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Thursday, August 29, 2013

The 'Dink' Shot....

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Our beginning and intermediate players ask me regularly about when they can play with the more advanced players.  We do have our five courts broken down into advanced, intermediate, and beginner status.  Many times, if players get to the courts early enough, our combinations of players are eclectic (can I use that word in a Pickleball discussion?).....until we have enough players to divide properly on the courts, anyone can play with anyone.  That usually takes about the first 30 minutes of class.  Back to the question: My answer has been the standard "when your game gets better."  I go into specifics if they want specifics.  Initially, the explanation centers around the obvious....consistency.  Consistently good serves, consistently hitting good returns of serve, consistently getting to the 7' line, consistently looking comfortable at the net.....etc.  After some time--and consistently good success--against players of comparable ability, the question is asked again.  I answer by saying that they are close, and they very well may be, but are they ready to handle the faster pace and better placement that comes with playing better players?  They say they are (and in their hearts they believe it), but from a technical standpoint, most are lacking the one shot that is a must in more advanced play....the 'Dink.'  My answer remains consistent (there's that word again!)...."when you have consistently good success with the Dink Shot, you can play successfully with the more advanced players."  This is not to say that all of our more advanced players are great 'dinkers.'  We all need work.  But we try, third shot after third shot, 7' line rally after 7' line rally, understanding all the time that the ball needs to be hit at the opponent's feet.  Placement, placement, placement....Dink, Dink, Dink.

As a newbie, beginner, or even intermediate player, are you swinging at the short shots and punching the long shots?  This is what the less experienced players do.  It should be just the opposite.  At the end of the day, you always ask yourself "how did the ball come off my paddle today."  Hopefully, low, soft, and at your opponent's feet......
 Making your opponent hit up with a good, short 'Dink" shot

Monday, August 26, 2013

Pickleball's "Decision" Line....No Volley Zone Violations

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:

Today's Observation:  We talk a lot about hitting the ball at the opponent's feet....forcing them to hit up.  There is also a great deal of conversation about hitting to the middle because "the middle is money."  Well, it is surprising how often players have the opportunity to play the middle but choose instead to play one opponent or the other.  I understand playing weaknesses or the weaker opponent.  I also believe that strong or weak, the middle, or what I choose to call the DECISION LINE, is a very strategic (and sensible) ZONE of the court to hit to.  Schematically, it is the center service line that extends to the baseline.  Balls hit to this zone (or on that line) force the opponent's to make a decision.  They should communicate.  Most do not.  They both think "I've Got It" or "You Take It" and a sword fight ensues with the paddles, or neither goes after the ball----easy point for you.  What is important to remember is that this Decision Line can float as your opponents move, or shade, a particular side of the court.  Nothing changes....hit to their middle (dink is preferable) and make them decide.  You will be pleasantly surprised at the number of easy points won when the day is over.

Today's Rules Clarification:  I have noticed a trend in our play at Centennial Park.  Remember when you first started playing?  How aware (or even a little leery) you were of No Volley Zone violations.  As you played more, and got comfortable with playing horizontally along the 7' line, you stopped worrying about the line and the violations.  You felt comfortable, rarely stepped in the Kitchen, and enjoyed playing more.  Herein lies a problem.  In tournament play, the official stands at one net post or the other and officiates the game.  He/she tells you before the match that his/her responsibility is NVZone violations---foot faults.  All other lines are called by the players.  In social play, ALL lines are called by the players.  Back to the problem.  I have noticed numerous NVZ foot fault violations not called by the hitting team.  YOU are responsible for calling your own violation, or that of your partner.  Your opponents should not.  They can point it out....but you have to agree.  No more discussion.  The suggestion:  Do the best you can to look down at your feet (or your partner's) after hitting a winning volley (very hard during the rally).  Just self-check.  It is the proper and courteous thing to do.

Fun play today.  22 participants on another great morning.  We have averaged (we have a sign-in sheet and I check closely) 18 players a session for nine straight weeks.  Our high--25.  Our low--12.  Bravo.

