In all sports, focus and concentration are a vital part of winning. In most sports, coaches on the sidelines are able to constantly observe and advise on a play-by-play status, allowing the athletes to be able to focus solely on performing.
Pickleball, like the sport of tennis, requires players to be their own coach and it is quite a challenge to play the dual role of competitor and coach all at the same time.
In both the sports of tennis and pickleball, players must be able to remain focused and compete, while having to vary strategies and adapt to constantly changing situations all by themselves, with no coaching!
This makes competing in the sports of tennis and pickleball different, because, while we are competing and playing points, wedo not have someone calling individual plays for us like in other sports such as football, basketball or baseball.
Fortunately, because most pickleball and tennis play here in our area is doubles, we are not totally on our own in this process. However, even though we have a partner to discuss game plans and strategies with, there is still no advice coming from the sidelines, bench or dugout. So how do we best stay on top of the challenge of coaching and competing at the same time?
The most important thing to remember is to make sure we keep the lines of communication open between ourselves and our partners. Along with this, it is also important to remain upbeat and positive in the attitude of our support for our partner.And finally, let’s remember to always just have fun!
In both tennis and pickleball, my partner and I need a coordinated, strategic plan that must always be able to be adjusted and changed in the blink of an eye. We must be able to try to see the game from the sidelines, because like I said, there is no coach providing insight as to which strategy is working best!
When playing doubles in tennis, I should be communicating with my partner and informing them if I plan to serve and volley or to serve and stay back and get into a rally. Either way, my partner needs to be aware of our plan and always be ready to take advantage of opportunities at the net to poach. When playing doublesin pickleball, because the size of the court is smaller than a tennis court, whether our team is serving or receiving, our basic strategy and game plan should be to always get to the net and play the point out in the kitchen.
But let’s remember, the rules in pickleball prevent me from serve and volleying. The serving team must let the return bounce before they can strike the ball and I only get one serve opportunity to get the point started. No second serves or double faults. These two facts prevent me, as the server, to take any real advantage of first strike of the ball.
So except for the fact that as server, I am the only one/team who canscore a point, the fact that I have first strike opportunity of the ball is not as much of a factor as it is in tennis.
Because in most recreational levels of competition, most players do not necessarily have any big weapons like a big boomer serve or a giant to pain forehand, so it is vital that I retain a high percentage of serves and returns. Even on an advanced level of play, as a server in pickleball, I am strategically just trying to get the point started and prevent my opponent from taking control of the kitchen before me!
With that said, as in tennis, our partner in pickleball should always be ready to take advantage of opportunities at the net whenever possible.
I recently had the privilege ofcovering the U.S. Open Pickleball tournament here in Naples and more recently watching Wimbledon on television. As I watched and observed the world’s top-level teams compete, I noticed that in both sports, the players were communicating and discussing game plans and strategies between every point.
Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. He has been the head instructor at The Marco Island Racquet Center since 2001. The Racquet Center offers clinics, private and group lessons for both tennis and pickleball. Coach Wayne’s Island Kids Tennis juniors program runs year round and has classes for players from kindergarten through high school. Contact Coach Wayne by email at WClark@cityofmarcoisland.com, by phone or text at 239-450-6161, or visit his website at marco-island-tennis.com.