In my previous column titled “One Step Ahead,” I discussed the theory of constructing a pickleball point the same way you would run a table of balls shooting pool. As you become more comfortable with this concept, you will begin to see offensive and defensive strategical patterns develop.
If all four players properly comprehend and anticipate these strategical patterns—as they are occurring—during a point, the choice and execution of their shots—both current and future—are initiated from these patterns.
The five fundamental examples of these patterns are:
- Offense VS Defense
- Offense VS Offense
- Defense VS Defense
- Neutral VS Neutral
- Defense VS Offense
I have listed them in order of choice of priority. Ultimately, I want to be in an Offense VS Defense pattern. Personally, my second choice is to be in an Offense VS Offense pattern because I like slugging it out with my opponents, and win or lose, this pattern creates a situation where I have participated in what is usually an exciting, adventurous and fun point!
Defense VS Defense and Neutral VS Neutral can almost be combined as one pattern because, in both of these patterns, we should be playing very high percentage shots and trying to create an opportunity to convert to a pattern of Offense VS Defense for myself and my partner.
The last pattern we want to find ourselves in is Defensive VS Offense! Most beginner–level players spend the majority of their time playing Neutral VS Neutral, which in my opinion is a good thing because at this point their game the biggest strategical challenge is to just keep the ball in play and not make a lot of unforced errors. However, as our skills and level of competition increase, we need to begin to know when to apply offensive pressure and execute specific aggressively oriented shots to create a pattern of Offense VS Defense for ourselves and our partner.
At the same time, when we are being offensively pressured by our opponents, we need to know when and how to apply and execute specific defensive–oriented shots and stay in the point. With that said, even on advanced level competition, there are times when we need to play Neutral VS Neutral, aka high percentage, low error strategy and kind of feel our opponents out until the opportunity presents itself for us to create an Offense VS Defense pattern for our self and our partner.
Being aware of which one of these five patterns all four players are in is the root of our decision as to what we should be choosing as our current and next shot(s). Reading these patterns helps to be “One Step Ahead” of both preparing for and executing your next shot(s).
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.