Let me start off by acknowledging that “getting your paddle up,” is not some profound tip for pickle ballers of all skill levels. But it really is the best tip, I’ve gotten while playing. This weekend was the first time I was able to get out and play with a group of 8 this year. The weather was beautiful this past Saturday in the Chicagoland area and the group came to play.
It took a game for me to warm up and knock some of the rust off, but it was the 5th out of 9 games I played when one of my partners mentioned to me, “get your paddle up when you’re at the net.” He went on to explain to me that I kept my paddle head down between my legs in between shots. I felt like this was natural after softly hitting a dink, the paddle returns down to prepare for another dink, when it should be up. Now this is a common occurrence in amateur pickleball. I started to notice the others doing the exact same thing so I wanted to explore how keeping your paddle up at all 3 levels of the pickleball court benefits your game.
Paddle Up at the Kitchen Line
- Similar to home buying, I’m starting by looking at the kitchen. Now this is where I was given the tip “paddle up.” I think it’s easiest to get caught with your paddle down at the kitchen line due to the nature of the dinking game. When dinking you tend to have your paddle head down as you make contact with the ball, so it’s natural to return to a paddle down position. Unfortunately, this leaves you vulnerable to a volley situation as you’ll need to quickly get your paddle up, which can lead to you trying to step back and getting around the ball leading to more soft pop ups, which we all know leads to trouble. Keep your paddle up at all times at the kitchen line to quickly hit a volley face up or with a backhand, depending on ball placement.
Paddle Up in the Middle Third
- We are moving back on the pickleball court, but the consistency of keeping your paddle up should remain the same. No one wants to get caught in “No Man’s Land,” but it’s part of the game. Anytime you try to work your way up to the kitchen line, you’ll often have to navigate throught the middle third. Having your paddle up in this area puts you in a versatile spot to handle volleys, gives you space to handle smashes off the bounce, and allows you to adjust and hit a drop as you work your way back to the kitchen line.
Paddle Up at the Baseline
- Now we are all the way back to where it all begins. I like to emphasize having my paddle up at the baseline because it’s where you start each point. Consistency needs to start at the beginning and the more you focus on your paddle up at the beginning of a point, it will become muscle memory throughout the duration of the match. Similar to the middle third, having your paddle up at the baseline puts you into the most versatile position to handle drives, smashes, and drops.
Now that we are getting some more consistent warmer weather here in the Chicagoland I’ll be playing more and I’m sure to have some more areas of focus as I keep finding weaknesses in my game. Let me know what areas of emphasis you focus on as you head into your weekly games.