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Hustler’s Approach

The following information is more about amusement than something you’d actually want to do, but then again…

My father-in-law was a pool hustler, the famous Salinas Kid. He once told me that he used to keep his winnings in two pockets. He’d put his one- and five-dollar bills in one pocket, and the tens, twenties and larger denominations in another pocket. More than once, people would chase him out of the pool hall, demanding their money back. He’d reach into the one pocket pulling out a wad of small denomination bills, throw them up in the air, and say, “There’s your money.” As the people scrambled around on the ground grabbing the ones and fives, he’d run to his car and make a clean get-away.

More to the point of pickleball, he’d go into a pool hall smelling of liquor, standing a bit unsteadily, and blow the first several games, losing a few dollars here, and a few more there. Then, as the price per game went up, somehow, he’d end up winning everything.

So, what does this have to with pickleball? This brings to mind a very good solution for when you’re playing doubles, and you have a weaker partner. Normally, every ball will be directed at your partner, and you’ve pretty much got to lose. However, if for the first four or five points of the game you make a total fool of yourself, hitting balls into the net, well past the baseline, or missing the balls altogether, every shot will then be directed at you. That’s when you finish by winning handily!

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Dink, Dink, Bang

Dink, Dink, Bang is a two-person warm-up exercise for doubles players. With each player just behind the kitchen line, start with three dinks. The fourth shot will be a speed up, essentially aiming at your opponent’s chest. The opponent will then try to reset by dinking it back into the kitchen. Since this is five shots altogether, the bang and reset switch back and forth between the players. You can see this illustrated in the first exercise shown in this video:

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Pickleball Points You Won’t Believe Exist

I believe the first two rallies in the video below are the best. You can skip over the first few seconds of introduction where pickleball is compared to ping pong and tennis – we know all that!

But watch the first singles match! Where did he get that energy? Well, it’s not impossible even if you are of advanced years. We do get used to conserving energy. Instead, the next times you play pickleball, commit yourself to getting behind every ball. Don’t just stand there and hope for the best. Don’t think you can just flex to reach the harder shots. Do some split-stepping. Move! You may find it tiring and hard at first, but with time, moving will be come easy and second-nature to you.

Early in the second rally, an Erne shot is performed as if routine. The rest of the rally is amazing also.

Also notice that at times, both teammates are very close to each other. They both know where the next ball will be aimed by watching their opponents’ body positions. This seems to run counter to the idea that teammates should always be approximately 6 – 8 feet (2 – 2.5 meters) apart.

The rest of the rallies in this video are about speed. It is fun to watch, and not that hard to learn. In warm-ups or general drilling, work on standing at the kitchen line, and rally with your opponent entirely airborne. Slowly bring up the speed and power over the course of weeks.

Don’t forget to wear eye protection.

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Saying Hello and Goodbye

Maybe it’s just me, but I believe enthusiastically saying “Hello” and “Goodbye” to people as they come and go from recreational pickup games can be very important.

There are pickleball players, especially among the older crew, who have very few friends. Maybe they’ve even lost a spouse. Something as simple as acknowledging them when they come to play pickleball can brighten their days.

It is also important to be careful not to look down on them if they don’t play as well as you, or if they have a personality you don’t like. For instance, there are people with regional accents that I find hard to handle. I want to think these people are stupid, or eccentric in unacceptable ways. However, I’m making an effort to let them be friends. I want them to be people I can admire. So, when I get a chance, I ask them about their families, their careers, whatever interests them. And sure enough, my opinion of them brightens.

One guy really rubbed me the wrong way. Just looking at him bothered me. Then we got to talking, and I found out he and I had been in the same business several years ago. Suddenly, he felt like a good friend.

What about unskilled players? It is so easy to look down on someone who swings and misses, or pops every ball. I believe I should still congratulate them when they make a good shot, even if it was just lucky. To see them smile with pride really makes my own day!

Avoid criticism. It can just devastate people, especially shy ones, if you tell them that their backhand is no good, or that they always serve too short, or they’ve got to quit popping the ball. Just let it be. They’ll learn eventually. It is not your job to coach them, unless they ask for it.

Finally, we need to take into account the sexual component. It is possible to acknowledge someone who starts to find you attractive. If a relationship with that person is not something you want, you do have to keep up your guard and let him or her know that you’re married, uninterested, etc, as soon as you see trouble brewing, and yet be careful not to deflate them too much. You still want them to feel accepted and happy.

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High To Low

Yet another over-simplification in pickleball is you always want to hit balls from high to low. Or, more specifically, you never want to give a ball high enough to the opposition that they can smash it back, or even just control it well. So, you want to keep your balls low as they cross the net, and ultimately land at your opponent’s feet. Generally that means follow the rule, ‘if they’re back, keep them back,’ but if they are at the kitchen, you really want your shots to land at their feet. Let them be the ones to high shots to you!

There are some exceptions to the rule. Lobs have to go high enough that the opponents can’t reach them, but not so high that they have time to run to the baseline and return them.

Serves and return of serves can be high and floppy, as long as they land close to the baseline.

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Why I Announce the Shots

In billiards, you’ll see players call their shots, meaning they tell you want the intend before they do it. For instance, “Six ball in corner pocket.”

Sometimes I’ll call my shots in recreational pickleball. When serving, I’ll say something like “Centerline, deep,” Or just as the opponents are serving, I might say, “Backspin, short.” Then I’ll try to return short with backspin, just like I said.

