I’ve been doing some informal polling of late, and it seems when I ask 4.0 players and below about their weaknesses, I hear “my backhand” said a disproportionate amount of the time.
And that makes sense. A backhand is essentially like trying to hit a baseball lefthanded, but most righthanded pickleballers didn’t hit lefthanded (if they played baseball or softball at all). It’s not natural the way a forehand is.
In my observation, then, I’ve started to notice a few reasons why players might start to see their backhand not improving the way they hoped. I’m sure there are many more reasons than this, but here are 3 quick ones I’ve noticed.
-You’re avoiding hitting it by running around to your forehand
This seems to be problem #1- you’re avoiding hitting your backhand altogether!
Tyson McGuffin jokes that he makes up for his lack of backhand by running around every forehand, but NEWS FLASH: you don’t have the speed nor the forehand of T-Mac to make that a worthwhile strategy. Instead, your lack of confidence in hitting the backhand puts you in a poor position to hit a strong forehand AND takes you further out of position for the next shot.
Your backhand is never going to get any better if you’re not willing to hit it. Stop running around the ball and start embracing your backhand! Confidence comes with hitting a few good ones.
–You aren’t taking the time to work on it in warmup and drilling
Let’s face it: you’re working on it, or you aren’t. We’re all guilty of doing a half-arsed job warming up, and for many of us, it’s the only “reps” we get outside of the game.
Sure, few of us have the time (or interest!) to practice thoroughly, so taking some time in warmups to work on some things we aren’t good at might be our only chance to address our deficiencies.
So if that’s your backhand, hit some in warmups. Odds are, there is someone in your playing group that wouldn’t mind the practice, either!
–You’re trying to use your wrist instead of using the bigger muscles in your arm
One mistake I see players make in trying to hit a backhand is when they flick it with their wrist.
That might work in ping pong, but it’s a difficult shot. And even the “flicks” we see on the pro circuit are much more arm based when you slow them down and watch them.
A backhand should be a bigger move with your shoulder (for groundstrokes) or elbow (for balls at the kitchen line). If you’re breaking your wrist much at all, you’re doing something wrong.
Use your big muscles and don’t try to make the action happen with your wrist.
Until next time…