Friday, May 29, 2009

Pickleball A Game for All

By Coach Pickleball Promoter

Editor's Notes.

This blog is aimed at players new to the game of Pickleball particularily students. There are outlines teachers, recreation directors and coaches can use to teach the game of Pickleball. I am pleased that this material is linked to the USAPA website and material from this blog is on the website of Pickleball Canada. I have used my experience as a teacher to put together these lessons. I will be the first to admit I am a better teacher than player.


"This is truly, a game for all"
This blog attempts to put together a series of web-based sessions that will take the place of a book. Using past experience in preparing educational materials for web-based learning, I have put together a series of beginning pickleball articles for use by beginner coaches, teachers, students and players of all ages who want to learn the basics of pickleball. The beauty of using web-based learning is sessions can be interactive and updated regularly.

I have located and researched as many websites as possible and put them together in one spot. By creating links to websites such as http://www.pickleballcoach.com/ and www.usapa.org, beginning players and anyone teaching the game for the first time can click and learn more. These articles are designed to teach the basics of the game of pickleball to new players. My hope is that teachers will have students go online, read the material, and watch the videos before they go to the courts.

All sources of information are acknowledged and players can go to sites to read and watch videos of material covered with the click of a mouse. Materials can be printed for student use or teachers and coaches can tell students to visit the site for review. I know from experience that many learners are visual, so I have included as many pictures and videos as I could find.

I believe that newbies want to get playing quickly and do not want too much “chalk and talk”. Quick instruction and practice, then review and practice are the key to successful lessons in pickleball.

The order of the articles/sessions changes as I add new material. I have provide a list of topics at the end of this posting and all readers can click on a particular topic to find out more about that aspect of the game. Since readers will be at different levels and coaches want material for different topics, you can just click on a topic and go directly there.

Several of the beginnig topics are followed by a quiz for use by teachers with students. Adults may wish to try the quiz to test their knowledge.

This material is for the sole use of coaches, teachers, and players. It is NOT for publication without the consent of the writer. If you like it use it, but acknowledge the source.

I hope players and teachers find this information useful. Please feel free to forward comments to help me improve each session by clicking on comments or e-mailing your thoughts to rwroswell@gmail.com.

I would like to thank George Brewer of The Villages, FL. for introducing me to the game of Pickleball in 2005. It was George's sense of humor that made the game fun to learn and practice. Thanks to George, I am addicted.

Another person who influenced me to go further was Neal Nightingale from Sun City Center, Fl. He took up the game at 72 years young and developed a passion for it. Neal just turned 80 and is still playing. He encouraged me to get involved with the usapa and to coach others. I worked with Neal to teach a lesson at my club in Florida and I went on from there. Neal, thanks for giving me the confidence to teach others and become an ambassador of this great game.

Lastly, I met Coach Mo last February and immediately knew I had to do what he was doing for Pickleball. Dick "Mo" Movsessian is the best coach in the game in my opinion and most important he does it all for the love of the game. Many of my ideas are influenced by all the aforementioned individuals but I find myself referring more and more to Mo. "More and More Mo!" I call it creative stealing and you know what, he is thrilled to share.

Thanks to these find gentleman for sharing with me and I hope others will learn what you have taught me in these sessions. Thanks George, Neal and Mo.


Articles

I hope you find the following articles/lessons/sessions useful. If these help one teacher or coach introduce the game to student, I will consider my time well worth the effort.




  • The Basic Rules of Pickleball







  • Positioning and Scoring in Pickleball







  • The Proper Forehand Technique







  • Executing a Good Backhand







  • Playing at the NV Line







  • Turning Practising Pickleball Shots Into Fun
  • The Basic Rules of Pickleball


    At an early point in teaching beginners, some basic rules of the game of Pickleball must be introduced. The basic rules of the the game are simple and easy and that is what makes Pickleball fun to play. "You can get started right away." Here are the basic rules you need to know or teach to get started. More complex rules can be introduced as players progress.

    Background
    The game of Pickleball was developed so that all members of a family could participate so the rules were kept simple. Many of the rules are an adaptation from tennis, ping pong and volley ball.

