I’d picked up from the wood court. I’m sure there are more than these, and we’d love to hear where else you see your own game altered by playing with the softer ball:
–Losing my touch on drives and hard shots: When you’re used to Franklin X-40s and DuraFast 40s and Oso pickleballs, the indoor ball feels like mush. It has a satisfying sound, but to say the ball is soft is an understatement. When I haven’t played with the soft ball in a while, I’m stunned by how hard I can hit the ball and have it remain in; the last time we played, I hit one that I knew was going long and turned my back on the play…only to hear my partner yell “in!” with joy as we won the point.
It may be fun to get to wail on the ball like that, but it clearly won’t transfer over to the outdoor game (unless we’re hitting into a gale-force wing). It always takes me some time to recalibrate my power game when switching from the wood court back to the outdoor game.
–Becoming overly reliant on spin: Much like the enjoyment we get from wailing on the indoor ball, it’s also fun to see how much we can shape our shots and make our opponents look funny with the excess spin we impart on the soft ball. What I love is how much top spin I can put on my serve or baseline forehand- I can pretty much be assured that I’ll never hit one long.
But again- this won’t transfer over to the great outdoors. The harder ball simply won’t spin the same way, and I’ve found myself hitting numerous long serves after playing with the soft ball and having to dial back my pace in order to find the feel for my top spin serve again.
–Losing my feel for what balls are going long: The most frustrating thing for me, though, in switching back and forth between indoor and outdoor pickleballs is my loss of feel for out-balls. When I’ve been playing nothing but outdoor pickleball, I come inside and let a bunch of balls go past me that land in by a foot (or more)! And when I transfer back outdoors, I hit a bunch of balls above my waist just as my partner yells “that’s going out!” I’m harmed both ways, and I’m constantly leaving points on the table.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a good lesson in any of this; ideally, we’d all just keep playing on hard court surfaces in the winter, but until there are enough new courts and facilities built to scratch our pickleball itch, we’ll keep having to deal with the above differences in play.