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Tip of the Week - 01

Monday, March 01, 2021 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Look for a new tip each week!

  • Move feet into position to strike the ball at the peak of its bounce while maintaining balance.

  • Swing on a slightly downward trajectory with the paddle face open to generate backspin.

  • Prepare by turning your shoulders and hips and swing from your shoulder rather than from your arm or wrist.

  • Bend knees.

  • Keep wrist locked and paddle above your wrist.

  • Aim your shot cross court so it is going over the lowest part of the net to the longest area of the court.

  • Hit your shot on a forward trajectory rather than an upward trajectory to get the ball to skid as it hits the court.

  • Choose a ball where you are balanced and the peak of the bounce is slightly higher than normal to hit this shot.

  • Target area should be slightly in front of the kitchen line.

Tip of the Week - 02

Monday, March 08, 2021 4:00 pm
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Tip of the week:

It's important when practicing to focus on a specific skill to work on.

When you next go out and play games, pick one skill related to a video you've watched and try to work on only that one skill, shot, strategy, etc. only.

This is important because players often either play with no focus, which isn't helpful for improvement, or they focus on too many things, which also inhibits improvement. For example, when you view the video released just today (3rd Shot Drop 4.5+ Level), maybe try hitting all your 3rd shots next time you play more aggressively, experimenting with spin, pace, and placement.

See notes for 3rd Shot Drop 4.5+

Catch you next week! -Ben

Tip of the Week - 03

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 12:00 pm
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Our latest video release, “Lob Retrieval” teaches you how to defend lobs. But what are some keys to executing a successful lob...? 

   Pick the right time and a good victim. An offensive lob is best hit when your opponents are both all the way up at the kitchen line. The vertically challenged, players that lean heavily forward, poor mobility moving backwards, or a lack of power on overheads are all signs that a lob can be an effective tactic. 

   Wait for a dink that lands in front of you, when you are balanced, and take the same amount of backswing as on a dink to disguise your lob. Surprise is always the most critical element to a successful lob. To complement this, do not reduce the effectiveness of the element of surprise by lobbing higher than necessary. An overly high lob allows your opponent to readjust. Prioritize throwing your lob up over them quickly with good disguise rather than simply hitting the lob high over their head. 

   Have fun hitting your lobs, don’t abuse them, and channel your inner Villages lob to drive some opponents nuts. 

Tip of the Week - 04

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 12:00 am - 1:00 am
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Tip of the Week: Choosing a Side

 

Before any tournament match actually begins, one team will be given the choice of side, serve, receive, or defer. If one side is better than the other, you want to make the right selection to maximize your time spent on the preferred side. This can be due to wind, sun, ball visibility, or anything else.

The key to making the correct choice is very simple—take the bad side first. The reason for this is in a format of best out of three games to 11, you will wind up on the good side to finish the match. (Once you switch sides when one team gets to 6 points in the 3rd game.) Running through the full theoretical scenario—lose the first game on the bad side, win the second game on the good side, start on the bad side in the 3rd game, but get the good side on the final switch at 6.

This makes the most sense, despite the possibility of starting down, since you will play more total points on the good side, including the all important concluding points and any potential overtime points in a tied game scenario. This same rule applies when playing one game to 15 for the same reason. By taking the bad side first, you will finish the game on the good side and play more total points there. (There is only a single switch when one team gets to 8 in a game to 15 format.) It is far less important to serve or receive first since the scoring is set up to balance that advantage. So next time you are warming up, decide which end of the court you prefer and take the OPPOSITE side at the start of the match when given the opportunity. It might just be a difference maker in the match. 

 

Until next week,

Collin 

Tip of the Week - 5

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 10:00 am
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Tip of the Week: Lock Your Wrist

 

One of the most important things you can do to improve consistency is eliminating any extra motion in your wrist. Your wrist is the closest major joint to your paddle, which means it plays a critical role in the angle of your paddle face, and thus your consistency in striking the ball solidly. Although many players believe that snapping their wrist can give them power, it actually has relatively little impact on your power, but costs you significant stroke reliability. 

   Keep your wrist in a strong locked position to keep your paddle stable and to gain a consistent feel of where your paddle face is pointed. The two most basic fundamentals to solid contact come from two very basic things—where the ball is and where your paddle is. If your paddle has erratic movement to it by allowing your wrist to have extra motion, consistent solid contact will be more difficult, costing you consistency. Locking your wrist may seem to cause you to become more rigid than seems natural, but as long as your grip on the paddle remains somewhat relaxed, you will only gain control from the added strength. 