Have a great day and, wherever you played today, think about 'How The Ball Came Off Your Paddle?'  Hopefully, well-placed!!!!

Hitting To The 'Decision Line'

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pickleball Rules Question/Answer....Pickleball Ratings....USAPA

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  Join us for some fun play whenever your are in our area.  We have loaner equipment.

Let's answer yesterday's question.  Ruling:  Violation of the No Volley Zone by the hitting team.  Even though the player who stepped into the NVZ did not hit the winning volley, the mere touching of his partner's paddle (or any part of his partner) makes his partner susceptible to a violation call.  In essence, the two became one and any contact with the NVZ by either player is just that....a violation.

Here is some information on Pickleball skill ratings.  Many of our players ask about this....

1.  You can self-rate yourself.  This is usually done so that you can enter a skill level tournament.
2.  You can have your local ambassador suggest a rating so that you can enter a tournament.
3.  After you play in a tournament, it is not uncommon, although not required, to have the tournament director give you a rating.  Many do, many do not.
4.  To get on the "ratings radar" for an advancement in your ratings, you generally need to medal in a skill level tournament.
5.  Most often, you will need to medal twice--usually Gold-- (in two different Skill Level tournaments) to be advanced to the next level.
6.  Quality of tournaments, recommendations from highly skilled players and/or tournament directors, size of the event, more than one event performance....are other factors used to rate players.
7.  Ratings changes are now being done three times a year on April 1, September 1 and December 1.  In special cases there are exceptions.
8.  USAPA ratings may be quite different from self-ratings.
9.  USAPA ratings will be posted on the official National website.
10. Remember, Skill Level tournaments (3.0-3.5, 4.0-4.5, 5.0) are different from Age Level tournaments (50-54, 55-59, 60-64, etc.).  You need not be rated to play in Age Level tourneys.

To join the USAPA go to this website.  Your membership helps our National Organization and also helps our local Club:  $25.00 a year is one less bottle of good wine, two less pizzas, lunch at home once, no blue-ray DVD, a week without lattes (you know what they say....they take a 'latte' time to make and they cost a 'latte' money).

15 players today on a busy weekend.....

The Question:  "How Did The Ball Come Off Your Paddle Today?"

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pickleball Rules....Negative Space In Pickleball

Today's Rules Explanation:  During the course of a rally, our opponents, both standing at their 7' line, went for a ball.  One of them hit a winning volley, but his partner struck the back of his paddle and also stepped into the No Volley Zone.  He did not hit the ball, just his partner's paddle.  What is the ruling?:  You can respond in the comments section.  Answer will be given tomorrow (if you do not already know).

On another note.....there is a famous quote by photojournalist Robert Capa that simply states, "If you do not like your photographs, you are not close enough."  Well said.  In essence, what he is implying is that photographers leave too much 'negative space' around the subject of a photograph.  The space does nothing to help the picture.  If I might draw a Pickleball analogy to this quote (and it is a little bit of a stretch, but hey, the simple explanation of why you must get to the 7' line isn't working), it would be that you can't have all that 'negative space' around you because you are standing back at the baseline.  Linearly (is that a word?), there is 12'6" of 'negative space' between you and the 7' No Volley Zone line---when you are standing at the baseline (this would be the distance from the 7' line and the baseline=13 ft.).  I say 12'6" because your toes should be about 6" from the NVZ line!!!!  Confusing?  Shouldn't be....when you play ping pong, do you stand 13' away from the end of the table?  No, you get up to the table (in this case, the 7' NVZ line).  Win or lose your rallies from there.  What about the lob?  A low percentage shot with few outright winners.

I know, this whole 'negative space' thing is a little out there, but not really.  Besides, if I can help the photographers in our group---with their photos or their're welcome!

20 players today on an overcast, but pleasant, Friday.  Lots of good play.  I say that a lot, but today it really looked like the games were competitive and positive.  There's that other 'P' word.

