Stop and close your eyes. Listen. What do you hear?
The other day between games in open play, another player suggested I stop and listen. And here’s what I heard. Bam, bam, bam, bam, give or take one or two bams. What was I hearing, and what was to be made of it?
We continued to watch and here’s what we saw. Serve, return, bam, bam, bam…..again, give or take a bam or two. Most rallies went from serve to attempted kill shot. There were mostly third shot drives, with very few third shot drops to help them get up to the NVZ line, or set up any kind of rally. Most often players never got past no man’s land before the rally ended.
I can’t say that those players weren’t having fun, and isn’t that what it’s all about, ultimately? But, it made me think.
Is the game really changing that much, or were they playing this way because it’s all they know? Have those players not been offered enough help for them to improve past this type of aggressive, hard hitting play with no strategy at all? Or maybe they don’t want help and just want to play that way?
I should add that these were not high level players who set up opportunities for a kill shot that may have been returned by their opponent, and the point either reset or won. These were lower to intermediate players. And again, they were having fun. But, guess what happened when a couple of them went up against some better players. You guessed it. Those hard bam bam’s were cut down with some off speed shots and dinks into the kitchen…….game over.
Admittedly, I fought the hard banger game tooth and nail when first attacked by it! But over time, I’ve accepted that it’s part of the game, and needed in your arsenal of shots if you’re going to be a better player. This includes hitting the hard shot, and being able to receive and handle the hard shot.
BUT, when playing with or against beginner or lower intermediate players who ONLY hits the hard drive from anywhere on the court, is it appropriate to talk to them about expanding their shot selection and learning to hit a soft shot as well? Would they welcome suggestions to help understand when/why to use a drop shot, why a softer game would create longer rallies, how to set up scoring opportunities, and why having a variety of shots will improve their game?
Or, do we have a “win no matter what” culture, even during open play.
One thing I find, at least in my community (which has four local clubs and close to 500 players), is that there are beginner classes available, but after that, further training opportunities are scarce. Most players go right from beginner lessons into open play, and have little or no more helpful attention going forward. They get no help with strategy or with reasons they should slow the game down and keep their hard shots for surprise offensive attacks. (NOTE: I’m excited to say that this summer, two area clubs are offering skills and drills for the first time!)
I might be wrong, but I think if open play is going to mingle all levels together we should speak up and offer suggestions. It might be the only instruction offered to help them at this point. I realize though, that not everyone wants to be helped. Some people are winning points by beating the ball past (or directly at) weaker players and are perfectly happy doing so. I know immediately when I am with an un-receptive player. When that happens, I make a mental note to bite my tongue and to have limited play with that person in the future.
I’ve heard players say they watch the pros play on YouTube, and in the US Open championship matches on CBSSports and that they are playing a faster, harder hitting game. That’s true. But we aren’t pros, are we? And we aren’t always playing against people of our same skill level. I assure you the pros know how to set up a strategic put away by keeping the ball slow until the opportunity presents itself, and that’s when the pace of the game gets fast. If their kill shot doesn’t get through and a quick flurry of fast, hard shots occurs, often someone is able to reset the point! Amazing to watch, but that ability didn’t come without a lot of skill and practice.
There are all styles of play in the game of pickleball. There is a place for soft and hard shots, lobs and all kinds of other crazy shots. You need them all to be the best player you can be. But, when newer or lower level players are playing a one dimensional game, I am going to offer to help them understand that there are other ways to play, other shots to learn and try in order to succeed. If my help isn’t welcome, I’ll shut up.
What do you think? Should help be offered? Or just let people play the way they want?
Take a look at my pickleball tee shirts on iDink and Pickleball Rocks! Links in the sidebar or below (computer or mobile).
Take a minute and click FOLLOW. Enter your email address, and get notification when I’ve made a new post. Your email is not used for anything else and I get “followers.” Then, share Crazy Pickleball Lady with your pickleball friends by clicking on the Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn icons below.