Here on Marco, we are blessed with our prevailing tropical breeze/winds. You can almost set your clock to when they begin in the morning and pick up in velocity during the day. While these (usually) gentle breezes can make a hot humid day feel a little more pleasant, they can be quite an issue for pickleball players to have to deal with on a daily basis.
For the most part, these winds usually blow from the east/southeast, cross court, and can actually move the flight of a pickleball as much as six feet laterally during its flight from one end of the court to the other. Due to this issue, we need to adjust the east and west direction (See my previous column, “Driving Directions”) of our shots depending on the strength of the breeze.
This leads us to the importance of practicing and drilling. As an instructor, I spend a lot of time teaching and demonstrating practice drills to my students, and I recommend and encourage them to apply a regular practice routine to their daily playing schedule. However, as a player, I must admit that I have trouble complying with my own recommendations. It’s not that I don’t like doing practice drills, it just seems there aren’t enough hours in the day to always have time for them. Nonetheless, I understand how a dedicated routine (or lack of routine) of practice and drills can affect the quality of my performance level when I compete.
Professional tennis players and golfers travel around the world and play in a different location (with different weather conditions) on a week-to-week basis. On a daily basis, they go out on the courts, or the course and practice to become familiar with and make adjustments to the conditions.
These professionals are savvy and wise enough to understand that these conditions can change on an hour-to-hour, day-to-day basis.
As serious social pickleball players, even if we play on the same courts on a daily basis, just like the savvy and wise professionals, we need to be aware of the weather and wind conditions on a daily basis and adjust our game plan accordingly.
Here is a great drill for both serving and ground strokes that will help improve your ability to adjust your game, with confidence, as weather and wind conditions vary.
Utilizing throw down lines, begin by dividing the service box into two sections. You would have a left and a right section. Practice serving from both the right and left hand sides of the court, as well as both ends of the court. Become proficient and confident in your abilities to serve to each section with 90% of your serves going precisely where you are aiming them, no matter what the wind conditions are!
As you improve in your abilities, challenge yourself and divide the service box into three zones.
This drill is also effective for groundstrokes. Utilizing the same zone arrangement, you want to rally back and forth with your practice partner, attempting to keep your shot directed to one of the zones. You need to be able to consistently rally balls into each zone, from both ends of the court, again achieving my 90% rule of success.
If you want to get competitive, play a game of who can be the most consistent player. You score a point when the other person misses getting the ball in the designated zone.
Also, learning how to apply underpin to your serve, as well as your groundstrokes, will help to direct the flight path of the ball (A subject which I will cover in an upcoming column).
So make the wind your friend, and make this drill part of your regular practice schedule. It will improve your confidence and give you a great advantage over your opponents.
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/Sports Juniors programs run year round, and offer classes for players ranging from kindergarten through
high school. Contact Coach Wayne by email at email@example.com or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.