   Other than setting the initial angle of the paddle with the angle of your wrist, attempt to keep it firm throughout the swing and let the movement come primarily from your shoulder, whether you’re hitting a dink, volley, serve, return, or anything else. 

   Another reason this is important is to prevent any repetitive motion pain. The wrist is a relatively weak joint compared to your elbow or shoulder so repeated explosive movement or instability during impact can cause injury over time. Reduce the strain by giving more of the workload to your larger joints and muscles. 

   Having a weak wrist or attempting to snap it will ultimately lead to a decrease in overall consistency and possibly pain, so remember to keep it strong! 

 

Until next week,

Collin 

Tip of the Week - 6

Tuesday, April 06, 2021 12:00 pm
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Tip of the Week: Experiment with Paddle Weight

 

Your weapon of choice on the pickleball court has a definite impact on your playing style and the execution of your shots. This means selecting the right paddle holds major importance—but what most players don’t know is they are not limited to using a given paddle as it originally comes. The stock weight of an average paddle is typically somewhere between 7.6-8.0 ounces. It can vary slightly, but most fall within that range.

   However, size and strength vary widely among players. A forty year old man who is 6’5” is often playing at the same weight as a sixty year old woman who is 5’5”. This makes little sense given the physical discrepancy. 

   A player’s ideal playing weight is highly personal to the individual so experiment by adding lead tape to your paddle. Even a relatively small amount can make a big difference in stability, plow through, and power. 

   Lead tape is easily purchased on Amazon or tennis retailers and you can find guidelines in our videos on how to apply it to various locations and what it does for you. 

   So next time you think about switching paddles entirely, grab some lead tape instead and retool your original weapon of choice. 

 

Until next week,

Collin 

Tip of the Week - 7

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 1:00 am
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Tip of the Week: Experiment with your non-dominant hand. 

 

Your non-dominant hand can often help you in Pickleball. It can be a switch to get a little more reach to get the ball back, assist in a two-handed backhand, and can even be a sudden switch for offensive trickiness. Whatever the situation, gaining some control over your non-dominant hand coordination will help you in numerous ways.

 

A good way to start is just to switch hands while hitting an easy dink when you have time and control. You can graduate to more difficult situations. Eventually you can even attempt to play a game entirely lefty - this is particularly good against lower skilled players, when playing normally would be too easy. 

 

An added benefit to learning to play lefty is that it makes yo hit more strategic, smarter shots, because of your lesser ability. This can transfer over to your overall game mindset, making you a better player.

 

So experiment with your non-dominant hand and I think you’ll find that it will improve your game in more ways than you think.

 

 

-Ben

Tip of the Week - 08

Tuesday, April 20, 2021 12:00 pm
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Tip of the Week: Use Your Warmup as Practice

 As most regular pickleball players know, the warmup prior to launching into games is short lived at best, and typically has little focus or direction. While playing games is undoubtedly the most fun, you miss an opportunity to improve your game by not leveraging the short warmup you do before playing points. If possible, attempt to warm up for a minimum of 5-10 minutes, although this is rarely observed by most players.

During the brief warmup, treat it as you would a mini practice session. Run through all your shots from all areas of the court with concentrated effort on executing on each ball you strike. This will best prepare you for the upcoming points and will often lead to observation of certain shots that could be worked on further in a later drilling session. It never hurts to put a little extra focus in during your warmups to get additional practice reps. Considering the amount of warmups you will do over time as a pickleball player, the repetitions can add up. 

 

Until next week,

Collin 

Tip of the Week - 10

Tuesday, May 04, 2021 12:00 pm
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Tip of the Week: Settle Your Nerves with 3rd Shot Drives

 

We have all gone into a big match a little nervous. It is something that comes with the territory when you compete. It is normal, but you don’t want to let nerves cost you too many points early in the match. A great way to quickly loosen yourself up is to drive the first several 3rd shots you receive. A drive does not require the fine motor skill precision that a 3rd shot drop does, and even if you miss your first few drives, you allow yourself to release early tension by crushing a few balls before every point becomes critical. Reducing tension by swinging hard not only allows you to settle your nerves, but it also puts the pressure on your opponents to react quickly when they are probably every bit as nervous as you are. So next time you find your hand shaking a little when the match starts—try cracking a few 3rd shot drives. It will release the extra stress and allow you to settle into the match more quickly. 