    The rules of Pickleball have been published by the United States Pickleball Association, USAPA. The USAPA refers to their rules as, USAPA Official Tournament Rulebook. These are the official rules that must be followed for a sanctioned tournament but adaptations of the rules can be used for non sanctioned and recreational play.

    There is no reason why teachers can not make changes to accommodate a smaller space or younger players. As long as basic rules are followed, the main objective is to have fun. For teachers and players who want all the technical aspects click on USAPA Official Tournament Rule Book.

    Pickleball Canada will make modifications to rules for non sanctioned tournaments held in Canada.

    Here are the key rules that beginning players need to know.

    TheTwo Bounce Rule
    The ball must bounce twice, once on each side of the court, before players can hit the ball in the air or on the “volley”. When the ball is served, it bounces in the receivers service court, the serving team must stay back and wait for the ball to bounce again on their side before they can move up and play the ball in the air.
    This rule is instrumental in providing long rallies in the game of Pickleball. The serving team cannot serve the ball deep and then run to the net and smash it down “the throat” of their opponents. They must stay back and wait for the return bounce. New players often forget this and start to move up quickly with the serve and get caught hitting the ball in the air.

    Coaches must remind both players on the serving team to stay back at the service line until the ball has bounced on their side. After the ball has bounced twice either team can play the ball on the bounce or in the air.

    The Non-Volley Zone Faults

    The Non-Volley Zone is a rectangle that is 7' X 20 feet on both sides of the net. Since Pickleball was designed as a family game this area was put in place so that a player has to stay back from the net when hitting the ball in the air. Thus, cutting down on the number of smashes and possible injury to an opposing player. This also helps make for longer rallies.

    For a complete diagram of the court with size and labels, click on Courts courtesy of the USAPA.

    This is one of the most difficult rules for players to get used to especially tennis players. You can not step on the NV-line or into the NV-Zone when making a volley shot, a shot in the air. Your forward momentum cannot take you into the NV-zone after you hit the ball even if it is missed on the other side. No article of clothing, jewellery or paddle can fall into the zone on a volley or it is a fault. Your hat or paddle falling in is considered a fault.

    Key points. This only applies when you are volleying or hitting the ball in the air. You can step in after making a ground stroke. You can go into the NV-zone to get a ball that bounces in there first. You can stand in the NV-zone all day if you want, you just can not play the ball in the air. It is a fault if you step in even after the ball is missed or hit by the opponents.

    It may help to tell beginners that this rule was introduced to prevent players from going to the net and smashing it at their opponents as in tennis. It is safer and longer rallies result because there are fewer "put aways' standing 7' back from the net.

    Points
    The game of Pickleball is usually played to a score of 11. The winning team must win by two points or play continues until one team wins by 2. In tournament play, games can be played to 15 or 21. Unlike tennis or badminton, only the serving team can win a point. The receiving team must get the “side down” and get the serve back before earning points.
    You earn a point when the other team commits a fault. Faults are described below.
    Scoring
    Scoring in pickleball can be very confusing to beginners. The first rule of etiquette in pickleball is that the server and only the server should announce the score. The player that is standing in the right-hand service area of the serving side always starts. That player is server number 1 for this sequence only. The next time they get the serve, their partner maybe in the right court to start and they become server number 1.

    The sequence for announcing the score is as follows; serving team’s score first, opponents score second and server number third. So if the server announces 3, 4, 1, the serving team has 3 points, the opposing team has 4 points and server number 1 is serving. If the serving team wins a point, the score would be 4, 4, 1. The serving team switches courts after winning a point but the receiving team stays as is.

    Remember the server only gets one fault and they lose their serve. You only get one chance to get your serve in, not two as in tennis.

    Serving
    To start the game, teams may decide to rally for serve playing the ball three times over the net before it is in play. Often, one team just decides to start. The team serving first gets only one serve their first time. This rule helps prevent “blow” out games with one team getting a large number of points to start. The server making the first serve should announce 0, 0, 2. The score is 0, 0, and because the team gets only one serve, the server is number 2. When the serve switches to the other side that team gets two serves and play continues that way until a score of 11 is reached.

