Teaching and helping others

Is your opponent really better than you?

How often have you played a game and just gotten trounced by your opponent?  After the game was over, did you give any thought to how or why your opponent beat you so badly/easily?  Are they really that much better than you?   Maybe they really are, or maybe you hit poor shots and set them up for success.

A while back, Jim and Yvonne Hackenberg  (5.0 – 65+ players from Michigan) came to Toledo Pickleball Club and gave a clinic.  Even though much of what they taught were things we already knew, a lot was gained from the experience.  We often fail to remember/execute things we know in a game situation, especially in recreational play.  Clinics like this reinforce these things and remind us that we have to continuously work to improve our game.

In one of their demonstrations, four people were selected to play a few rallies.  At the end of each rally, those of us on the sidelines were to “cheer” for points earned by good shots, or “hiss” for points not earned, but the result of a poor shot.  There were more hisses than cheers.  It was a real eye-opening demonstration.

Think about it…..

How many times have you made a fantastic overhead slam to the cheers of those watching?  Sure, it was a great shot, but was your glory moment actually handed to you as a result of a poor shot or poor shot choice from your opponent?

The thing about pickleball is that it can be played by anyone.  Even someone who starts out with no previous racquet sport experience can improve and become a good player.  But it takes work to get beyond just making contact with the ball.  You have to practice specific, individual parts of the game, including shot choices until they become nearly automatic.

Here’s a few ways you can improve your game in recreational play.

Start each game with a goal in mind and stick to that goal even if you make mistakes. 

For example, if you’ve ever played with me when you were first learning, you know that I continuously advise you to learn to love the kitchen line, rather than getting comfortable playing three feet behind it.  This is a great goal to work on even if you make foot faults in the beginning.  Stay at the kitchen line.  Look down at your feet at the end of each rally to see where you are standing, especially if you hit the last shot.  Learn from your mistakes and before long you will become more comfortable and begin to understand and feel the advantage of playing there AND you will make fewer foot faults.  Continue to play three feet back and you’ll create a habit…….a bad one that will be difficult to break and will allow your opponents more openings to hit to.

Other goals might be:

  • Hit deep service returns, followed by immediate movement towards the kitchen line.
  • Stay in sync with your partner (see “NSYNC or In Sync”)
  • Hit the third shot drop shot into the kitchen.
  • Hit a specific target on your serve
  • Hit shots (soft and hard) to the middle
  • Keep your shots low so your opponent can’t hit an overhead back at you

Make up your own goals! The list is endless!

I promise, you will make lots of mistakes, but don’t give up on any of your goals.  It will make you a better player and partner.  Once you start doing those things automatically, you will find that you will have more control, you will begin to see openings in your opponent’s court, and you’ll begin scoring more points and winning more games.

Make your opponents earn every point.  Then, if you end up on the losing end of the game, you can be proud that you were beaten by a better team.

As always, please share your thoughts as a comment!  I welcome those who agree and those who disagree with my thoughts!

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3 thoughts on “Is your opponent really better than you?”

  1. Good article Betsy. Every time I play, I have to hit the ‘focus’ button to turn it on concerning 3rd shot drops. If I’m not focusing when I hit that shot, I invariably hit it short into the net. I have to tell myself to focus my mind and my body to deliver a good drop shot. The other thing I constantly have to remind myself is ‘a bad shot over the net is better than one in the net’.


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