 

Until next week,

Collin 

Tip of the Week - 11

Tuesday, May 11, 2021 1:00 pm
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Tip of the Week: Establishing a Pattern to Set Up a Point

 

When it comes to making an opposing team uncomfortable, players will generally have little overall strategy. Shot selection is often seemingly random and it is difficult to maintain consistency and hold a good understanding of how you are attempting to set up a point when you change your shots frequently. One of the best general strategies to stick to is establishing a pattern and breaking it at an unexpected moment. This can take the form of abruptly switching the direction or the speed of your shot. For example, you might dink several forehands fully cross court then redirect a dink at the opponent’s backhand. Or in the same cross court forehand dinking pattern, you could attack the opponent in front of you after several shots. Momentarily sticking to a pattern allows you lull your opponents to sleep then put them into a losing position by suddenly breaking from what appeared to be a predictable pattern. This strategy works best when you can disguise your pattern-breaking shot to look similar to the pattern-establishing shot, as well as when your default pattern is your most personally reliable shot. 

   So, next time you find yourself moving the direction of your shots around without much purpose, try establishing a brief pattern to set up your winning shot. It’s one of the most effective strategies in pickleball. 

 

Until next week,

Collin 

Tip of the Week - 12

Tuesday, May 18, 2021 1:00 am
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Tip of the week:

If you often travel for tournaments, there’s a few things you should be doing in order to be most prepared to perform.

First, if you take a flight, you should definitely stretch both before and after. Our muscles often get cramped and tight, this can lead to things like bad sleep, which impact your performance in the following days.

Second, try to hit at the venue you’re going to be playing at. Conditions such as heat, humidity, altitude, wind, and even the court surface play a significant role in how you play, and getting accustomed to them will make an impact on your game. There are many more things you can do, but these two will go a long way towards being in top form for your tournament!

Until next week!

-Ben

Tip of the Week - 13

Tuesday, May 25, 2021 8:00 pm
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Ben's Backhand Roll
Related Video

1. THE SETUP
When I use the backhand roll, all four players are at the kitchen line in a dinking rally. Although the backhand roll is useful on both sides, I primarily use it on the ad side, with my backhand toward the edge of the court and my forehand in the middle. The setup is crucial to an effective roll if you don't have the setup, nothing else is going to work out well for you. For the optimal setup, it’s best to be dinking crosscourt. A slice on your backhand dink is useful, as it can force a slight pop-up from your opponent. The other method to get a good setup is to volley the ball out of the air on a dink. This has a few advantageous effects: it takes away your opponents’ time, making it more difficult for them to hit quality dinks; it keeps you low and leaning forward into the kitchen, which is the ideal position from which to hit the backhand roll; and it also disguises your backhand roll because your opponents see you volleying dinks and don't expect a roll right at them.

2. THE EXECUTION
Once you've set up the shot, you just need to execute the roll itself. The most important part of this shot, as you'll hear me say about almost every shot, is stay low! It can be tempting to pull up or stand lazily straightlegged, but if you want to hit this shot, you must stay low to the ground.  The objective on the backhand roll is to both brush up on the ball for topspin and attack the ball with power.  To do this, you need to start the paddle from below your anticipated contact point and swing upward. The swing path from your starting swing point to contact point should be approximately a 40-degree angle, but some variation is OK. Your paddle face should not be tilted upward. It should be close to 90 degrees, or even a slight downward tilt is OK. Your swing path should be what gets the ball up and over the net, not an upward tilt of the paddle.  The combination of an upward swing path with an even paddle face generates topspin.  However, that alone is not going to generate enough power for the shot.  To generate power, start your swing with the portion of your arm from elbow to wrist tucked in so that it forms a 90-degree angle with the portion of your arm from elbow to shoulder.  As you're swinging, you should extend your arm until it reaches full extension right as you make contact with the ball.  This motion creates that recognizable “snap” that makes the ball shoot off the paddle.  Many people ask about the placement of this shot.  My favorite spot is at the right hip of the person down the line from me.  There are a few reasons for this: the opponent down the line from me has a difficult time reading that I'm going to hit down the line off a crosscourt ball; he/she has much less reaction time than the opponent crosscourt does; and aiming at the right hip jams righties—it's difficult to hit a forehand or backhand in that spot, let alone with any authority. Of course, for lefties, I'll aim for the left hip.

