I’m far from a pro pickleball player, but due to playing much more than I should in the last year and a half as well as learning a lot from watching too much pickleball, my game is at a pretty decent level.
I’ve recently found my way to some games with less-experienced players, and while it’s been an encouraging reminder of how far I’ve come, it’s also been an opportunity to help some beginning pickleball players with some tips that make an immediate impact in their own games.
Today’s post focuses on net play.
Net play is vital, not least because it increasingly becomes the place where points are won and lost as you start to play in better games. And who doesn’t want to play in increasingly better games.
These 2 tips work hand in hand with each other, but both thoughts/tips are equally vital to helping you take a big step forward as a beginning player.
Avoid Taking a Step Back in a Dink Rally
Almost always, if you’re taking a step back to hit a dink back, you’re in a defensive position, and the best you can hope for is an unattackable dink back to your opponent. You’ve limited the options on what you can do, and you likely are now out of position for having taken a step back.
This happened to me in a game the other day where I misread an incoming dink and had painted myself into a corner against Warkittens. My only option was a soft dink return on the sideline. And what happened? I got Erne’d. It happens, but had I kept my feet at the line, there would have been a variety of shots/locations I could have returned the ball. Instead, Warkittens read my defensive position and easily won the point (and I walked away with my tail between my legs).
Taking Too Few Balls Out of the Air
And this goes along with point the first: have it be your goal to take more balls out of the air. Maybe you fall forward into the kitchen by reaching too far, or overextending yourself and chunking one into the net.
You know what? That’s ok. Why? You’re starting to learn what balls you can and should take out of the air, and before long, it’ll be instinctual when you recognize which balls you can play out of the air.
When you play the ball out of the air, your opponent has less time to react and read if a ball might be attackable. Further, it keeps you out of taking a step back and hitting defensive dinks back.
I was partnered with someone recently that was really having trouble at the net because of this. She was letting balls bounce needlessly, taking a step back, and then hitting high returns that were easy put-aways for our opponents.
I gave her one suggestion about taking more balls out of the air, and it changed her game immediately. She had good hands and good touch and was flexible enough to get low to reach into the kitchen to get many balls out of the air. “You know, I’ve never thought of this- I just assumed I’d lt each ball bounce,” she said after my recommendation.
I’m not a wealth of pickleball knowledge, but I know what a difference these 2 tips made in my own game as well as a few partners I’ve had recently.
Take a look at your own game and see if there’s a chance you might be letting too many balls bounce and taking needless steps back once you get to the kitchen.
Until next time…