Anyone who has played pickleball for a while knows that coming to the non-volley zone line is an important strategy. Being at the NVZ line give you an advantage of not only coverage, but offensive power. More points are scored from this position on the court than any other.
We all get into games with players who haven’t quite gotten into the habit of coming up to the NVZ line. Some might be new and just don’t know they should, while others continue to drive the ball from the baseline and become trapped there, while still others are afraid to come up.
Hanging back gives a false impression of being able to see where the ball is going longer, and cover more court. If you’re 20 and lightening fast, this might be the case, but that isn’t so for most of us. Taking away the ability of your opponent to hit at your feet, cutting off angles, and creating a physical barrier are invaluable assets of playing the NVZ line.
But, new players have to be taught this. Until they begin to see the benefits, they will continue to do what is most comfortable, or what they think feels best to them. I try to help newer players when I play as their partner in recreational games. I continually remind them to come up to the line, and don’t hesitate to point out when their poor position resulted in a winner for the opponent. For, example if they hung back and the opponent hit a ball at their feet, which they then hit into the net, I will demonstrate (showing the probable arc of the ball) how if they had been at the NVZ line, that ball would have come to them at chest or waist level, allowing them the chance for a kill shot, or at least the ability to keep it in play. I also take every opportunity to praise them when they come to the NVZ line and are able to hit a point winner! It is so important to have positive reinforcement to show them why their position is so important.
More than once, players who I have mentored and who are trying to improve will come to me and ask, “what should I do if my partner doesn’t come to the kitchen line?” That’s a very good question, as we are also taught that we should move forward to the NVZ line together, and not split with one player up and one player back. That formation causes a huge gap between players and is an easy target for the opponent.
My answer is, I believe you continue to remind your partner to MOVE UP! Perhaps they just haven’t created the habit, and you’ll be helping them. However, if they don’t and seem to not appreciate coaching, you play your game and go to the NVZ line. Don’t give up your position advantage, and possibly put yourself into a bad habit of hanging back just because your partner won’t come up. You might reconsider playing with them again, until they have improved.
We all have our own learning curve. Some learn faster than others, so be patient and keep reminding new players things that will help them improve. That’s how I improved. Someone kept helping me. Now it’s my turn to help someone else.
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