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Socratic Method

Having coached about two dozen players this summer with a new method, I discovered a system that is without a doubt the fastest way for people to improve their games. I call it “Socratic Pickleball,” or “Socratic Analytical Pickleball.”

It works like this: Four players of approximately equal skill level, or three players and a coach play games that are ordinary doubles pickleball. However, we stop between many of the rallies to discuss strategies.

I haven’t yet tried it, but I believe this would work well for two singles players, or a singles player and a coach as well.

The players are encouraged to interact. It doesn’t always have to be advice handed down from on high from the coach. As rallies are discussed, many interesting notions come up, many of which are presented in ways that are more memorable than just watching videos, or having the coach say ‘do this,’ or ‘do that.’

The player who is reluctant to come to the kitchen quickly learns to do so. The player who has never tried a long shot with forehand topspin learns how it’s done. The player who has gone into a serving slump (‘the yips’) learns ways to quickly over come the problem. The experienced player who is trying to answer many deep shots with backspin learns why that may not be a good idea, players learn the difference between a defensive lob and an offensive lob, and much more!

This can be done without a coach. Any four players can get together and critique at the end of rallies. Even without the coach, a lot of improvement will come to these players.

Did I say critique? It is important not to load up anyone with too much advice, especially negative advice. It is a rare human who could handle someone telling them “For the thousandth time, I’m telling you you’ve got to come to the kitchen!” without feeling resentful. In ideal Socratic pickleball, it is better to say something like, “Your backcourt play is so good, maybe you should see what you can do when you come more quickly to the kitchen,” or “I find I can cut off more angles at the kitchen.”

So go out there and try Socratic pickleball, and let me know how it works for you.

The Socratic method is attributed to the philosopher Socrates, who it is said would often ask questions, then offer his students to debate the relevant issues.

I’m planning to say much more about this. I’m planning to incorporate some Socratic methods into this very website. I’ve registered the name Do you think I should change from to that?

If you’re lucky enough to live in Marin County, California, check out Marin News, I may have an opening for you and your friends.

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