"How Did The Ball Come Off Your Paddle Today?"  If you did not like your shots, you probably weren't close enough!!!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pickleball Strategy Reminders....A Good Article....Pickleball In Spain

Our Paso Robles Pickleball club Website:  Join us for some fun play when you are in the area.

We had 17 players this morning, including a talented player from Virginia.  Since we started eleven months ago our visitors have come from all areas of California----San Diego, Riverside, Laguna Niguel, Mission Viejo, L.A., Whittier, San Fernando Valley, Santa Maria, Pismo Beach, Cambria, San Jose, Palo name a few, and, from other states----Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Virginia.  It is fun to meet and play with Pickleballers from outside our area.  The conversation always centers around what they are doing at their clubs, what kind of support they have from their city, their facilities, etc.  Very interesting to hear about all the clubs who move indoors during the winter months.  We like being outdoors, but the option to move inside would be nice during the cold and rain.

Strategy Reminders:  After today's play, I see the opportunity to remind people about Pickleball Strategy.  Here is a good list of 10.

1.  Get your serve in every time....preferably DEEP.
2.  Your Service Return should be slow and deep to allow you to get to the 7' line (NVZ line).
3.  Use the Third Shot "Dink."  This is the return of their return of serve.  A short shot in the NVZ.
4.  Placement and Patience are the keys to this game.  Play under control.
5.  Speaking of placement....hit the ball to your opponent's feet.
6.  When you can, make them REACH.
7.  When you can, keep your opponent's DEEP.  If they stay back, keep them back.
8.  Do not hit UP.  Remember #5.  Hit at their feet.  Placement.  The dink.
9.  Take away the high percentage shot from your opponents.  Shade with your partner.  The more diagonally they hit, the lower their percentage of winners.
10. Be in a good ready position with the Paddle Up and Slightly Angled (45 Degrees) Towards Your Opponents.

Read a good article today about the start up/importance of Pickleball in a Fresno County city.

Another country getting serious about Pickleball:  Read:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

From The Picklehood....

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  Join us when you are in the neighborhood.

No Club play today, but that does not mean we can't Pickleteach....

Let's talk about communication between partners.  Most agree that this is very necessary, and yet, most also agree that not enough talking between partners really occurs during play.  This lack of communication could cost you critical points.. Ever lost that close game, and, in retrospect, realized that it came down to one or two lobs, dinks, shots down the middle (or a combination) that were misread because neither partner could decide whose ball it was?

Here is a suggestion to help communication.  Before you play your next game, tell your partner that you are going to work on communication.  You are going to call "mine," "yours" on every shot you have time to call (choose one word for each person).  You are going to do the best you can to call the ball as the ball leaves your opponent's paddle.  This will be difficult on volley rallies at the net....but you are still going to try.  You are going to call every ball!!!!  After the first game, have your partner do the same.  If he/she does not want to do this, you call every ball again.  This practice is very important, even though 90% of all shots are pretty obvious.  You will get your brain to recognize those important shots that really count and you may just avoid the indecision that leads to letting a ball go because you  thought your partner was going to take it.

Two major points of emphasis:  (1) Be sure to tell your partner that if you call "mine" that ball is yours.  You are responsible for the shot.  How many times have you called "mine" and still had your partner take the shot anyway resulting in a sword fight between your two paddles as you both went after the ball? (2) "Yours" is not an automatic to hit the ball.  Your partner must still be able to recognize the ball that is obviously "out."  One call may precede the other.  This is a decision that must be made by your partner as you call "yours."  If you say "out" (like you are used to doing), that is O.K....old, good habits  trump new things you are working on.

If you are fortunate enough to play with the same partner on a regular basis (and even in tournaments), this practice of recognizing who should hit the ball will prove invaluable over the course of your Pickleball playing days.  May they be long and prosperous....

If you were lucky enough to play today, "how did the ball come off your paddle?"

Monday, August 19, 2013

Today's Rules Clarification....Where You Can Stand On A Serve

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  Pack your paddles and join us if you are traveling to the Central Coast.  We also have loaner equipment.

