Ok, so the new year is here and you have probably already not kept up with that unachievable New Year’s resolution which you challenged yourself with, so yes, I will have to use the L word, LOSER!
However, if you are a regular follower of my column, and after being called a loser, you are still reading my column, then I am encouraged to believe that you have set your goals to improve and become a better pickleball player in 2019.
As I mentioned in my last column, short term goals should have a time frame which will take days to weeks to accomplish. I have chosen, improving our consistency and lowering our percentages of unforced errors, as our initial short term goal. While these two appear to be separate and individual goals, they are actually tied together as one, with a single bar of accomplishment.
In order to conquer the short term goals which we have set, we will need to commit ourselves to drills and practice.
I am going to describe a specific challenge which can be applied to two drills that will help to improve our consistency and lower the percentages of our unforced errors, in both our ground strokes, as well as our dinks and volleys.
While these drills are most beneficial for beginner level players, I believe that seasoned/experienced players should continually drill and practice, to sharpen and maintain our skills.
I call the drills, “no winners, no whiners.”
The purpose of both of these drills is to sustain a consistent pace and timing on the ball and keep the rally going as long as possible. Even if we have an opportunity to hit a winner or put a shot away, we must learn to control the cadence of the rally. We are not allowed to hit winners and we are not allowed to whine about it!
For dinks and volleys; positioning ourselves at the seven foot zone/kitchen line, utilizing 1/2 of the court, we rally back and forth with our practice partner, hitting both dinks and volleys. The cadence of the dinks and volleys should sound like a clock ticking. Again, even if we have a high put-away ball, we must gently control the ball and keep the cadence of the rally going. Remember, no winners, no whining!
For groundstrokes; place cones midway through the depth of the service box and have all of your groundstrokes land beyond that point on the court, again utilizing 1/2 of the court, either crosscourt or down the line. Start with say a total of 10 in a row, then 20, then 30, etc.
I’m a fairly competitive person and win or lose, I think there should always be a prize associated with every challenge, so make a game out of your practice drills. Points are only scored when someone makes an unforced error and the loser has to pay for a round of beverages of your choice at the end of the practice. You can make it even more challenging, by putting a ball on top of one or more of your cones and you get bonus points for an expertly placed shot which knocks the ball off of the cone!
It is important that we are accomplishing these drills utilizing properly executed strokes, because we don’t want to be programing unsound fundamentals. This is where our goal plan might include a weekly lesson or clinic with a qualified instructor to assure that the fundamental execution of our strokes are sound.
And finally, to accomplish these goals, we must find space in our busy schedules to make specific and regular times in which to address them.
Some of us work full time and have family responsibilities which consume most of our downtime hours. Some of us have already put in our time with the above mentioned responsibilities, and have progressed beyond that point in life and our schedule may now be filled with playing pickleball every day!
Either way, my suggestion is that if you already play on a regular schedule, devote 30 minutes of your play time to drills. This makes it easy, because that pre-existing play time is already a part of your regular schedule/routine.
In my next column, I will focus on our mid term goals and how they will tie in with the success of accomplishing our short term goals.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.