The Pickleball Lab

Irina Tereschenko putting away a backhand volley. Photo courtesy ProPickleball.

Irina Tereschenko putting away a backhand volley. Photo courtesy ProPickleball.

If you have spent any time playing pickleball — would you be here if you hadn’t? — then you know that its not always sunshine and butterflies. Things happen on and off the court that can quickly take you from jubilant to miserable, and we want to explore it a little.

Welcome to another edition of The Pickleball Lab. This week we are organizing our videos, articles and other goodies around the theme: When Bad Things Happen.

Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be a downer issue of The Lab. In fact, we think that addressing some of these things head on might actually provide an opportunity to get through the challenges a little more easily. Enjoy!

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I Hate Tournaments

By Anonymous

If I wanted to stand around, I’d visit the DMV.

2 hours between matches? Sounds great! Oh, you’re delayed and extra 30? No problem. It’s not like I had anywhere else to be. Hey, how did you manage to fall behind schedule on the first round of matches anyway; was it the extra long and totally unnecessary referee instructions we were given? Got it.

It’s a good thing I canceled a weekend with my girlfriends to be here — Sarah, if you’re reading this, I promise to be there for your 41st. At least I get to watch the 2.5s bat the ball around a bit.

Oh. It’s you again.

Wow. I just drive 3 hours through a snowstorm. Took the afternoon off work so I could be here for a 5pm start (thanks, by the way, for posting the times at midnight). And now that I’ve risked life and limb to get here, I’m delighted to see that my first round match is against my literal next-door neighbor! Great to play a 237th game with my buddy from home.

$160? Thanks for the coupons and (another) ill-fitting t-shirt

So let me get this straight: the tournament entry fee is a mere $85 but for each event I want to play, that’s another $25. So if I’m playing singles, doubles and mixed I might as well skip groceries this week. And there are 300 people in your tournament. I’m no mathematician but I think you may have just funded the downpayment of a very nice starter home. Nice work if you can get it.

I guess what I don’t understand is the market economics of this whole thing. There are more tournaments than ever which means we, the players, have more choice than before. Yet somehow the increased competition is driving entry fees up, not down. What am I missing?

I thought this was supposed to be fun.

Ok. This one is on me (and might explain some of my earlier comments). I don’t feel good when I play in tournaments. I get tight. I’m antsy. I’m not a very nice person or partner. I don’t know exactly why this is; I know I’m playing the same game I love and often against people I like, but there is something about the tournament setting that literally throws me off my game. It might explain why my feelings about tournaments are, to put it mildly, negative.

I don’t know exactly why this is. Maybe professional help is in my future. I hope she plays pickleball ( a future partner? What’s her rating? Imagine if she was a lefty!) If I was to psycho-analyze myself I’d probably say something about fear of failure or the spectre of embarrassment. Maybe I don’t want to let down my partner. Maybe, actually, I’m a bit of a coward.

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Anatomy of a Point: Irvine & Warnick Play Defence

Jessie Irvine and Jeff Warnick are two of the most exciting players in modern pickleball. Warnick’s intensity and unique technique combined with Irvine’s power make this team from California a treat to watch. In this analysis, we break down the way that that Irvine and Warnick went from a neutral position, to a defensive one, and then back to evening the scales again. This is a classic example of the way that top players can find a way to turn the tables and give themselves a chance to win.

Jessie Irvine and Jeff Warnick use crossing as opposed to stacking as a way to make sure they are playing on their preferred sides. Doing this invites slightly more risk and movement but also means the opponents can’t be sure where they will end up since they won’t always switch sides. They discuss their plans prior to the serve being hit.

Jessie Irvine and Jeff Warnick use crossing as opposed to stacking as a way to make sure they are playing on their preferred sides. Doing this invites slightly more risk and movement but also means the opponents can’t be sure where they will end up since they won’t always switch sides. They discuss their plans prior to the serve being hit.

Both Warnick and Irvine receive good drops. They each elect to take a drop step backwards in order to receive the the ball with a good impact point. This is counter to the often-touted idea that you should not back up when receiving a drop.

Both Warnick and Irvine receive good drops. They each elect to take a drop step backwards in order to receive the the ball with a good impact point. This is counter to the often-touted idea that you should not back up when receiving a drop.

