While playing at the IronOaks courts in Sun Lakes for my first time last month, I ran into a group of very excited, highly motivated, new pickleball players. We played a couple games together, and when we departed, this question was posed to me, “What should we do to improve and become 3.5 players?” That question prompted this column which will run several months as we look at common mistakes and how to fix them.
1. Moving too far into the court when serving. We often move beyond the baseline and into the court following our serve. The two-bounce rule tells us we can’t volley the opponent’s return of serve. Better players take advantage of this poor court position by hitting a deep return to our feet. When this happens, we have to backpedal, waiting for the ball to bounce. Moving backward while hitting the third shot creates errors. We must first stop, then move our body weight forward through the ball when hitting the third shot. To counter this, we must stay behind the baseline, or if we move in beyond the baseline on a drive serve, retreat into the ready position behind the baseline before hitting the third shot. Remember, this applies to us when a partner is serving as well.
2. Staying in no man’s land. If you’re not at the baseline or at the non-volley zone line, you’re in no man’s land. Standing in this area makes it easier for your opponent to hit the ball at your feet where it’s hard to dig balls out. It also makes you vulnerable to cross-court dink shots. Balls hit to no man’s land are easily hit when standing at the baseline, because the balls will bounce up into your strike zone. If you are at the non-volley zone line, you will be able to hit these balls out of the air. Either is much easier than trying to hit a ball that lands near your feet. By the way, balls hit at your feet are called “toe jams,” for obvious reasons. Eliminate “toe jams” and improve your game!
Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment, or have some pickilicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at firstname.lastname@example.org.