    In review from the first session, the server must serve underhand making contact with the ball below the waist. The top of the paddle face must be below the wrist and the server must have both feet behind the service line at the time of contact with the ball. The ball must be served to the diagonally opposite court and it must be clearly in the service area. The ball cannot hit any part of the non-volley zone including the non-volley line. A serve that hits the net but lands in the service area is called a “let” and is reserved. Before serving the ball, the server should make sure all players are ready. Take a minute to check to make sure your partner is ready and that the opposing team is ready.

    If you are receiving the serve but you or your partner are not ready, hold up your hand or paddle. If the server serves to you anyway, do not swing at the ball and call for a “let” serve because you were not ready. Returning the ball indicates you were ready and the point stands.

    Calling Lines
    Pickleball like most racquet sports relies on the integrity of the players in calling shots in or out. The rule of etiquette suggests that players will call the lines as honestly and fairly as they can. Players should call the lines on their side of the net and opponents will do the same on their side. Opponents should never make a call on the other side of the net unless they are asked. If a team cannot decide on a line call, then the benefit always goes to the opponent. If a team asks for an opinion from an opponent, that decision is final. Again, fairness is the rule of the day. Remember it is only a game. Keeping this in mind, will prevent conflict on the court.

    Faults
    A point is earned or a serve is lost if a fault occurs. Remember, as in volley ball a point can only be scored by the serving team. A fault occurs on a serve when the ball hits short of the service court including the non-volley line. If the ball is served to the wrong court, long behind the back service line or out of the bounds that is a fault.

    After the serve, a fault occurs if a player steps in the non-volley court or on the non-volley line while making a volley shot. If the ball is hit into the net or other permanent object such as the pole, that is a fault.

    A balls that hit outside the boundary lines of the court are considered out and a fault. If the ball hits a player they have committed a fault. On the serve, if a ball is hit into the wrong court and the opposing player in that court is hit or catches the ball that is considered a fault on the receiving team.

    A player should not catch a ball that is heading out of bounds because that is considered a fault as well. Always let the ball bounce first. An indication of an out ball should be made by yelling out or by hand jester indicating out. This should be done quickly.

    Failing to hit the ball before it bounces twice is a fault. However, if the ball bounces twice off your paddle while you are making a continuous forward motion, this is legal. If the ball hits any part of your paddle hand, the hand below the wrist, is considered part to the paddle and legal.

    If a ball hits a player or his/her clothing, while standing on or off the court during a rally, this is a fault and a point for the opponents.

    Additional Resources
    Review serving and scoring points by watching the video USAPA Basic Rules.
    If you are interested in reading all the rules on pickleball , check the USAPA Official Tournament Rule Book USAPA Official Tournament Rulebook. Copies of the rule book can be ordered at USAPA Offical Rulebook or down loaded at Download PDF File.

    Review Quiz (optional)
    1. Name two games the rules of Pickleball evolved from?
    2. How many times must the ball bounce before it can be played in the air?
    3. A game of pickleball goes to …… points.
    4. You must win a game by ……. Points.
    5. At the start of a game of pickleball, the serving team gets …… serves.
    6. When the server announces 8, 3, 2, which team is winning?
    7. To volley the ball you must be completely outside the ………………………?
    8. The benefit of the doubt on a line call goes to the …………………….?
    9. Hitting the ball in the air is called a ………………….?
    10. When may players, hit the ball on the bounce?
    Answers
    1. tennis, badminton, ping pong volley ball 2. Twice (2) 3. 11 4. 2 5. One 6. The serving team 7. Non-volley zone 8. The opponent 9. Volley 10. anytime

    Executing the BackHand Shot

    All players in any racquet sport have to work on their backhand more than their forehand. It is very one's weak side and Pickleball is no exception. A good backhand takes practice to execute well. Table tennis and ping pong players seem to have an advantage in this regard.


    For beginning players, I recommend that you try to keep as much on your forehand as you can until you are able to develop that backhand. I don't mean ignore it, just try to keep play to your forehand as much as possible.


    For example, when receiving serve try to stand so that the majority of the court is to your forehand. "Cheat to the forehand." If your are right handed and in the right hand court, stand more to the centre line. If in the left court, cheat to the left side line and trust that you can react to get a serve to the centre line.


