Oh yes, I do love Justin Timberlake! But his boy band, NSYNC isn’t what I’m going to talk about here! Today I want to share a couple of things I’m working on. One of them is playing IN SYNC with my partner.
Even though I play pickleball everyday (or nearly), I always have specific things I try to work on. For example, last summer I was trying to keep from hitting my opponents high or hard hit shots. I kept saying to myself things like, “shoulder high, let it fly,” or “step aside and let it fly.” Anything to help me recognize a ball that was heading out of bounds. My friend, Anita joked about this same thing, saying “If I can reach it, I can hit it!” Like a knee jerk reaction, my arm and paddle shot towards the ball, and I was converting too many of my opponents mistakes into my own. I’m still working on that, and probably always will.
I’m working on playing “in sync” with my partner. As we learn to play pickleball, we’re taught to get to the no volley zone line as soon as possible! The trouble is that sometimes our opponent hits a deep shot that doesn’t allow us to get there right away. If your partner rushes forward, while you are forced to stay back, the team become split, and that can cause all kinds of problems, such as:
- Your opponent will continue to hit deep shots to you in the back court, and not allow you to move forward
- The shots the you will be forced to hit will likely be lobs, which your opponent will easily hit and and continue to keep you in the back court
- Your partner at the no volley zone line will be an easy target
- A huge opening will be created between you and your partner, providing a wide gap to for your opponent to hit through
STAY IN SYNC!
Staying in sync is crucial. That means playing as if you were tied together at the hips with an 8’ rope. If your partner can’t move forward, you must stay back, side by side until you both can move up together. That’s playing in sync.
Recently, this video of 5.0 players, Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner, playing a fantastic rally was posted on the Pickleball Channel. My friend, Karen Miller saw it and ask me why Jennifer (white shirt/black shorts) and Alex (pink shirt/black skort) played so long in the back court before getting to the no volley zone line. After all, they are 5.0 players and should know that they should be at the kitchen line. Well, the answer is simple.
They were playing in sync.
Their opponent hit a deep service return to Alex in the back court, and continued to hit shots that prevented them from moving forward. In the video, you can see Jennifer trying to move up, but then she sees that Alex can’t and steps back so they can stay in sync. Eventually, they both get to the kitchen line for a few shots, are moved backwards again, and are finally able to reclaim the line and ultimately put the ball away, winning the point. This video provides a great demonstration partners of playing in sync.
Another moment to watch for in the video is when Alex is finally able to hit a soft dink shot (at 0.33 sec). The soft shot slowed things down, allowing them to reset the point and step up to the kitchen line. This put them into a strong offensive position, rather than the defensive position they had been in for most of the rally (in the back court). Even though the rally sped up again, they had gained control and was able to win the point for the match victory.
A lot can be learned from watching videos of high level players. If there is something you are working on, do a Google search, then click on VIDEOS. Chances are good you will find that someone has a video lesson for just about any skill in pickleball.
There are many websites online where you can find help for your game. Here are a few:
Pickleball Channel – for videos of full matches and other tutorials.
AllPickleball.com – Jennifer Lucore’s Blog
Pickleball 411 – by Pickleball Channel – short video lessons
USAPA.com – should be at the top of your list for helpful tips
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