SOME DO-NOTS OF THIS MOTION
Don't pull up! Finish your swing and follow through before coming up from your low position at all. A related do-not is when you're getting low, make sure you're bending your knees and not just bending at the hips. Lastly, don't flick your wrist during the swing. A lot of people have the misconception that you generate power from snapping your wrist on this shot, but it will only make you lose control over the ball. Keep that wrist firmly locked in place! 

I hope you've enjoyed my tutorial on the backhand roll. Now get to it! » 

Related Videos:
Backhand Roll Offensive Dink


Tip of the Week - 14

Tuesday, June 01, 2021 2:00 pm
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Practice like you play. It’s not always easy, but for beneficial practice, you should always try to maintain focus just as you would in a real match. One of my biggest things in this vein is playing out balls. Lots of people say “I came here to play” or something, indicating they’re playing the ball just because the game is for fun. If you want both you and your opponent to benefit from playing, you should be practicing good habits. No this doesn’t mean you always have to be 100% serious and try to win. But you can be not entirely serious and still get good practice if you practice correct habits.

Until next week,

-Ben

Tip of the Week - 15

Tuesday, June 08, 2021 2:00 pm
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Tip of the Week: Reset When Off Balance

 No matter what level you play at, there will be shots that you are forced to hit from less than ideal positions. It is often how you handle these uncomfortable positions that determine what level you play at. The typical response to being thrown off-balance is to attempt what we call a “hero shot”, which refers to going for a high-speed winner that must be hit with pinpoint accuracy to be successful. While it may feel great when you do execute one of these, you will lose far more points than you’ll win with such low-percentage shots. The proper response when you are off-balance or out of position is to reset the ball into the kitchen. The reasoning behind this is simple—the kitchen can and should be viewed as your permanent safety zone since a well-executed shot into the kitchen will always keep your team in the point. Since the kitchen always remains available to you, and opponents will always struggle to put a shot away that bounces in the kitchen, it makes sense to leverage this by choosing wisely which balls to attack vs reset. It will always be physically easier to execute an off-balance reset than an off-balance winner. Clearly, it will be more difficult to hit any shot when you are off balance, but attempting a reset gives you the best chance of eliminating errors. While it may not look fancy, it gives you the best chance of winning the point. So next time you go to pull the trigger on a hero shot, think better of it and hit that blue collar reset instead. 

 Until next week,

Collin 

Tip of the Week - 16

Tuesday, June 15, 2021 2:00 pm
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Practice with intent.

By that I mean that whenever you go out and play, you should have a goal. Something specific to work on and get better at. Of course you should always go out with a goal of enjoying yourself as after all it is just a game. But to me one of the most gratifying parts of any sport is improvement. And the best way to do that is practice with a purpose.

Learn the fundamentals.

I am a huge proponent of players learning how to hit the right shot at the right time from the get-go. You will improve your game dramatically long term by attempting to take the fundamentally sound shot instead of the shot that most often wins you the point initially. Just because it works at one level does not mean it will work at the next level. Ingrain the right habits early on and you will thank yourself later.

Until next week,

-Collin

Tip of the Week - 17

Tuesday, June 22, 2021 2:00 pm
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Here are some suggestions for developing a Practice Approach to get the most out of your abilities and develop your full potential:
  1. Assess your current attitude towards practice. Is it positive or negative? ...
  2. Set goals. ...
  3. Commit yourself to the practice. ...
  4. Dedicate yourself to practice.

Practice Approach: What can pickleball students expect to learn?

At any instructional session what I try to do is open student’s minds to things they haven’t heard before or help them to understand what is missing in their games. A lot of this will be technical information about shots and form that simply allows them to be more consistent, fundamentally sound players. Other information will be strategic, involving more mental capacity and choices. My main goal is to provide students with valuable information that stretches their understanding of pickleball, to give them enough of it to always have specific things they should practice, and ultimately help them become better players.

Again, fundamentals. What to hit from any given position on the court and the technical execution needed to hit it properly. Also, answering questions that students have is important for them gaining a comprehensive understanding of the game. Whether it is technical, strategic, or just how to practice more effectively, we will go in depth on all of it for players of all levels.

Assess your current attitude towards practice. Is it positive or negative? Do you see it as an opportunity to become better and work towards your athletic goals? Do you even think about it?

Set goals. Most athletes can relate to the concept of goals for a game or season, but for practice? Absolutely! Goals provide focus and motivation. Practice goals will give a sense of purpose to your effort.

Commit yourself to the practice. Check in with yourself before practice begins. Get your head right, think about what you want to work on and commit yourself to having a good practice. Commit yourself to bringing an intensity and intentionality to practice.

