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Pickleball Essentials (Shots & Drills)
 
If you have attended one of our clinics or private lessons much of the information contained here will sound familiar. Hopefully you discovered just how important the basics are to building a solid, reliable, portable game you can take anywhere and play with confidence.
 
Keep in mind, the pathway to a better game includes 4 Steps:
  • Learn: Technical parameters of each shot, how/when to use.
  • Drill: Repetition of shot....lots of it until it becomes routine.
  • Practice: Integrate shot into a playing situation. Play a point - review the point - share feedback with each other. Don't be shy....feedback is "The Breakfast of Champions."
  • Play: Apply in competitive environment.....and have fun with it!
Note: The coaching tips included below are provided as a way to help reinforce the various shots we addressed in a clinic or private lesson. They are not intended for public distribution so please do not share this link.
 

 
Ready Position
 
To increase consistency and accuracy the majority of shots (with exception of the Serve) can be built around a foundational “Ready Position.” From there each stroke can be adapted to insure proper weight transfer and ball striking. It's called the "Ready  Position" and it's a BIG deal.
  • Feet slightly wider than shoulders in closed stance. Pivot step toward the ball.
  • Weight slightly forward on balls of feet.
  • Slight bend at knees.
  • Paddle up/centered. (Use the paddle to help track the ball.)
  • Limit paddle take-away and follow-through to hip width.
  • Transfer weight  forward toward target.
  • Rotation of hips and shoulders against feet.
  • Use non-paddle hand as counterbalance. (This is where your power comes from.)
  • Contact with ball is forward of hips/knees.
  • To increase accuracy, your shot motion should closely resemble tossing a dart.
  • Return to the Ready Position
 
      
 
 

 
Serve
 
The most important criteria for any serve is "IN." It's the price of admission. You will eventually want more than one type serve but master the basics before trying more technically difficult serves. Here are three serves you will want to work into your inventory.
 
 

 
Return of Serve
 
When you crush a service return it may feel great but it can put you and your partner in a tough spot. You are taking all the risk of an error plus it makes it much easier for your opponent to return with an equally fast shot before you can get to the NVZ. Go slow to go fast.
 
Tip: Use your own momentum to follow your return to the NVZ and join your partner.
 
 

 
3rd Shot
 
The purpose of the “3d shot” is to buy time and help the serving team get to the NVZ line. Remember, the receiving team has the advantage of already having one player at the NVZ line. The thrid shot is a golden opportunity to off-set the receiving team's advantage.
  • Arc ball up and over net to buy time.
  • Key on opponent’s return to decide on drop shot or deeper return.
  • Make opponent hit “UP.”
  • Transition to NVZ with a brisk walk.
  • Shot may change as you move through No-Man’s Land
Tip: Don't be ashamed to think/say "1-2-3" as you work on this shot. It's a great way to get this important shot imbedded in your game.
 
 

 
Dinks - Playing at The NVZ
 
This is where you want to be. Playing up to the NV line allows you greater visibility of the opposing court. More importantly, it allows you to intercept an opponent's shot early, before it can get out of reach.
 
Trying to dink straight ahead at your opponent is challenging because you are at the highest part of the net. The risk is twofold...hitting into the net or popping it up and into the opponent’s strike zone (where your opponent can easily overpower your partner with a quick cross-court smash.)
 
Cross court dinks let you begin to shape the point without taking a big risk. It also offers your partner the opportunity to jump in at perfect moment.
  • Bend at the knees.
  • Paddle ready.
  • Move up close to the NVZ line. (If you stay back off the line you dramatically decrease your ability to change the tempo by reaching in for a winning volley.)
  • Stay flexible/light on your feet.
  • Move laterally (like a hockey goalie.)
  • Volley (take ball in the air) when you can.
  • Stay in the point…patience.
  • Take the up-tempo winner if you must….but wait for it if you can.
 
 

 
Block
 
Block shots allow you to reset/slow down the tempo of the point. Block shots are like jujitsu, the “gentle art” that allows a weaker opponent to gain advantage over a stronger opponent. Remember, when an opponent crushes the ball their balance is affected and they can often become vulnerable to an off-speed return.
  • Paddle, ready and held close to body.
  • Center of gravity low…but avoid dropping too low.
  • Push rather than swing.
  • Impact absorbs the energy and can also add slight backspin.
 
Block Shot Drill
 

 
Lob Recovery
 
A lob is a tool a team can use to buy time, reset the point, and get out of a jam. The return of a lob can be an equally impactful tool when done properly.