In trouble, they both retreat. Notice how desperate they appear as they defend; there are no points awarded for using ‘proper’ technique. In this scenario, they just need to find a way to get the ball back in play. This athletic, defensive maneuvering is indicative of the high level play Warnick and and Irvine compete at.

In trouble, they both retreat. Notice how desperate they appear as they defend; there are no points awarded for using ‘proper’ technique. In this scenario, they just need to find a way to get the ball back in play. This athletic, defensive maneuvering is indicative of the high level play Warnick and and Irvine compete at.

After a few attempts, the team manages a good drop. This allows them to move forward a little as they try to scrape their way back into the point. Irvine’s good dink finally allows them to get back to the NVL where Warnick gets an attackable ball on his backhand. This is a classic example of high level players resetting the point.

After a few attempts, the team manages a good drop. This allows them to move forward a little as they try to scrape their way back into the point. Irvine’s good dink finally allows them to get back to the NVL where Warnick gets an attackable ball on his backhand. This is a classic example of high level players resetting the point.

when your partner won’t shut up — and why it can be great!

By Mark Renneson

A few years ago I was visiting Naples, Florida in preparation for the US Open. I was invited to play with three well-known pros on some private courts outside of the city. One of the players — an expert instructor as well as elite player whom I was playing with for the first time — said “Hey. I hope you don’t mind but I talk a lot when I play”. She wasn’t kidding.

Virtually every ball that was hit on our side of the court was accompanied with a “Mine” or “Yours” or “You go”. It was calm, cool and collected. And although some of the balls were so obviously to one player or another that no speaking was actually needed, I really appreciated the the quick, decisive calls and, to be honest, the reliability and relaxation of her voice.

Here is some video from the US Nationals. It features Clare Grabher and Doug Koch. Listen to how vocal is during the points. Speaking with Clare, she told me it soothes her to have him be so consistent with his communication.


Playing Possum to win

Steve Dawson is one of the smoothest players on the pickleball court. And like any high-quality player, he needs to deal with occasionally being frozen out of the game when his opponents target his partner.

But what Dawson does to relieve the pressure on his teammate is different from the poaching you often see in competitive pickleball. Watch the video below to see the surprising way he gets in on the action.

 

PCI Sneak Peek: Avoiding Annoying Balls at Your Feet

As any player will know, having balls land at your feet can be a real challenge, especially if you re trying to avoid a pop-up. While they can’t always avoid difficult situations, strong players limit the times that they find themselves in trouble.

In this exclusive video which comes from our friends at Pickleball Coaching International, you’ll see one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep the ball our of harm’s way. Follow this tip and keep the ball in a place that you can handle it with confidence and control.

If you like this video and are involved with teaching people to play pickleball, Pickleball Coaching International might just be up your alley. Take a look behind the scenes to see what it’s all about.

Parting Thoughts: Talking Targets

If you are a pickleball player who is dedicated to improving their game, you likely do some practicing with targets. This can be a good way to focus your training session and to make sure that you are being deliberate with where you are sending the ball. Or perhaps you teach other people to play and give them targets to aim for when serving, returning or hitting other shots. Let’s talk about targets for a moment.

While a target can be a specific object (e.g. a pylon), it may be more useful to make the target a specific area or territory. Here’s why: Let’s say you are working on serving out wide to pull a player off the court. You might elect to put a pylon near the sideline and try to hit it. Hitting the pylon would be quite exciting and definitely a sign of success. But what about the serves that come close to the cone but don’t touch it — are they failures? Not if they would accomplish the strategic goal you set of pulling the opponent off the court.

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Rather than using an object as a target, consider using a space. This isn’t about avoiding failure or making yourself (or your students) feel good, but about being realistic about where a ball needs to land to accomplish the goal. If there are multiple “good” spots to hit, maybe all of them should be the target. And what is a whole bunch of targets grouped together? A space. Or a territory.

Of course, you may just be chasing the thrill of knocking down a pylon or hitting the water bottle. In this case, go for it. But if your target practice is about developing a practical skill to use in a game, consider having a target that reflects all of the spots that would achieve your goal.

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