Todays's Rules Question:  What is the ruling if I hit a high, short lob that bounces on my opponent's side of the net, and, because of backspin or wind, the ball immediately comes back over the net and bounces on my side without being touched by either of my opponents?  RULING:  In your favor.  Your point if you or your partner was serving....serve goes from opponent's #1 to #2 if #1 was serving....side out if the opposition's #2 was serving.  If one of your opponent's is able to reach over the net and hit the ball before it bounces on your side, the ball remains in play (yes he/she can reach over the net----just cannot touch the net).

Where Are You Able To Stand When Serving Or Receiving?:  When the ball is being served, only one  player must stand in a particular spot----the server.  He/she must stand on--and serve to--the legal side of the court determined by rotation.  The partner can stand anywhere.  The receiving team's players can stand wherever they want as well, but the first person to hit the serve after the first bounce must be the proper receiver.

16 players today.  Another very nice morning of fun and competition.  Players are improving.  All balls returned.  All paddles in bag.  All is good!

"How Did The Ball Come Off Your Paddle Today?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Pickleball Rules....Pickleball Instruction

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  Join us if you are visiting the Central Coast.

Over the the next few weeks, as we get closer to our one year anniversary of Pickleball in Paso Robles (official day is September 17), I am going to write more about the most common questions asked regarding PB rules, and, I will also re-emphasize the most important skills/techniques/philosophies as they relate to learning and playing Pickleball.

I choose to start with the Rules of the serve, because, invariably, I see this rule violated more than any other....and yet, the rules are pretty simple.

1.  Contact with the ball must be made below the waist.  Most people get this.

2.  The paddle must be moving in an upward direction.  Like throwing horseshoes or bowling.  Most people get this.

3.  The complete paddle head must be completely below the wrist.  This is the one most often violated.  In essence, the paddle must be pointed straight down at the point of contact.

I see too many people serve out to the side.  I see a few serve backhanded.  I have never seen a backhanded serve that is legal.  I have seen it called illegal in tournaments.  The server looked shocked. I have heard "I am never going to play in a tournament anyway, so why does it matter."  It matters because the rules are there to be followed.  With the above rationalization, do you not follow other rules like kitchen violations or foot fault violations?

Most of my blogs end with this question:  "How did the ball come off your paddle today?" I hope one of your answers is-----legally!

We Have Been Enjoying Good Attendance And All Five Courts Being Used

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pickleball At Disneyland....Full Courts Again

One of our players, Stephen McAbee, gave us a little advertising this past week by wearing his Paso Robles Pickleball Club t-shirt to the Greatest Place On Earth.  Gave me an idea!   Want to spread the word about Pickleball, wear your club shirt to the tourist destinations....kind of like what AAA does with their Westways magazine.  Be sure to take a picture and include a significant landmark/sign.

We had 22 players today on the courts.  Many of you reading this blog might not appreciate the significance of this number, but for us, with only five courts----we were full!!!!  Good early Friday morning play as we beat triple digit temps in the afternoon.

This rules situation came up again on the courts....worth repeating.  If your opponent is serving and either of you is hit by the served ball before it bounces (no matter where you are standing), this is a violation on your team's part and the point goes to the serving team.  In today's case, the up person on the receiving team was standing in the adjacent service court (not the diagonal court where his partner was being served to), and the served ball hit the up person before it bounced.  Violation.  Remember to pay attention or stay out of the way of a potential stray serve.

Good morning of play.  "How did the ball come off your paddle today?"

Monday, August 12, 2013

17-21-15 Dink!...New Players....Gym Membership

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  Visit our site or join us for a morning of Pickleball.  If you plan to be in the area, call or email.  Our hours will change in September.

The numbers in the Post Title look like a football audible.....instead, the numbers refer to our attendance the last three meetings--Friday, Saturday, today (Monday).  We have been averaging 15-20 players regularly over the last two months, and this is good.  We have five courts, and it has been nice to see them full as players enjoy great mornings (weather) combined with fun and exercise.  Doesn't get much better, and, as some of our players say, "better than a gym membership!" Next month we celebrate our Club's one year anniversary.