    I tell partners to communicate to each other that shots down the middle should always be taken by the partner on his or her forehand. In fact the person, on his/her forehand should cover up to a foot over the centre line.

    "Running around the ball" is another strategy that works on a high bouncing ball but don't rely on this too much.

    That said. You should practice your backhand to get stronger for more advanced play.


    The Back Hand

    When receiving serve or any shot you should always be in the ready position as describe in the Forehand earlier. Paddle out in front so you can move to either side quickly. Knees slightly bent forward and free hand keeping the paddle face straight. Try to practice picking up the ball off the opponent's paddle as soon as possible.

    As soon as your pick up the ball coming to your back hand, pull your left hand back, if right handed, an
    d bring your paddle hand straight back as indicated in the photo on the left. Shift the weight to the back foot. As in all sports, the weight shift is a key to getting more power into your shot. The left hand is helping pull your body back and in keeping your balance.

    Your right shoulder should be pointing at the target and your eyes should be on the ball. Make a whistle to yourself as you follow the ball to the paddle. Notice the player is getting down to the ball. In this picture the player's weight is shifting to the front foot as he is ready to "pull the trigger" on the paddle.



    The next photo shows the correct follow through. The left hand is extended back as far as possible. The weight has shifted to the front foot on the follow through. The player's weight is totally on his front foot with only his back toe touching. His paddle is just above his shoulder and his arm is sraight to the target.

    He has stayed low to the ball through the whole shot.

    The paddle face is slightly open to make sure the ball clears the net but not way up in the air hitting the ball high and out.

    Notice the eyes are still down to where the ball made contact with the paddle rather than looking at where you are going to hit the ball. Only look up after contact.

    As soon as the shot is completed the player goes back to the ready position for the next shot.


    To develop your backhand, find a partner to practise with and have them hit shot after shot to your backhand. Try taking more shots on your backhand as you gain confidence. Play a fun game where you take all shots possible on your backhand.

    To review and receive a few more pointers watch Coach Mo at www.pickleballcoach.com.




    Sunday, May 10, 2009

    The Forehand

    Introducing the Forehand

    This session introduces new players to the first basic stroke of pickleball, the Forehand. The forehand is the most basic stroke and easy to learn because you are taking the ball on the bounce on your paddle or strong side.


    The Grip
    Tell players the easiest way to get the right grip is to shake hands with the paddle. Show them how to line up the grip of their paddle with the V created by the thumb and index finger of their paddle hand and straight up the edge of the paddle. Have players check each others grips to see if they are doing it right.

    I
    recommend that players maintain the same grip for both forehand and backhand shots. Some tennis players like to rotate the grip for the backhand but that comes with experience and should not be tried by novice players.


    Forehand Ready Position

    Have players start by lining up in a ready position with feet shoulder width apart and facing the net. Encourage players to stay low with knees slightly bent and with paddle out in front of them at the middle of their body. They are now ready for a shot either to the forehand or backhand. See the positioning of the lady on the right.

    As soon as your eyes sense the ball is coming to the forehand immediately bring the the paddle back and shift your weight to the back foot. The paddle should be at waist height or slightly lower. Your left shoulder should be line up with your target. Keep your eye on the ball at all times. Make a noise to remind yourself to stay focused. Beginning players often look up too soon and either miss the ball completely or hit it into the net. "Eyes on the ball until contact and follow through." This can take more time, practise, and concentration for players who have not played other racquet sports or sports such as golf, baseball or hockey. It is the same eye hand coordination needed for many sports.

    In this picture, Tony has just complete a forehand shot. Notice his eyes are still on the ball, not looking up. His paddle is just slightly above his waist at the completion of the stroke. His weight is on the front foot because his back toe is just touching the court. His padde face is straight or square to the ball so that it is travelling in a straight line, not up in the air or down into the net. Tony's knees are bend to get down low to the ball. Patent this form for a great forehand stroke.


    Try to make contact with the ball just about the middle of your body with your paddle face straight or parallel. If you are constantly hitting the ball high in the air you are probably hitting the ball with an open paddle face. If you are hitting the ball into the net all the time you are hitting the ball with a closed paddle face.








