Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Play at the NV-Line

By Pickleball Promoter

One of the most difficult things to teach new players is to move to the NV-line as soon as you can. There are several reasons for this.

In other racquet sports, the strategy maybe to keep one player up and the other back so this carries over to Pickleball as well. There is the fear that the opponents will lob the ball over your head and you will not be able to get back in time to get it. For female players in mixed doubles, it is the fear of being hit. The later is a real concern and one that must be addressed by all teachers and coaches.

However, to play an aggressive style both partners must get to the NV-line as quickly as they can and try to maintain their position. 90% of all points are won here. If you stay back, you are relying on the other team to make an unforced error and that takes patience.

The receiving team has the best advantage to get to the net first. The serving team must stay back to let the ball bounce on their side, the two bounce rule. The receiving team can place the non receiving partner at the NV-line before the serve and the player receiving serve must keep the ball deep so he or she can get up with their partner. The best return of serve shot is higher than normal, slow and deep to the backhand. The serving team can not rush the ball or volley it. They must wait for the bounce.

Both players have to go to the NV-line or the strategy breaks down. If one player stays back to defend the lob, the other partner will never see the ball. The other team will keep it deep and move to the net. Both up or both back, there is no other way to play good Pickleball.

When players are at the NV-line, the paddle must be up at the chest area and square to the net. To help keep the paddle square to the net , the non paddle hand can be used as a mental queue to remind you. Coach Mo, Dick Movsessan, illustrates this at, Coach Mo at the NV-line. Notice the paddle is up to the left for a right hander. Also, notice the placement of Mo’s left hand to make sure the paddle face is square to the net. Notice the placement of the feet, shoulder width apart, with the knees slightly bend. Weight should be slightly forward. The paddle face should be slightly open or dipped towards the net to direct the ball down but not so much as to put it into the net.

At the NV-line all shots are a forward punch with the paddle. There is no time on a quick volley to take the paddle back. All motion is forward. You are using the forward momentum of the ball to punch it back at the opponent harder than it hit your paddle. The motion is like hitting a punching bag. With the speed of the opponent’s shot and the punch of your solid paddle, the ball will go back faster and harder.
Coaches may wish to line players up against a gym wall as shown here in a clinic by Mo at Tanglewood. This prevents the player from bringing the paddle back for a punch shot. Players get the idea of what not to do quickly. Use as many ideas as you can to help players remember the correct technique and execution of shots.

The next thing you should try to do is place the return of the ball either at your opponents’ feet, or down the middle. Try, if you have time, to hit it to an open area and not right back at them. Make them move.

Using your Paddle like a Goalie Stick

When you bring you paddle to your chest it is better to keep it square to the net and on your backhand side. Not all coaches agree but this is my suggestion. You can bring your paddle across much more of your body on your backhand than your forehand. If you are right handed, you can go to your left as far as you can reach and bring the paddle back to your right side before you need to go to your forehand. This is similar to a hockey goalie using his/her stick to cover most of the net before using the catching hand.

The other strategy is to hold the paddle straight out front as the ready position as in receiving a serve and then go to the backhand or forehand as required. You need to have quicker reflexes for this strategy, in my opinion. I recommend giving yourself as much time as you can by keeping the paddle up on the backhand side.

Watch a complete demonstration of these techniques in Forehand and Backhand Vollies at www.pickleballcoach.com

Getting to the Net

If you are serving, you have to wait for the double bounce but you do want to get to the net as soon as you can. If you feel confident of a lob shot, that is one way. Lob it over the head of the opposing team and as they retreat to get it move up quickly together.
The other strategy is to move forward a step on each return forehand or backhand shot until you are both at the NV-line. Do not try to get there on one shot but move up gradually. If you are forced back with a lob, do the same thing. Keep your shots as deeply as you can and move together one step at a time. If you charge the NV-line, you will have to take the ball while moving and one should try to avoid that. It is much better to get to the spot before the ball and plant your feet for the return.
Hit At the Opponents' Feet

I cannot stress this enough. Always place the ball rather than smash it. Coaches, start younger players doing this immediately. Adults try to remember this. If you hit it at a player, a good player will return it quicker than you hit at them. Always at the feet or down the middle. If you do this you will win more points and avoid injury to opponents. I know an errant shot will happen but if you are in control of your paddle it should not.

David Cho-Chu said to me recently, "A good player should always be in control of his or her paddle. It should not fly out of his or her hand if they are in control." I agree David and they can control where they hit and the force they hit it with as well. I do not accept the fact that you need to smash it at the weaker partner's face or upper body. I will comment on this more in future lessons.

(Note: I have adapted the material from Dick Movsessians video, "Forehand and Backhand Vollies" at www.pickleballcoach.com.)

1 comment:

badmiyagi .s said...

The other day a senior player came up to me during play to clarify something. I had to time out and go over to their court. Needless to say they were arguing if a backspin shot bounces on one side and spins back over the net before it is hit is good for a point.
I told them that the point goes to the side that hit the backspin (underspin) since the other side failed to connect with the ball. Then I told them that that's the only occasion where a player can actually reach over the net to respond to that ball and hit it.
I know it's true in some sports but how does that play out in Pickleball? Please clarify this with me, Thanks!