Have you ever wished your reactions at the net were just a little bit quicker and your paddle position was more consistant during net rallys, then here's
a little drill you might consider. Gather up your paddle, couple of pickleballs, bottle of water and a towel to wipe off the persperation. Then locate a wall suitable to return a pickleball with a true bounce. At Caloosa Park in Boynton Beach the raquetball courts are ideal and I've found that if you use them sideways(hit to the side wall instead of the normal back wall) the balls returns quicker and truer. Work a series of volleys hitting hard, then soft all the way down to dinks. You'll find that you must react really quick to return the rebound, your paddle movement will be quicker and more precise. Interestingly, with the reverberation sound created from the three walls you'll hear when the ball is not struck in the center of the paddle. In this drill always try for the shot that will just clear the imaginary net line on the wall. There is a line on the back wall so just imagine it wrapping around to the side walls.
If you develop your own sequence of shots and rotate that from forehand to backhand using smashes and dinks flavored with various spins you'll be pleasantly surprised at what a good physical workout it becomes and I almost guarantee you'll notice the quickness the next time you play...
Oh yes, it's something you should do more than once...
Getting to the no-volley zone. (NVZ)
Getting to the non-volley zone, quickly and in proper form to return a hit is a challenge to players of all levels. Then how is it the A-players are so successful at doing this?
First, it's helpful if you are agile, as strolling to the zone will generally leave you in no mans land with returns hitting your feet, Not Good!
If you are receiving the serve the object is to return the ball DEEP, the closer to the baseline the better and if it goes to the servers backhand all the better. By doing this, as the ball floats back to the server you can quickly secure the non-volley zone area. Of course, if you are talented enough to put various spins on the ball, the more difficult it will be to blast at you at the net.
If you are serving the ball attaining the net is much more difficult. A talented player will return the ball deep and then probably get to the non-volley zone with his partner. Your options are (1) trying a blast to one of the net players or possibly a low percentage passing shot, (2) hitting a difficult defensive lob over the net players or (3) hitting a low drop shot at the net players and be prepared for a dink session. Of these, the latter two will afford you the best opportunity to quickly get to the zone after hitting the shot.
Keep in mind that a short lob will result in a blasted smash coming at you or your partner (not appreciated) and an elevated drop shot will result in a blast at your feet, so be ready for a possible half-volley return.
Tip: Always watch the ball coming off your opponents paddle. His/her stroke will alert you to the type spin and velocity of the stroke...That knowledge should help with getting prepared for your next shot.
Tip: Move in sync with your partner. Imagine an invisible link that keeps you and your partner no more than about 5-7 ft. apart. When your partner moves to retrieve the ball, that link is like a powerful magnetic force that pulls you with him. If your partner is pulled to the sideline to play the ball, you are pulled with him to cover the middle. If that link is broken, you leave a big gap up the middle. It is very common to see players protecting their side of the court instead of moving with the ball and their partner.
In the same way that the link pulls you laterally, it should also pull you forward and back. When your partner moves up to the no-volley line, that link is pulling you along to establish a position of strength. When your partner is forced to the back court to retrieve a ball, it is much more likely that he will hit a return that can be slammed back at you. So the link should be pulling you back with him, at least part of the way, until you see what type of return that your partner is making. That link has some flexibility, but should never break completely.
Watch for those broken links on the other side of the net. That creates an opening for you to hit a winner. c/o USAPA.
Pickleball basics – Stop, Hit and Move
Posted by Jennifer Lucore
Pickleball 101 – do not rush and run through your shot to get to the kitchen (non-volley) line, you should Stop, Hit and Move. This is a pickleball basic and one of the first lessons that should be taught in a good pickleball clinic or class.
The overall goal when playing is ALWAYS to get yourself to the kitchen line. It may take you one shot or four to actually get yourself there, and that is okay, but you must Stop, Hit and Move on each shot as you move forward to the line.
Let’s dissect this process that really only takes a few seconds:
The ball is heading your way. You Stop- get yourself set up and positioned to strike the ball. About half a second to get yourself balanced. You concentrate only on hitting the ball.You Hit the ball. Strike the ball a bit in front or to your side–never behind you. Then you Move forward.
Top players (5.0 skill level) do this automatically; subconsciously they Stop, Hit and Move. It is part of their built in skill set and when watching them play the process looks seamless and effortless. Watch these players from the sidelines or a video and focus on their feet and forward movement.
The phrase Stop, Hit and Move actually comes from my dad, Bob Youngren. In his classes he does a whimsical demonstration showing this process. He adds in a bit of a shuffle and hip moving–which will make you laugh, yet will give you the visual reminder of what to do.
So when you are out on that pickleball court, ready to play the game, and possibly eager to get to the line for that—BOOM—put away volley. Remember, as you make your way to the kitchen line you need to Stop, Hit and then Move. You can do it!
Tip: Newer players often ask how close to the NVZ should I stand? A good rule of thumb is to stop at the point at which you can see your opponents feet over the top of the net...Not by looking through the net.
Tip: When making your move to the net, always stop your approach when your opponent is about to hit his/her return.Stopping will give you the best opportunity to respond to any type of return. It's much more difficult if you're in motion. Only very agile, experienced players can consistantly hit offensive returns while in motion.
Tip: How to develop accuracy with your various strokes? One technique I use at the Caloosa racquetball courts is to mark a spot on the wall, roughly 40 inches high, and then volley both forehands and backhands trying to hit that spot. The ball never bounces the same way twice so you'll not only develop accuracy, but control....
The Moving Drop Shot Drill
Start with both players at the no-volley line, and begin dinking the ball back and forth over the net. Then, with one player staying at the no-volley-line, the other player slowly moves back toward the baseline after each shot. They hit a shot, then take a step back. Hit another shot, take another step back. With each shot they practice dropping the ball over the net into the kitchen from progressively further away, trying to have it drop close enough to the net so that the opposing player wouldn’t have a chance to smash it were this a real game.
When they get to the baseline, they start moving forward with each shot, continuing to practice their drop shot into the kitchen. Once they work their way back to the no-volley-line, the players switch roles and the other player starts backing up after each shot.
During this drill the role of the player at the net is just to hit the ball to their drill partner, varying the depth of their shots so that their partner can practice their drop shots from different spots on the court.
Replace part of your usual pre-game warm-up with this drill and you should see improvement in your ability to hit an effective drop shot – which in turn gets you where you want to be – which is up at the no-volley line.