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My Favorite Response to Slammers

In doubles, if you hold your paddle loosely when you’re right at the kitchen line, and you’re facing a slammer, just let the hard-driven ball die against your paddle and fall into your opponent’s kitchen. If the ball is coming so low that it almost skims the net, you might angle your paddle upward just a little bit.

They hate this, because they are almost always too far back to respond and it makes them look silly when they try.

It’s not an easy trick to learn, but well worth practicing.

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An Unexpected Time To Practice Serves

We all know how hard it is to stay tuned up with our serves. Most pickleballers will go through a week of serving yips now and then when they just can’t serve accurately to save their lives.

One thing that helps is to practice serves. For instance if you’re the first one on the court, you can grab some pickleballs and try a few serves. If you’re really hardcore, you might go out and work on serves for a half-hour when no one is around.

However, there is an unexpected opportunity to practice serves and it is during live games. No, I’m not talking about actually serving. What I’m talking about is every time the ball has gone out of bounds at the end of a rally and you have to get it and return it to the server on the other side.

If you’re like most, you’ll hit it to that server with an overhand stroke like a tennis serve. What a waste! Instead, serve it to the server. In most cases they won’t even notice that you returned the ball just like a drop or a bounce serve, yet you had one more chance to practice a serve.

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Surprising Pickleball Poem

I asked AI to come up with a pickleball poem. You could swear that the AI engine has actually played our favorite game:

In the sunlit courts where friendships gleam,
A sport emerges, a pickleball dream.
Paddles in hand, with a rhythmic hum,
A game begins, the battle has come.

On a striped surface, the lines define,
The boundaries of a contest, so divine.
A wiffle ball bounces, agile and light,
In the world of pickle, where passions ignite.

The court alive with laughter and cheer,
As players dance, with strategy clear.
A fusion of tennis, badminton’s grace,
Pickleball swirls in a vibrant embrace.

With paddles slicing through the air,
A symphony of skill, beyond compare.
Quick reflexes, nimble feet,
A dance on the court, a rhythmic beat.

The pickleball whispers, a friendly sound,
Echoing rallies, back and forth bound.
A game for all, both young and old,
Where tales of triumph and sportsmanship unfold.

In the kitchen, the non-volley zone,
Strategic moves, a player’s throne.
Drop shots delicate, dinks that inspire,
In pickleball’s world, where passions transpire.

From baseline battles to the kitchen clash,
A sport that sparks a communal bash.
In the heart of rallies, friendships bloom,
Pickleball, a joyous, spirited plume.

So, let the pickleball anthem rise,
Underneath the clear, open skies.
A game that binds, with a vibrant call,
Oh, pickleball, a sport for all!

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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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Artificial Intelligence Tells a Story

I asked ChatGPT, “Please tell me a 3000-word romance story heavily involving pickleball.”

This is what I got: (By the way, it’s only around 590 words.)

Once upon a time in the quaint town of Pickleton, there lived two individuals whose paths were destined to cross on the vibrant pickleball court. Meet Emily, a spirited young woman with a passion for pickleball that rivaled her love for adventure, and Jack, a charming and athletic man who found solace in the rhythmic bounce of the pickleball on the court.

The story begins one sunny afternoon when Pickleton’s community gathered for their annual pickleball tournament. The air was filled with excitement as players of all ages and skill levels prepared to showcase their talents. Emily, adorned in her lucky pickleball-themed attire, was eager to prove her prowess on the court. Little did she know, Jack, the town’s heartthrob, was equally determined to claim victory.

As the tournament progressed, Emily and Jack found themselves paired against each other in a heated match. The court became a battleground of skill, determination, and subtle glances exchanged between the two competitors. With every swift movement and precise shot, a spark ignited between them, transcending the boundaries of the pickleball court.

Their competitive banter soon evolved into playful teasing, and laughter echoed across the court. Unbeknownst to them, the spectators began to sense a different kind of rivalry blossoming—one that had nothing to do with pickleball rankings but everything to do with matters of the heart.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a warm glow over Pickleton, Emily and Jack found themselves in a tied game. The tension on the court mirrored the unspoken emotions building between them. In a moment of daring spontaneity, Jack suggested a tiebreaker under the stars, transforming the pickleball court into a magical arena of possibilities.

Underneath the twinkling night sky, Emily and Jack’s movements became synchronized, guided by an invisible force that drew them closer with each point scored. The intensity of the game mirrored the growing attraction they felt for each other. It was no longer about winning the tournament; it was about winning each other’s hearts.

As the final point was scored, the crowd erupted into cheers, but Emily and Jack only had eyes for each other. Their shared passion for pickleball had forged a connection that transcended the confines of the court. In that moment, Pickleton witnessed the birth of a love story as timeless as the sport that brought them together.

In the days that followed, Emily and Jack continued to explore the magic of their newfound connection. Pickleball became the backdrop for their blossoming romance, with each match serving as a metaphor for the ebbs and flows of love. They discovered the joy of teamwork, the importance of communication, and the thrill of facing challenges together—lessons learned on the pickleball court that resonated in their hearts.

The town of Pickleton soon became a haven for love, with pickleball enthusiasts from far and wide flocking to witness the enchanting love story that unfolded on its courts. Emily and Jack’s romance became a symbol of the transformative power of passion and connection, proving that sometimes, love can be found in the most unexpected places—like a small town obsessed with pickleball.

And so, Emily and Jack’s love story became a legend in Pickleton, whispered from one pickleball court to another, a tale of romance written in the language of swift volleys and gentle caresses of the pickleball paddle. The town continued to host pickleball tournaments, not just for the love of the sport but in celebration of the enduring love story that had put Pickleton on the map as the pickleball capital of romance.

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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.