Journalists for the Pickleball Corner.
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Helen Sparre – an accomplished pickleball player – came to Oakmont in March 2019 and gave a talk at the Berger Center that I found very interesting and valuable. Her major goals were: (1) Reduce unforced errors and strive to play “an error-free game.” (2) Focus on playing high-percentage shots. (3) Always be aware if your team is on defense or on offense. Here is a summary of her other recommendations.
• It’s very important to have a reliable serve that is consistent and you can place deep in the serving box.
• Know that your team is on defense when serving. You and your partner need to work your way to the No-Volley Line (NVL) in order to go on offense. If the returner stays deep, always hit to him/her and move steadily forward to get to the NVL.
• Try to keep the serving team pinned to the baseline with deep shots.
• As the receiver, never fail to get to the NVL after returning serve.
• When the deeper opponent is not at the NVL, then the best shot is a soft (or medium-paced) shot that lands 2-3 feet in front of him.
• When you and your partner are the returning team, you need to think “Offense.” The returner should return deep and get to the NVL as quickly as possible.
• The team at the NVL should not start the soft game, but rather make the serving team earn it. Therefore, return hard drives with hard blocks down towards the feet of the incoming serving team.
• When at the NVL, about 75% of your shots should be “backhand blocks.” by holding the paddle still (not swinging) and punching the ball back low at the incoming team.
• Be aggressive if on offense and a ball is popped up. In this case, go for a winner. Otherwise, play conservatively and keep the ball in play with dinks or safe shots.
• The only true offensive position is when both you and your partner are at the NVL.
• Both offensive and defensive lobs are important shots to master.
• When you hit an offensive or defensive lob, both you and your partner should rush to the NVL and wait for the return.
• When dinking, think “Hit UP and SOFT” to safely clear the net and land the ball softly in the Kitchen.
• When you’re at the NVL and have a high ball hit to you, hit it back hard at the opponent directly in front of you. Aim for their feet, if possible.
• Keep moving to improve your court position, but stop when your opponent hits the ball and prepare to hit a return. If an opponent is moving, hit it fairly hard at him/her.
• Finally – Practice, practice, practice.
New Player Orientation: Arrangements can be made by contacting Nancy Lande at 978-2998 to schedule a session. Demo Loaner paddles are available for club members to check out for a week by contacting Doc Savarese at 349-9065.