Speaking of next month, we will go back to our Fall hours:  MWFSat 9-11 a.m. School starts August 27, and it is very difficult to get to the courts around the congestion of school traffic.  We will, however, have special hours on occasion when players want to come down early for additional instruction/extra play.

10 Things I Saw Today (Or Heard) On The Pickleball Courts:

1.  Two new passersby who wanted to know more about the game.
2.  Lots of laughing and socializing.  The size of our court promotes that.
3.  Another player talking about ordering his own paddle.
4.  Players explaining the rules to each other.  They are learning.
5.  All courts learning (and trying successfully) the "dink" shot.
6.  Using the "dink" as their third shot.
7.  Playing horizontally at the 7' line (i.e. shuffling back and forth along the line).
8.  Better "placement" vs. "power."
9.  Prolonged volley rallies at the net....hand/eye coordination is improving.
10. Husbands and wives playing together and enjoying each other's company.  What a game!!!!

Saturday we welcomed four new players (pictured below are three newcomers who tried Pickleball for the first time).  They all did very well.  Pictured below L-R: Deborah Mullen, Carolyn Osborne, Bonnie Sidwell.

BTW:  How did the ball come off your paddle today?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

10 Common Pickleball Mistakes....25 Players

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  Visit our website or come play with us.

Here are 10 common Pickleball game day mistakes.  If you expect to play better, familiarize yourself with these mistakes and work on avoiding them as much as possible.

1.  Trying to do too much with your serve.  Just get it in....deep, if possible.  No service faults.
2.  Service return too short or too hard.  You need to have time to get to the 7' line.
3.  Not understanding the importance of the 3rd shot....get it in the NVZ and at your opponent's feet.
4.  Play with patience and placement.  Place (bump or push) the ball at your opponent's feet.
5.  Understand court positioning and court coverage.  Take away the high percentage shot.
6.  3 of every 4 shots is a bump or push....that is what the paddle face is designed to do.
7.  When your opponent is back, keep them back....hit deep, at their feet.
8.  Firm Wrist...Firm Wrist....Firm Wrist!
9.  Don't try to hit a winner off of a winner.  Just get it back and try to turn the point around.
10. Don't be predictable.  Mix up your shots.  Play your strengths, but work on weaknesses.

We had 25 players yesterday.  This is a new record for us.  The group included five first time visitors (daughter Cindi, husband Todd, and family....from Southern California)  They played well and were so enthused about finally playing the game they had heard so much about from me, that they promised to go back home and create a "Picklehood" in their community.  This is how the game gets you.  You have get a good become hooked.  PB is also a great family game.

"How did the ball come off your paddle today?"

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dividing The Pickleball Court

Our Paso Robles Pickleball Club Website:  Visit us when you are in the area.

We had 12 players this morning.  During the course of play, I was asked a good question.  When I am hitting the ball back to my opponents, what are the guidelines for placing the ball on the other side of the net (I paraphrased).  This was asked by a rookie player (been playing just a few times).  My answer was to "hit to the middle, at their feet."  Wherever they are, split them and hit to their feet.  However, there is a good way to start practicing placement.....remember, Pickleball is a game of patience and placement.  Try dividing the court into thirds.  Jennifer Lucore, the top women's player in the U.S., calls these thirds---Lanes.  Good visual reference....the middle lane and the two outside lanes.  When you are hitting the ball, make a decision early as to what lane you are going to hit to, and go for it.  Hard or soft?.....your choice, but remember, placement (the dink or bump) is better than power.  A good guideline:  If you are hitting from the middle, you have the best look at all three lanes.  Decide early and place the ball.  If you are moved to one of the outside lanes, the two lanes nearest your point of contact with the ball would be your highest percentage shots.  The longer cross court shot would be your lowest percentage.

Lots to consider, but in the end, pick a lane, use placement (and maybe sometimes power), and have some fun.  Your success rate will improve.  A final bit of advice....make your decision early so that you can get your feet and body oriented in the right direction.