We have all been there – show up to a drop in or your regular game and you don’t bring your “A” stuff. Pickleball isn’t a game like basketball if your shot isn’t falling you can just play a little harder on the defensive end. Playing harder and pressing could lead to a less than optimal performance. Rather than just get frustrated and drop a few F bombs we want to get the most out of sessions.
Here are some things I try when I am struggling.
Try Some Heavy Drops
We all want to hit a perfect drop and glide to the net to get into a dink rally. However, that requires excellent precision that if you don’t have that “A” game then you might find yourself leaving some 3rd shot drops right into the net. Not only is it frustrating that you lose opportunities to put points on the board, it also stifles the flow and rhythm of the game, never letting you break out of your funk.
If I find myself being too cute or precise and leaving my drops into the net I often start trying to hit a heavier drop. As long as it isn’t too high you are probably going to get a ball in the transition zone as the return. Sometimes this makes a 5th shot drop a lot easier than off a hard return of serve. As mentioned above this extends the points and gets you in the flow of the match and gets more touches. That should help get you more acclimated and back to your normal self.
Conservative Dink / No Speed Ups
As you find yourself on the struggle bus, consider being the conservative dinker and not speeding the ball up. Commit to going crosscourt in the middle of the box with a medium bounc.
The quickest way for a player to get out of rhythm and struggle in a day is taking too many chances on low balls (red or yellow lights) and try to speed them up either right into the net or sailing past their opponents performing matrix-like moves to dodge a pickleball.
Again the reason I like to do this is to keep getting touches and keep getting a feel for the game to get out of a funk. Play yourself out of it.
You are hitting heavier drops, you are playing conservative and not speeding up the ball – you best be ready and get your paddle up and be ready to play some defense. This is always a good lesson but it’s important when you are playing poorly to keep your head in the game and not get picked on. Most of the time you aren’t playing with precision once it speeds up so just get the paddle up and block the ball at angles and make your opponents hit some winners.
You are definitely going to have some sessions where you struggle. Even if you don’t find your “A” game there are plenty of ways to work out the kinks and play competitive pickleball.