Third Shot Drop


July 31 2019
Kris M. Smith

As a relatively new pickleball player—I've been playing three days a week since October 2018— I've discovered a couple techniques that are working for me that too few other players have even tried, so I want to share them here.

Try Using Your Non-Dominant Hand and Arm 

Because I’m right-handed, I play pickleball  mostly right-handed. But I play left-handed on specific occasions when the ball comes to my left side, bounces ahead of me on the court, and comes down in a position where I'd have to come close to turning my back on (or sideways to) the court to return it across the net, something known as the backhand swing.

Backhand swings are problematic for me because I’m not a spring chicken anymore. So, instead of twisting myself into a pretzel, I quickly transfer the racket to my left hand (again, when there's enough time to do so) and hit it back left-handed. I must be ambidextrous to some degree, because this tactic works for me more times than it fails.

Other players have marveled at my dexterity, and some have tried it, but unless you're relatively adept working with both hands and arms, it won't feel right or work well for you right away. But it's worth a try to see if you can develop the move.

To be sure, my left hand and arm aren't as powerful or accurate as my right hand and arm, but they're not overtly sub-par, either. And the more I practice managing the paddle and ball left-handed, the better I get at it, and the stronger my left side becomes, so I keep at it.  (I am nothing if not persistent!)

ALWAYS Keep Your Eye on the Pickleball

I’m frequently amazed to find pickleball players gazing across the net while their partners serve, and at other times, too. From a very young age, I was always told (in every ball-centered sport), “Keep your eye on the ball!”

The ball is the total object of the game. Unless you know where it is at all times, you’re at a distinct disadvantage. By watching the ball every millisecond, you know exactly where it is, what it’s doing, and how to react when it comes back in your direction. In fact, your body will automatically respond to the trajectory of the ball because you’ve put yourself in “hunting mode” just by picking up your paddle and zeroing in on the “prey”—that pesky little perforated ball that keeps trying to get away from you! To perfect this skill, try thinking of yourself as a tiger or lion: that ball is your dinner, your pay-off, your ticket to survival. It’s the entire reason you picked up your paddle!

I see people missing easy shots because they’re gazing across the net and thinking ahead to where they want the ball to go next, instead of where it is right now and what it will take to connect with it and send it back.

Remember to focus on the FUN of playing Pickleball

I proudly wear a pickleball t-shirt  that proclaims WORLD'S OKAYEST PICKLEBALL PLAYER because I'm under no illusion I'll ever become a serious contender since I started playing so late in life after years of being a sedentary, desk-bound professional copywriter and author.

I started playing pickleball because my exercise-averse sister was enjoying it so much and coming back so smiley every time that I thought, “Okay, she’s been at this for three months with no sign of burning out—in fact, she just gets more excited every time she heads out—so I need to look into it…”

When I asked her to describe the game she said, “Pickleball is kinda like tennis and kinda like ping pong.” That was a real head-scratcher, so I looked it up on YouTube and watched  a few games and lessons so I wouldn’t arrive on the court days later feeling like a complete novice.

Because I’d played tennis (eons ago) I quickly caught on and people commented right away, “You’re already an intermediate-level player. You’ll do great!”

I play pickleball because, frankly,  I'm addicted to it. Although I’ve always enjoyed bike riding, swimming, and tennis, no other sport has me in its thrall the way pickleball does. It makes me feel terrific. It works my whole body, makes me sweat, and keeps me limber. And it's 100% fun!!! In my book, that makes it the perfect form of exercise.

I've lost more than fifteen pounds and my core muscles are in great shape for the first time in a very long time, probably since I lived on a ranch and was bucking  hay and throwing it to horses and cattle back in the 60's!

Add witty, friendly players, and there isn't much that can compete with a great game of pickleball.

You’ll pick up the finer points of pickleball the more you play it. Other players will offer tips, tricks and techniques and you’ll watch them from the sidelines when you’re not on the court.

Stay OUT of the Kitchen—MOSTLY!!!

One of my chief bugaboos is the kitchen. I was told early on never to step into the kitchen unless a ball drops in there next to the net and I must step in, in order to reach it.

I’ve committed stay out of the kitchen so solidly to memory that it’s as if a rope has been tied around my waist and securely tied to the serving line, and it will not permit me to go any farther than just before the kitchen line. I have missed more balls inside the kitchen than almost anywhere else because my body simply will not allow me to step over the kitchen line. By the time my brain tells my body, “It’s okay right now! DO IT!!!” the moment has passed, and I’ve missed my chance to hit it back.

So, I’d never make it as a predator. This tiger would apparently rather starve than enter the kitchen for my meal!  

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