Wanna skip the preamble and get right into some pickleball strategies? Be our guest!
Strategies are like…noses; everybody has one. Of course most are almost urban legends. “The middle is your friend!” “The Drop is the only third shot to hit!” “Only hit to their backhand!” “Don’t (always) Lob unless (if) it’s (a) the sun’s in their eyes (b) they can’t power an overhead (c) you are up at the line (stuck at the baseline). Get our point? Lots of simplistic statements out there dressed up as strategy. And of course there is some truth even in these variations on simple themes. But they don’t really constitute overall strategies, do they? Good strategies are more than just individual tactics. They are synergistic…the sum of their parts is greater than the whole.
There are lots of people out there who have their own strategies and who have talked about them freely enough for us to include them here. From time to time, we will also feature new strategy ideas and tips from the pros. If you don’t yet have a strategy of your own, or a process for developing one, please use this section as a starting point. Try different things, take what works for you and go from there.
1. You might choose to look, first, at this piece on the evolution of strategy. You may come away believing that strategy is in flux and you are right. But it may give you different viewpoints to judge the strategies that experts are espousing, below.
2. Coach Mo’s famous strategies…among the best known today
Richard Movsessian, aka “Mo”, taught High School Physical Education for 29 years in MA and coached boys varsity tennis for 10 years. He was selected coach of the year in 1979. Mo is a former 4.5 ranked Doubles Player who played on the 1996 USTA Florida State Championship 4.5 Doubles Team. After retiring from teaching he became a certified member of the United States Professional Tennis Association and as a Teaching Pro gave private tennis lessons for many years.
In 2010, Mo (at the age of 70) and his partner were 35+ Men’s Doubles Silver Medalists in pickleball at the USAPA Nationals Championships in Buckeye, Arizona. Today, Mo’s Pickleball Clinics DVD is a must for all pickleball players looking to improve their game.
Many of us who come to pickleball from racquet sports other than tennis (e.g. racquetball, squash, badminton, table-tennis) can transfer in skills pretty easily. Those of us who come to pickleball from tennis, however, also have an innate sense of placement and strategy, not to mention a great grounding in the mechanics; various volleying techniques, ground-strokes, at-net cut-volleys and other greatly annoying at-the-net shots which no one should be allowed to hit to an opponent over the age of sixty.
Of course, in the background we are saying to ourselves often enough that “Hey! This isn’t tennis or miniature tennis. THIS is PICKLEBALL and our world is different!
Reality is, however, that if you are good enough at tennis, and if you know tennis strategy up and down, you can quickly become VERY darn good at pickleball. Coach Mo is an example of this. He makes no bones about it…if you are going to be a good pickleball player you must learn the things a good tennis player generally knows by heart. Therefore the way to learn pickleball, according to Coach Mo, is to focus on the same basics that create a good tennis player, and even recommends we spend significant time with books, DVDs and etc. on tennis mechanics and strategy. We agree with him and include some of our tennis-oriented pickleball
(Coach Mo’s) Pickleball Guide Review
(A summary of basic tactics…skills as much as parts of an overall strategy.)
1: Be in ready position early! Stopped with feet parallel to each other at the point of contact of ball on your opponents paddle.
2: Placement is more important than power. Hit at your opponents’ feet or bounce the ball beside them. Do not sacrifice placement for power.
3: Hit to your opponents’ weakest player’s weakest shot.
4: Play steady – Do not over-hit or make unforced errors. Never miss your serve or return of serve. Have patience.
5: Try and anticipate your opponents’ out balls.
6: Punch your volleys and swing at your ground strokes.
7: When hitting a ball step toward your target. Point your front shoulder towards your target, follow through towards your target, and watch closely at the point of contact of the ball on your paddle.
8: 80% of all your hits should be volleys at the NVZ line if you are playing to win.
9. If you like what you see from Coach Mo above, you can go to his Extra Pickleball Strategies for a much more complete list of tactics. You can create your own strategy from these, tailoring them to your specific opponents and the playing conditions.
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