    Open face paddle -face pointing up










    Closed faced - face pointing down










    If you are missing the ball completely, you are taking your eye off the ball. When any of these things happen, stop and think about what you just did and why it happened so that you can correct immediately.

    As the paddle comes forward, your weight comes forward as well. Follow straight through to the target. Do not bring the paddle up too high at the end but just below the shoulder.

    Remember the paddle is an extension of your arm. Keep your wrist out of the action. The less wrist action the straighter the ball will go.


    Beginning players can practice their forehand with a partner or even hitting against a wall or back board at a tennis court. You might one to put a piece of painters' tape on the wall at a height of 34" - 36" to show you the right height to aim above.


    To review the forehand watch Coach Mo at http://www.pickleballcoach.com/.












    A video demonstrating the serve, ready position, forehand and backhand can be found on the USAPA website at
    Teaching High School Students

    Watch
    Basic Strokes to review the forehand stroke.

    Review Quiz – (optional)
    1. When you return the ball on the bounce from your paddle side, you have hit a ….
    2. To get the right grip on your paddle, you just need to shake
    3. When you stand at the baseline with your paddle in front of you with your knees bent slightly, you are said to be in the …………….
    4. On a serve you must make contact below your ....................................
    5. In hitting a solid forehand, your body weight should shift back and then ...................
    6. A forehand in Pickleball is similar to a golf ........................
    7. As soon as you finish your forehand shot, you immediately go back to the ........... position.
    8. When you complete a forehand stroke the paddle should be above your left shoulder, or waist high?
    9. The face of the paddle should be .................. to the ground on a good forehand stroke.
    10. You should hit a forehand with your full arm or with total wrist action?

    Answers
    1. Forehand 2. hands 3. Ready position 4. waist 5. forward
    6 swing 7. ready 8. waist high 9. parallel 10. full arm




    Positioning and Scoring in Pickleball

    Practice the Serve
    Have players start by serving three times to each court at the directionally opposite side. It is important to have players serve to different courts so they are familiar with how they are serving. Encourage them to try serving deep to the opponents backhand if they feel confident. However, it is more important to get the serve in than trying to serve an ace. You cannot score a point if you do not get the serve in.


    Practice Ground Strokes

    Next have the players rally the ball back and forth across the net on the bounce from the baseline trying to hit to the opponents forehand and backhand. Have players count out how many times they are able to get the ball back and forth over the net without a fault. Make a game of this acknowledging the winning court. If one or two players are having difficulty, partners should observe and demonstrate what they think their partner can correct. The most frequent error will be hitting the ball into the net or “skying it” in the air. The player needs to focus on hitting the ball with the paddle face straight up and down.


    Practice Volleying
    Now have the players move to the just outside the non-volley zone. I suggest having them step back about 6 inches from the NV line to start. Again have them hit back and forth across the net, this time without the bounce. Encourage shots to the forehand and backhand. No smashes at this point. Smashing a shot can be very intimidating to some players and force them to stay back so they don’t get hit. You want to encourage them to stay at the net so instruct players to keep shots slow and easy at this stage. Again, have the players count out each time the ball crosses the net. Remind players to keep the paddle up in front of them in the ready position in the centre of the body above the waste.

    Playing a Game
    Have players rally to decide on the serving team. The ball must cross the net three times and then it is in play. The team that wins the rally serves first.
    Line up one court as shown in the diagram on the right. The serving team is on the left and the receiving team on the right. Because of the two bounce rule the serving team should have both players at the base line waiting for the ball to make the second bounce on their side. The receiving team can move one player up since the ball will hit on their side in the right service court and once it is returned they can both move to the net and play it in the air. Have all other courts line up following the example of the court you have positioned. Tell the server that they cannot serve the ball until they check to make sure everyone is in proper position even their opponents. The server under normal circumstances would check to make sure their partner is ready and positioned correctly so this is good training. If a server does not do this, the other players should put up their arm or paddle to indicate players are not ready. If the server does not wait, call play and play a “let” for a distraction.


