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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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Tip of the Day – Intermediate / Advanced

8 Tips For Around The Post

Around the post, often called “ATP” is a shot that always gets the crowd on their feet. Here are a few pointers:

1. You may be so habituated to getting the ball over the net that you’ll miss opportunities for ATP. It helps if you’ve practiced the shot so many times that when you see an ATP option, you’ll take advantage.

2. Remember that there is no need for height. When you’re outside of the posts, there is no need to get the ball up in the air. It can literally skim inches over the ground.

3. The around the post shot must be a put-away, because you’ll be far out of position from where it is difficult to return to an ongoing rally.

4. Don’t do what I always seem to do, which is to try the shot when I’m not sufficiently outside the sideline. I always manage to hit the post instead of going around it! If you are a right-hander, then of course this is much easier when you are on the right side of the court.

5. In doubles, partner ought to maintain the usual 2 – 3 meter (6 – 9 feet) spacing, so that if you don’t put the ball away, the partner can more easily cover what might be returned.

6. If your momentum has carried you forward, and you are out of the kitchen, you can overrun the plane of the net after the shot.

7. You can run through the kitchen since when you hit the ball you’ll be outside of the kitchen.

8. Of course the best place to land the ball is just ahead of the baseline and near the sideline, well behind where your opponents are likely to be standing.


See also Around The Post

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Tip of the Day – Beginning / Intermediate

Experimenting

When should you experiment, and what does that mean?

You should experiment any time you’re not in a competition. The idea is that in casual or recreational matches, you can really work on your dropshots, try to put things as close to diagonal corners as possible, work on the right side passing shot that is so successful when it goes right along the sideline, fool around with poaching, or find the right height for lobs that are unreturnable.

It is this experimentation that will make you a great player faster than anything else.

There are two downsides to experimenting: You won’t look like a good pickleballer to your friends and neighborhood players because you’re frequently missing your shots. Is that important? Maybe not in comparison to more rapidly becoming an accomplished player than everyone else. Plus, when you land that extreme diagonal, or drop one perfectly in the kitchen, you’ll look great then and there.

On the other hand, the pickup or recreational game may not be important to you, but your partner may be really hoping to win. Or, maybe you’re the kind of person who really wants to win every game. Can you give up the immediate games in order to become a better player? That little psychological shift may be harder than you think.

A really great game to experiment with on a recreational court is when your partner isn’t very accomplished, or the players you’re up against are weaker. This is a time to work on your subtler skills rather than slamming every shot.

You may find it’s great fun to return every ball gently, and watch the opposing team slam back every shot they can reach. When you get tired of that, aim for the feet of a player on their non-dominant side, but gently, and watch what happens!

The other downside is that you have to remember to play conservatively, to quit experimenting, when you’re in serious competition.

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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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Two-Failure Australian

Perhaps you’ve had days when only three players are available. Three-player pickleball is called “Australian.” If anyone knows why it’s called ‘Australian,’ please leave a comment below.

There are several variations of Australian. A common one is for the best player to remain on one side of the court, facing two opponents. The opponents must always return the ball into the half of the court in which the single player is standing. The single player can return the ball anywhere.

The single player will win more rallies because it takes some extra skill to place the ball in only half the court, and because the single player doesn’t have to move very much to cover all necessary territory.

A particularly skilled, energetic or crazy player may choose to cover the entire court.

The single player will typically get only one serve. That means that they can continue serving while winning each rally, but if a rally is lost, it goes to the opponent in the right-hand court. Just like ordinary doubles pickleball, that opponent serves until a rally is lost, then the serve goes to the other opponent. So, to partially make up for the advantage of playing only half-court, the single player gets only the one serve.

If all the players are nearly equal in skill, there might be some resentment if one always opposes the other two. That may happen even if a game is being played to 7 or 11 points before rotating so someone else is the single player.

Therefore another variation is ‘Two-Failure Australian.’ The way that works is that the single player can remain the single player only until s/he has lost two rallies. At that point, everyone rotates clockwise, so someone else gets a chance as the single player. The single player serves every rally.

Most often, score is not kept. If the players do want to keep score, just like doubles pickleball, it is a three-part score. However, the score starts with the single player’s score, then the opponent in the right court (from their perspective), and finally the opponent in the left court. So, score is kept clockwise from the server.

Another variation is even more confusing. That is a four-part score. The single player says their own score first, then the player clockwise (in the right side court), then the player in the left court, and finally ‘one’ or ‘two’ depending on whether s/he has had zero failures, or one failure so far.

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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.