By: CJ Johnson | September 27, 2016 |

Better Balance Equals Better Pickleball

pickleball fall

Want to play better pickleball and avoid injury at the same time?

Improve your Balance

Today’s post will focus on improving balance as a tactic to avoid acute injury and play better pickleball. Typically there are two types of sports injury, Repetitive Motion/Over Training or Acute, something happening during play.

The most common acute injury in pickleball comes from falling. If you’ve played any length of time chances are you witnessed a fall. While there is no guarantee that you can avoid injury completely there are things you can do to minimize risk.

Here are 4 strategies to improve balance thereby lessening the chances of a fall and at the same time improving your game.

  1. Shoes

Sounds simple but look around the court and you’ll see a lot of people in footwear that not only won’t help their game but could lead to injury.

Invest in a good pair of tennis shoes. Your feet and legs are the foundation of athletic movement give them the support they need with a good pair of tennis shoes.

Tennis shoes are designed for lateral motion and use on a tennis court. Running shoes tend to have thicker heals, more cushion, lighter weight and are built for the pounding our bodies take while running. Generally, they are less sturdy than a tennis shoe.

It might be tempting to use a cross training shoe which typically offers more lateral support than a running shoe but why skimp on something that could lead to injury and time away from playing pickleball?

Want your shoes to last longer? Wear them only on the court.

2. Footwork

A lot can be written about proper footwork but the 1st rule of thumb DON’T RUN BACKWARDS!

The natural instinct when a ball goes sailing over your head is to back peddle to get it. That’s usually the wrong choice for 2 reasons; you are probably already out of position and it forces you to run backward.

A lob over your head should be covered by your partner.  They have a clear view of the ball and can run it down from a forward position. If neither of you can make a clear play on it without running backward, let it go and call it a good shot! It’s only one point and not worth risking an injury.

A more common mistake is backing out of the kitchen. How many times have you seen someone take a couple of short steps into the kitchen to return a dink? Those steps forward force them to take quick steps backward to get out of the kitchen before the next volley. It’s poor footwork and not an effective pickleball strategy as Coach Mo demonstrates in this video.

Just like other sports learning how to play better pickleball starts at the ground up. Good footwork will make you a better player and makes it less likely to trip.

3. Tired

When you are tired is your balance better or worse?

To avoid tiring quickly my body needs fuel and water during play. One of my friends is an endurance racer, often running 100 mile races. (not a typo LOL!) Her motto is “You can mess up your nutrition and a quick bite will fix it but you can’t recover as quickly from bad hydration”.

As the intensity and duration of play increases you need to cool the body down and replace electrolytes. Web MD makes these recommendations for water intake BEFORE  & DURING exercise.

Personally, I have a hard time drinking that quantity and have found a hydrator helps.  Vega Sport is my favorite. My body stays hydrated and I don’t tire as quickly.

No matter how well you hydrate eventually we all get tired. Once you do STOP playing!

Yesterday I watched my friends 3 year old rub her eyes and in a whiny voice insist she wasn’t tired as she fought the rest her body needed so she could stay with us. Sound familiar?

How many times have you played when you know you are tired? Maybe it’s because they needed one more player for a game or the competition was good and you were having fun. Doesn’t matter why we keep playing but the more tired our body becomes the more at risk we are for injury of all types including falling.

QUIT when you are tired!

4. Balance

There are a number of reasons we lose balance with age; sight, blood pressure, inner ear, and muscle mass just to name a few.

Regular activity including aerobic, core, weight training, and stretching will keep us in better health as we age. If you want to play better pickleball and improve overall well-being as you age don’t forget to work on your balance.

Improve your balance with this 5 exercise routine. It takes less than 5 minutes and doesn’t require special equipment. Guaranteed to challenge beginners and advanced alike!

IF this was helpful, feel free to share!

CJ Johnson

Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)