Batman has the best advice!

batman

Thank you Steve Taylor, for this well timed and so true cartoon!

I play in a small group of ten players one night a week.  Most are 3.5 level players, with a few 4.0’s, myself included in the latter.  The purpose of this group is to have competitive games with similar skilled or better players with the intent to improve ourselves for tournament play.

The other night in our weekly gathering, it seemed that the goal was to hit nothing but drive shots.  Nearly every rally was the same.  Bang, bang, bang, bang until someone finally faulted. No skills used, just knee jerk reactions to slam the ball back and forth.  Admittedly, I’m not really good at bang bang rallies, so I thought well, this would be good practice for me.  I would work on blocks and attempt to slow the pace down.

By my fourth game, still enduring what I can only attribute to cabin fever and pent up energy,  I was just about ready to call it quits.  Every rally was still the same.  Every shot was bang, bang, bang.  No control, no attempt to set up a winner, just hit the ball as hard as possible and try to muscle it past the opponents.  My partner and I were down 2-8 and I finally said to him, “I’m not good at this fast paced game.  We need to slow the pace down and quit feeding them balls they can slam back at us!  Lets try to slow things down with some third shot drops and see what happens.”  Low and behold, it worked.  The other team scored one more point on one drop we missed, but we took control of the game and came back to win.

I’m not bragging because we won that game.  Far from it.  I’m thrilled because my partner tried the drop shot and by controlling the pace of the game and forcing some errors, we created openings and were able to hit winners and score.  I would have been thrilled even if we had missed every drop shot and lost the game, as long as we had tried.

I heard someone say the other day that they don’t try drop shots because they aren’t good at them.  That alone is the best reason for trying them in rec play.  Don’t be afraid to tell your partner that you are working on a skill, and that you might miss some.  But try.  Use the shots that are best for each situation, even if you aren’t good at them.  Otherwise you will never improve those shots.

Personally, I believe in the third shot drop.  It is my “go to” shot when my team is serving.  I believe it provides more opportunity to take control of the rally from the start.  A well placed third shot drop can limit your opponent’s options and will help you get to the kitchen line, which is your best offensive position.

I’m not saying that you should always hit a drop shot as your third shot.  I like a mix of drops and drives that keep your opponents on their toes.  And there are times when the third shot drop is NOT the best shot to use.  For example when your opponent doesn’t come forward to the kitchen line.  Drive the ball deep to that player and keep them in the back court as long as possible.  Aiming at their feet is the best target.

Consider too where you aim your drive shots.   If you don’t have an opening to drive a winner through, maybe a drive is not the best option.   Aiming directly at your opponent can lead to many unsatisfactory situations, most of which are unpredictable since the pace and angle of the ball coming back will often be uncontrollable.

Here’s a few things to consider in your game plan:

  • The harder you hit a non-winner, the faster it comes back, making your next shot more difficult, and often leading to a rally that becomes completely out of control.
  • Slow the game down.  Take away your opponent’s ability to slam the ball back at you.
  • Use soft shots to move your opponents, creating an opening that you can then hit a winner through.
  • Control the pace of the rally when you are the serving team with a third shot drop.   Sure, you’ll miss some, but you’ll never learn the shot until you try.
  • Be aware of your partner’s ability.  You may have fast reactions, but your partner might not and won’t be able to handle a fast paced rally.  Make shots to create a rally conducive to your partners skill too.  Don’t create a fast rally, then get mad because your partner makes a mistake.

Recently, I saw a video on the Pickleball Channel with a game for practicing deep serves, deep returns and the third shot drop.  All the ingredients you need to take control of a rally.

pickleball chanel

Click logo for video

Check it out and give it a try.  Find four others who want to practice, and play this game when it’s your turn on the court.

Lastly, don’t make winning your first priority, unless you’re in a tournament.  Hitting a shot that can create the opportunity for the winning shot should be your priority.

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