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Correcting An Opponent’s Problem

A Bit of Psychology

Pickleball for me is normally about fun, and building skill, but I’m not above a psychological trick or two when it makes sense. A couple of years ago, I tried something that worked well, so I’ll pass it along:

This is going to cost you a point, but may win many points shortly thereafter.

There was a player who was going way too far with the “Arizona serve.” This is the kind of serve which is much more of a forehand than an underhand serve. As you know, the pickleball rules call for the ball to be hit below the waist, or more specifically, below bellybutton height, with an underhand stroke or at least with the hand below the wrist (if that can be done with anything other than an underhand stroke). In serious competition, a forehand serve would be called a fault, but in much of modern pickleball, it is considered OK. But today, this person was winning points on an aggressive serve. Or at least putting some players in a position where their returns were less than ideal.

So early in a game I purposely served a ball with a too-high forehand stroke, then immediately stopped the play, calling a fault on myself.

I was the second server, so the serve went to the other side. In fact, it went to this person who had been using the forehand serve. And guess what? He choked! He tried so hard to serve legally that the ball landed on the wrong side of the centerline. For the rest of the morning, the player, in trying to self-regulate his serve, ended up serving faults, or very soft, short serves, which were easy to return aggressively.

If this were just a trick on my part to gain advantage, I guess that wouldn’t be the right thing to do. But in this case, it helped someone understand and start to correct a problem, so maybe it was OK. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

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