    It is critical that the teacher explain the reasons for the above positioning so players will remember. The serving team must keep both players back because of the two bounce rule. If one player moves up, they are likely to hit the ball in the air and violate the two bounce rule, believe me; I still do it on occasions. The ball must bounce on your side before you can move up.




    The receiving team can move one player up because the ball has to go to the player standing at the back service line or it will be a service fault. The idea is for the player receiving the serve to return the serve slightly elevated, deep, and as slow as possible. The shot can go to either court on the other side. Why? So that player can move up to the non-volley line before or after the ball hits on the other side. Remember, you want to keep the other team back as far as possible and on the defensive. Now both players on the receiving team should be at the non-volley zone ready to attack the next shot by the team at the back on the defensive. Al and Judy, shown on the right, are positioned perfectly and Al has just completed a volley and Judy is set for the return shot.


    The two Jims on the other side are totally out of position. Tall Jim is at the NV line for a volley his partner is at the base line. As you may be able to see the return was to the person deep. Tall Jim is never going to see the ball unless his partner is able to lob the ball high and move up. The offensive team is going to hit the hall continually to the player at the back line until they can put it away. Notice how much court is open on the opposite of the net.



    In summary, the player receiving the serve should remind themselves, "return it deep and move up".





    Keeping Score
    Keeping score seems to be very confusing for some players. This is especially true of players who are taking up a racquet sport for the first time. Remind players they can only score a point if they are serving. The right hand court always starts to serve first when their side gets to serve. The serving team switches sides when they get a point. Remind everyone the server and only the server should call out the serve before they start. However, in the early stages of playing a game, tell the players that it is more important that they help each other learn the scoring system and what court they should be in.


    Before starting the game have each side of the court review their positions before they start the game. One way to do this would be to have each player introduce themselves by saying “Hi, I’m Bob and I’m in the right court.” “Hi I’m Sue and I’m in the left court”. Have them repeat the other person’s name and their court position. Tell each court that the reason you have asked them to do this is so they have practiced good pickleball etiquette by introducing themselves to their partner and that when the person who started in the right court is back in that court the score has to be even. When they are in the left, court the score is odd. This helps more mature players remember the score.


    Instruct players the sequence of scoring is their score first, opponents’ score next and the server number last. When starting a game, the team starting gets only one serve. The score to start is 0, 0, 2. Explain that the server is number 2 because of the one serve rule. Ask players to help each other with the scoring. If one partner is having trouble remembering, ask the other partner to state the score and have them explain how they figured it out. This is where it is really helpful to have players teaching each other.


    Depending on the number of players waiting and the ability of players, the instructor may wish to have players play games to 7 and then rotate reminding them a real game goes to 11. If there are an odd number of players but free courts, have players simply rally back and forth hitting various strokes. Keep players constantly rotating in and out of games so no one is sitting for long periods of time. Although you want players to follow the rules and the correct positioning, you may want to worry about getting them playing and keeping score correctly first and really work on positioning in the next session. Beginning players find it difficult to remember to move to the net. I will talk about reasons for this and how to work on it in the next session.


    Additional Resources
    To review positioning on the court and moving to the net, I encourage players to watch a video from the website of Gale Leach a professional writer. This video shows players from a mixed doubles tournament in Arizona in 2005. Concentrate on the couple in the foreground and ignore the fact that one server steps into the court on her serve, that was legal in 2005 but not today. Click on Mixed Doubles Tournament, AZ




    Review Quiz
    1. When a team is serving both players should be back at the ……… line
    2. The receiving team can have the non receiving player placed at the ……. Line
    3. The serving team always starts from the ………… court.
    4. The …… always announces the score.
    5. Points can only be scored if you are ……………….
    6. If the serving team has 5 points, the opposing team has 6 and the first person on the side is serving, the server should announce …….
    7. What pickleball rule determines the fact that the serving team must keep both players back?
    8. The score to start a game is ……………..
    9. If the player who started the game in the right court is now in the left court to serve, that team’s score has to be ………………?
    10. If the serving team hits the return of serve in the air with letting it bounce, this would be a ……………


    Answers 1. Base 2. Non-Volley or NV 3. Right 4. Server 5. Serving 6. 5 6 1
    7. double bounce or two bounce 8. 0 0 2 9. Odd 10. fault

    Turning Practicing Pickleball Shots Into Fun!

