(Choose one: Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, novelist Rita Mae Brown. See here for a possible answer.)
We were chatting with a friend the other day and he was describing his life as a single father, raising two children. He mentioned that he sometimes feels like he could be doing better but generally “I’m doing the best I can with the tools I have right now!”
Which, we thought, was a pretty good thought that anyone could carry with them onto a pickleball court. Play your game, whatever it is that day. Do your best with whichever “you” shows up. If a shot isn’t working in a particular day, try a different shot. OR (and to our point for today) if it’s a shot you need, e.g. a serve or a third-shot-drop, KEEP the objective, and APPROACH it differently.
We’ve talked about serves before, so instead let’s examine the infamous third-shot-drop-shot. How many opinions have YOU heard relative to how to hit a drop shot? We can share a few. “Aim three feet (two feet, one foot) over the net!” “Hit the Apex in front of the net!” “The only good drop shot lands in the front part of the kitchen!” “Sometimes hit your drops with pace and have them go back to your opponents’ feet!” The best drop shot is the kitchen (causes confusion”, “…is to the sideline (pulls your opponents apart and wide), “….is to the backhand!” Get under the ball and hit with a firm wrist!” “Learn to slice the shot and it hops back into the net!” “Have your strong foot (right foot for a right-hander) forward on your drop.” “Have your WEAK foot forward!”Or, our favorite because it is just SO annoying, “just make sure it goes over the net, ‘cuz 100% of the drops into the net don’t score points!” “ And so on….
Our Bend club just finished a series of well-received clinics conducted by two of the best coaches around, Tony Tollinar and Steve Paranto. Tony was recently described famously by a female club members as a “Stud Muffin” and he is an animal for sure who can probably hit a ball through concrete, while Steve has been playing pickleball since…(wait for it)….1969! Guess how much HE knows? So…two very different styles, one very aggressive, one very thoughtful, that seemed to compliment each other very well. And Steve had a take on the third-shot-drop that Irene liked a lot, and it’s a bit different.
“When you are hitting a baseline drop,” Steve said. “Wait! Wait until the ball has bounced and is dropping. In fact, wait until it drops almost to the ground, and then lift the ball over the net!”
Well, we thought THAT was a bit different, in that we typically don’t wait THAT long to hit the drop. But people were nodding away like this made sense, and you know that Steve is very good at hitting drop shots; among the best, IOHO. And this is different than what other expert clinicians we’ve heard recommend. Even when they are recommending PART of the advice themselves, the part about waiting until the ball has tailed out at the top and is now dropping.
So…if you are playing in a game and your third-shot-drop isn’t working, should you subscribe to the probably incorrect definition of insanity and just keep at it? Sure you should, ‘cuz you need the shot, but keep working through different approaches. In other words, keep moving towards the objective….completing a good drop…and use different skills, tips and techniques if your regular drop just didn’t seem to get in the car with you this morning. After all, what’s wrong with having two, three or five ways to hit a good drop shot?
Anyway, it’s all practice, and it’s just pickleball. So don’t give up on your objective – just change your path.