In my last column titled “Do Not Enter,” I discussed not hesitating to commit to stepping into the no volley zone/the kitchen, to dink a bouncing ball. I emphasized that our steps need to be coordinated and sequenced so that our body is in position with the location and timing of the bounce of the ball. Retaining proper balance during these steps is a vital part of being able to execute a good shot.
Due to the fact that a pickleball is made of plastic, it does not come up off of the court like a rubber tennis ball, so we are generally dealing with a lower point of contact. Because of this fact, we need to get down to the level of the bounce—lack of bounce—of the ball.
This brings us to “A Question of Balance.”
Most players get off balance because they are, what I call, top–heavy. This is caused by the fact that their feet are too close together, distributing too much weight above the level of the waist.
The negative results of this fact are that it encourages us to take smaller and shorter steps to offset our top-heavy weight distribution, which translates into taking a longer period of time to get to the contact point of the ball.
Being top–heavy also encourages us to have to bend from the back to get down to the level of the bounce of the ball, which just gets us more off balance.
The key to maintaining proper balance is having an equal distribution of weight between our upper and lower body which is in direct relation to the height of the contact point of the ball.
Here is a drill that will help you to be more aware of that balance and allow you to move more effectively to the height and location of the contact point of the ball. Begin by tossing a ball in the air directly in front of you. Let the ball bounce, and without a paddle, using both hands, catch the ball.
Your focus at this point is to simply get used to lowering your upper body to the level of the bounce of the ball, by utilizing your legs. Once you are confident and comfortable with your new sense of balance, get a practice partner to help you with the second part of the drill.
Stand across the net from one another at the 7-foot no volley zone line, either crosscourt or directly in front of one another. Have your partner toss a ball that will bounce in the kitchen requiring you to step in as if you were going to execute a dink. Utilizing the balance skills which you have adapted from the first part of this drill, lower your upper body down to the level and location of the bounce of the ball by using your legs and catch the ball, this time just using your dominant hand.
Repeat doing this several times from all four corners of the court.
Adapting this drill into your regular training will help to improve your upper and lower body balance, make you less top–heavy, and improve your ability to execute effective shots on low bouncing balls in the kitchen.
Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years’ experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at email@example.com, or by or by phone or text at 239450-6161.