Why would I do this? It certainly isn’t a winning strategy. Why would I warn the opponents in advance of what they should get ready for?

It’s not about winning. What I’m doing has three related purposes.

1. If I manage to do what I said, it makes me look like a very good player. Better than I really am, of course.

2. If I make a mistake, such as serving the ball way out of bounds, or hitting the net, it reduces the embarrassment. That’s because everyone knows I was experimenting, not just randomly mishitting.

3. It forces me to focus on an experiment, which will hopefully eventually improve my game. Rather than just hitting the ball in my usual way, I must now attempt to fulfill the announcement.

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The One Great Simplification

If you only keep one thing in mind in all of the pickleball you play, it’s ‘keep everything low.’ If you pop a ball high above the net, you, or your partner are going to be in a bad situation.

There are exceptions. Serves and returns of serve can be high and floppy, as long as they land deep, near the base line.

Lobs give you time to reset, to get back to the kitchen.

However, if any shot after the second one, which has to bounce before it can be returned, is high, expect trouble. This is even more true if the high shot lands behind the kitchen line.

So how do you keep every shot low? Practice is the main thing. Additional techniques that will help are to stay calm, and get low. Bend your knees. I’m not sure of all the dynamics, but when you get low, your accuracy improves tremendously.

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Why Good Pickleballers Eat This Way

Don’t you hate it when someone dies on the courts? Even worse, if you, or any other player, is lethargic, moving slowly, thinking unclearly, and just not playing to their potential.

So what’s the answer?

It turns out simple changes in diet can make a big difference.

Let’s use me, your author, as an example. When I was in my teens, I seldom had energy, but when I did, it was too much energy and I was crazy. The rest of the time I challenged my friends to do things because I simply didn’t have the springiness, the enthusiasm to do things myself. Sometimes I’d even become dizzy and have to sit down for a while.

I would have thought there was something wrong with me, but it was like that for some of my friends also. In my twenties I came across some information that I entirely ignored for a while.

The idea was that by eliminating sugar and cutting down on starch, a person might have more energy and consistent energy for hours at a time. That’s just bullcrap right?

My wife convinced me to try this stupid idea. So to appease her, I give it a legitimate trial. I gave up soda entirely. I quit eating candy bars when I needed a quick pick-me-up. I started eating yukky salad and generally nutritious foods rather than baked goods. I didn’t like it. This food wasn’t as comfortable, yummy and quickly and easily digestible. But for her, I stuck it out for a week even thought nothing good came of it.

Oddly at the end of the week, the salads weren’t really that bad. To my surprise, I didn’t miss the soda one bit. I started taking an interest in tea.

Now, here’s where it really gets weird: after being convinced to stick it out another week, I was able to do things that required energy. I could ride my bike longer distances, no problem. Pickleball would still be years into my future, but suddenly tennis, hiking and even soccer were easier. I was shocked to discover that two hours of strenuous exercise could go by, and I was still doing fine.

Then too, and I don’t know if I can talk about this here: I was no longer having occasional bouts of constipation. Sometimes I’d even have a strong intestinal ache from time to time due to poor digestion. That’s all gone now, and has never come back.

As a result, for several years, I ate better.

Scientific studies have shown that this low-sugar diet is also helpful in preventing many dreadful diseases.

But by my early 50s, I had slipped part-way back to my old habits. Oh sure, I was eating less meat and focusing mostly on organic foods for long-term health, but my blood pressure was getting out of control. It was running around 150 over 100, and sometimes even like 170 over 105. Normal is 120 over 80. The doctor wanted me to take pills. I looked over the long list of side effects and didn’t like it, but what could I do?

Well, my wife knew what to do. She literally yelled at me when I tried to fill my prescription. She said to try cutting out all sugar and reduce carbs.

It took only two weeks to get my blood pressure back to where it was averaging around 130 over 90. Months later it was even better than that and sometimes even lower than average. I don’t know if everyone would have such spectacular and instant results, but I figure it’s worth a try, right?

In coaching, I tell people to get low, to move quickly, split-stepping and getting behind the ball. But maybe they can’t. They just don’t have the energy. I hope this info helps!

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How to Set Up the Erne Shot

In this video I demonstrate setting up the Erne shot.

For a right-hander, place a dink well to your left, close to your opponent’s right sideline. Quite often the opponent will direct this straight back to you along the sideline on your left. That’s your opportunity. The opponent has to make the shot high enough to clear the net. If you have moved to right beside the net, you can slam it back in a way that can’t be defended. Like most shots, you’re aiming at your opponent’s feet. With this shot, aiming for the feet is particularly important, because you don’t want to hit an unprepared player in the face.

It’s important not to jump at the opportunity too quickly, otherwise you’ll broadcast what you’re planning or just intimidate your opponent with your closeness in the kitchen, causing the opponent to send a diagonal to your partner or into the space you’ve leaving behind.

Your Erne should be a put-away, because you won’t be back in position in time to defend your half of the court. However, it usually is a put-away, which can absolutely surprise beginning and intermediate players.

Keep in mind that both feet have to have landed outside the kitchen before you can legally hit this shot. You are also not allowed to cross the plane of the net with your paddle. As if things weren’t already difficult enough, you are also not allowed to touch the net with any part of your body, your clothing or your paddle.

Also see:

The Erne Shot

Invalid Erne Shot