    Improving the Skill of Your Players or Students by Having Fun Drills and Games.


    How do you know if you have practised enough? Look at Coach Mo's paddle on the left. If yours has the sweet spot worn as his does, by hitting the ball in the exact same spot every time, take a day off. The other side looks the same.



    One of the problems of teaching new players is getting them to practice. They just want to play.

    If there is court space and time available, lessons can be scheduled and players know that is what to expect. This is ideal to teach new players the game.

    However, that is a luxury many coaches and conveners do not have if they play at recreation centers. Players have limited time to play and that is what they want to do. Some have driven a long way to get there and of course they want to play.

    Yes, I have heard, “but I am not going to go in any tournaments, I just want to play.” I agree, but to get fun out of the game you must learn the rules and try to improve. I do not play in tournaments, but I take every lesson I can get. I am privileged to have had lessons from George Brewer and coaching from Dick “Mo” Movsessian, the two best teachers in Florida.
    Rich Donald offered intermediate and advanced clinics at our club and I used that opportunity to learn. I watch good players to see what I can use to help me or in some cases not try. You do have to learn to work with the skills you have and adapt for the ones you do not have. A topic for another lesson.

    I planned a social members’ appreciation tournament at my club in Sebring, Florida. I spent hours trying to create rules that would equalize play for all levels. I referred to it as, “messed up Pickleball”. After the event, several experienced players, said, “Wayne, you really messed us up, but it was a fun way to practice different things on the court.”

    I thought, “Wow, this is like the chemist at 3M who invented a glue that wouldn’t stick. What do we do with gallons of it? Turn it into post-it notes!” Here is what came out of “messed up pickleball.”

    Fun Drills

    Here are some things I suggest to help make practicing Pickleball shots and doing drills fun for players of all ages.

    1. To decide on who serves the first game, have each player make 2 serves. 1 to each service side of the court. Each side keeps track of the number of serves they get in and the side with the most number of valid serves gets to chose whether they want first serve or not.

    2. To practice both placement of the ball and forehands, tell the players that all shots must be made to the opponents’ forehands and you can only use forehands to make your shots. The serve must be to the opponents’ forehand. If a shot is not placed or taken on the forehand it is loss of serve or loss of point. Also, the two bounce rule is in effect for the whole game. All players must stay at the baseline and allow the ball to bounce before they can play it.

    3. The same Drill as number 2 above can be used to practice backhand shots. For beginning or new players, I suggest playing a regular game until the first team gets to 5 points and then go to backhands because of the difficulty and frustration some players might experience.

    4. To practice the “dink” game, have all four players play the whole game at the NV-line. All shots including the serve must bounce in the NV-zone. A lob or shot landing out of the NV-zone is a fault and is a loss of serve or point.

    5. Use the same placement as Number 4 above to have players play the ball on the forehand or backhand volley. All players are at or near the NV-Line and they must hit all shots to the opponent’s forehand in the air including the serve. Play this way until the first side gets to 5 and then switch to backhand volleys. Lobs and ground strokes are a fault.


    6. Play the whole game with lob shots only including the serve.

    I am sure coaches and teachers can come up with many others. The idea is to make practice fun. I would not have players do more than one of these during each session and make sure they understand the purpose of the drill. If you see players are having trouble shorten the game to seven or even five points.


    "Remember, practice may not make you perfect but it will not make you worse!"

    Tuesday, May 5, 2009

    Play at the NV-Line



    By Pickleball Promoter

    One of the most difficult things to teach new players is to move to the NV-line as soon as you can. There are several reasons for this.

    In other racquet sports, the strategy maybe to keep one player up and the other back so this carries over to Pickleball as well. There is the fear that the opponents will lob the ball over your head and you will not be able to get back in time to get it. For female players in mixed doubles, it is the fear of being hit. The later is a real concern and one that must be addressed by all teachers and coaches.

    However, to play an aggressive style both partners must get to the NV-line as quickly as they can and try to maintain their position. 90% of all points are won here. If you stay back, you are relying on the other team to make an unforced error and that takes patience.

