Sunday, May 10, 2009

Turning Practicing Pickleball Shots Into Fun!

Improving the Skill of Your Players or Students by Having Fun Drills and Games.

How do you know if you have practised enough? Look at Coach Mo's paddle on the left. If yours has the sweet spot worn as his does, by hitting the ball in the exact same spot every time, take a day off. The other side looks the same.

One of the problems of teaching new players is getting them to practice. They just want to play.

If there is court space and time available, lessons can be scheduled and players know that is what to expect. This is ideal to teach new players the game.

However, that is a luxury many coaches and conveners do not have if they play at recreation centers. Players have limited time to play and that is what they want to do. Some have driven a long way to get there and of course they want to play.

Yes, I have heard, “but I am not going to go in any tournaments, I just want to play.” I agree, but to get fun out of the game you must learn the rules and try to improve. I do not play in tournaments, but I take every lesson I can get. I am privileged to have had lessons from George Brewer and coaching from Dick “Mo” Movsessian, the two best teachers in Florida.
Rich Donald offered intermediate and advanced clinics at our club and I used that opportunity to learn. I watch good players to see what I can use to help me or in some cases not try. You do have to learn to work with the skills you have and adapt for the ones you do not have. A topic for another lesson.

I planned a social members’ appreciation tournament at my club in Sebring, Florida. I spent hours trying to create rules that would equalize play for all levels. I referred to it as, “messed up Pickleball”. After the event, several experienced players, said, “Wayne, you really messed us up, but it was a fun way to practice different things on the court.”

I thought, “Wow, this is like the chemist at 3M who invented a glue that wouldn’t stick. What do we do with gallons of it? Turn it into post-it notes!” Here is what came out of “messed up pickleball.”

Fun Drills

Here are some things I suggest to help make practicing Pickleball shots and doing drills fun for players of all ages.

1. To decide on who serves the first game, have each player make 2 serves. 1 to each service side of the court. Each side keeps track of the number of serves they get in and the side with the most number of valid serves gets to chose whether they want first serve or not.

2. To practice both placement of the ball and forehands, tell the players that all shots must be made to the opponents’ forehands and you can only use forehands to make your shots. The serve must be to the opponents’ forehand. If a shot is not placed or taken on the forehand it is loss of serve or loss of point. Also, the two bounce rule is in effect for the whole game. All players must stay at the baseline and allow the ball to bounce before they can play it.

3. The same Drill as number 2 above can be used to practice backhand shots. For beginning or new players, I suggest playing a regular game until the first team gets to 5 points and then go to backhands because of the difficulty and frustration some players might experience.

4. To practice the “dink” game, have all four players play the whole game at the NV-line. All shots including the serve must bounce in the NV-zone. A lob or shot landing out of the NV-zone is a fault and is a loss of serve or point.

5. Use the same placement as Number 4 above to have players play the ball on the forehand or backhand volley. All players are at or near the NV-Line and they must hit all shots to the opponent’s forehand in the air including the serve. Play this way until the first side gets to 5 and then switch to backhand volleys. Lobs and ground strokes are a fault.

6. Play the whole game with lob shots only including the serve.

I am sure coaches and teachers can come up with many others. The idea is to make practice fun. I would not have players do more than one of these during each session and make sure they understand the purpose of the drill. If you see players are having trouble shorten the game to seven or even five points.

"Remember, practice may not make you perfect but it will not make you worse!"

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