Dedicate yourself to practice. If you play a little but you’d like to play more, or if you’re good but you aspire to be great, practice provides you an opportunity to go the extra mile.

Until next week,

-Ben

Tip of the Week - 18

Tuesday, June 29, 2021 10:00 pm
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Positivity.

Both with yourself and with your partner. I realized early on in playing that negativity never helped my partners, and rarely helped myself. So I’ve always made an effort to be positive on the court knowing that it gives me and my partner the best chance of winning. It’s difficult to do and I’m far from perfect at it, but it’s a good thing to strive for.

Patience.

This is something that goes hand and hand with my personality which certainly helps on a pickleball court. Because of the dimensions of the court and the equipment used, it is critical to success to hit the right shot at the right time. The length of a pickleball court is rather short relative to the height of the net, as well as being played with a plastic ball that takes little spin and has a low bounce. Also add in the kitchen rule and that you play with a short paddle with little friction on it and you quickly recognize how important patience is. It is something I appreciated very early on and still implement in my game today.

Until next week,

-Ben

Tip of the Week - 19

Tuesday, July 06, 2021 8:00 pm
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Dinking Tips:

-Keep your center of gravity low so your body is an athletic position.

-Stay near the NVZ line in order to keep the pressure on your opponent.

-The dink is simply and "up and over" shot with little forward momentum.

-Attempts to hit low balls hard will either be in the net or hit out. (Another advantage to a low and athletic position is the ability to dodge the shot.

-Use the crosscourt shot because the low point of the net is in the middle and there is more room for error.

-Do not go crosscourt when you use a crossover step to get to the ball. Instead, go down the line while recognizing the net is higher.

-Hit the ball on a short-hop rather than move away from the line. Play the ball rather than allowing the ball to play you.

-Ben Johns

Tip of the Week - 20

Tuesday, July 13, 2021 5:00 pm
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Dinking Tips

-Consistency is your ultimate weapon!
-Get to the kitchen or non-volley zone(NVZ) at first chance.
-Check the pressure in your grip. Novices tend to tighten their grip.  Staying relaxed and calm will help your grip pressure and your confidence.
-Simplify your shot selection, follow through and don't be "wristy".  A pronounced movement of the wrist leads to inconsistency.
-Always strive to strike the ball when it is in front of you.
-Volley if possible instead of stepping back and letting the ball bounce.  You'll put more pressure on you opponent when you volley the ball. 
-Clear the net with room to spare.
-Make sure your shot bounces in front of your opponent.

Videos for reference:

Forehand Dinking Strategy 2.5 to 3.5

Forehand Dinking Strategy 4.5+

Backhand Dinking Strategy 4.5+

-Till next week

Tip of the Week - 21

Tuesday, July 20, 2021 12:00 pm
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ESTABLISHING A PATTERN

When it comes to making an opposing team uncomfortable, players will
generally have little overall strategy. Shot selection is often seemingly
random and it is difficult to maintain consistency and hold a good understanding
of how you are attempting to set up a point when you change your shots frequently.

One of the best general strategies is to establish a pattern and break it at an
unexpected moment. This can take the form of abruptly switching the direction or the speed of your shot.

For example, you might dink several forehands fully crosscourt then redirect a dink at the opponent's backhand. Or, in the same crosscourt forehand dinking pattern, you could  the opponent in front of you after several shots.

One of my personal favorite pattern setups is the crosscourt forehand dinking
scenario-dinking wide crosscourt several times to push my opponent off the court,
preferably with soft topspin volley dinks. When I receive a slightly higher ball that
I like, I redirect the ball as a topspin roll attack at the body of the player directly in front of me.

To abrupt change to the pattern coupled with good disguise catches even the quickest players by surprise. This is just one example of momentarily sticking to a pattern to lull your opponents to sleep, then putting them into a losing position by suddenly breaking from what
appeared to be a predictable pattern.

Establish a pattern to set up your pattern-breaking shot to put your opponents on the defensive.

You can employ this strategy in countless scenarios, but it works best when you can
disguise your pattern-breaking shot to look similar to the pattern-establishing shot. You can further build the strength of your pattern setup when you make your default pattern your most personally reliable shot.

So, next time you find yourself moving the direction of your shots around without much purpose, try establishing a brief pattern to set up your winning shot. It's one of the most effective strategies in pickleball.

Till next week

-Collin Johns

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