    The receiving team has the best advantage to get to the net first. The serving team must stay back to let the ball bounce on their side, the two bounce rule. The receiving team can place the non receiving partner at the NV-line before the serve and the player receiving serve must keep the ball deep so he or she can get up with their partner. The best return of serve shot is higher than normal, slow and deep to the backhand. The serving team can not rush the ball or volley it. They must wait for the bounce.

    Both players have to go to the NV-line or the strategy breaks down. If one player stays back to defend the lob, the other partner will never see the ball. The other team will keep it deep and move to the net. Both up or both back, there is no other way to play good Pickleball.

    When players are at the NV-line, the paddle must be up at the chest area and square to the net. To help keep the paddle square to the net , the non paddle hand can be used as a mental queue to remind you. Coach Mo, Dick Movsessan, illustrates this at, Coach Mo at the NV-line. Notice the paddle is up to the left for a right hander. Also, notice the placement of Mo’s left hand to make sure the paddle face is square to the net. Notice the placement of the feet, shoulder width apart, with the knees slightly bend. Weight should be slightly forward. The paddle face should be slightly open or dipped towards the net to direct the ball down but not so much as to put it into the net.

    At the NV-line all shots are a forward punch with the paddle. There is no time on a quick volley to take the paddle back. All motion is forward. You are using the forward momentum of the ball to punch it back at the opponent harder than it hit your paddle. The motion is like hitting a punching bag. With the speed of the opponent’s shot and the punch of your solid paddle, the ball will go back faster and harder.
    Coaches may wish to line players up against a gym wall as shown here in a clinic by Mo at Tanglewood. This prevents the player from bringing the paddle back for a punch shot. Players get the idea of what not to do quickly. Use as many ideas as you can to help players remember the correct technique and execution of shots.

    The next thing you should try to do is place the return of the ball either at your opponents’ feet, or down the middle. Try, if you have time, to hit it to an open area and not right back at them. Make them move.

    Using your Paddle like a Goalie Stick

    When you bring you paddle to your chest it is better to keep it square to the net and on your backhand side. Not all coaches agree but this is my suggestion. You can bring your paddle across much more of your body on your backhand than your forehand. If you are right handed, you can go to your left as far as you can reach and bring the paddle back to your right side before you need to go to your forehand. This is similar to a hockey goalie using his/her stick to cover most of the net before using the catching hand.

    The other strategy is to hold the paddle straight out front as the ready position as in receiving a serve and then go to the backhand or forehand as required. You need to have quicker reflexes for this strategy, in my opinion. I recommend giving yourself as much time as you can by keeping the paddle up on the backhand side.

    Watch a complete demonstration of these techniques in Forehand and Backhand Vollies at www.pickleballcoach.com

    Getting to the Net

    If you are serving, you have to wait for the double bounce but you do want to get to the net as soon as you can. If you feel confident of a lob shot, that is one way. Lob it over the head of the opposing team and as they retreat to get it move up quickly together.
    The other strategy is to move forward a step on each return forehand or backhand shot until you are both at the NV-line. Do not try to get there on one shot but move up gradually. If you are forced back with a lob, do the same thing. Keep your shots as deeply as you can and move together one step at a time. If you charge the NV-line, you will have to take the ball while moving and one should try to avoid that. It is much better to get to the spot before the ball and plant your feet for the return.
    Hit At the Opponents' Feet



    I cannot stress this enough. Always place the ball rather than smash it. Coaches, start younger players doing this immediately. Adults try to remember this. If you hit it at a player, a good player will return it quicker than you hit at them. Always at the feet or down the middle. If you do this you will win more points and avoid injury to opponents. I know an errant shot will happen but if you are in control of your paddle it should not.

    David Cho-Chu said to me recently, "A good player should always be in control of his or her paddle. It should not fly out of his or her hand if they are in control." I agree David and they can control where they hit and the force they hit it with as well. I do not accept the fact that you need to smash it at the weaker partner's face or upper body. I will comment on this more in future lessons.

    (Note: I have adapted the material from Dick Movsessians video, "Forehand and Backhand Vollies" at www.pickleballcoach.com.)