By: Tony Roig | March 13, 2020 |

Don’t let the tail wag the pickleball dog

You are at the no volley zone and see a poach putaway opportunity.  You bound into action, move to your right and smack that ball.  Right …. into …. the top of the net.

You must have made a mistake right?  Maybe the shot was not poachable after all and you should not have attacked it.  I mean, you missed it so it has to have been the wrong play.

This line of thinking is flawed.  The fact that you missed your shot is a factor to consider when determining whether it was poachable.  But IT IS NOT definitive of the answer.

The real question is: was the pickleball, in fact, poachable?  Was it a floater that you could attack?  Did you have a better angle or shot at it than your partner (e.g. your partner was still moving forward and not able to hit it as well as you)?  Do you have it in your skill set to hit that sort of attack shot?

You need to look at pickleball as a process.  Your decisions and shots are a part of a process where you and your opponents are vying to get to 11 first.  The way to improve is to work on improving your process: hitting the rights shots at the right times, moving to the right spot on the court, trying to neutralize and then attack, covering the middle, and so on.

Even if you try to hit the right shot you will miss some and make some.  There are no 100% shots (not even smash shots right at the NVZ are 100%).  What you are aiming for is to make a decent enough share (vs. the misses) that in the end you will prevail.

Too often the poacher who misses her shot will wonder if she made the wrong play there.  And she reaches that conclusion primarily because she missed the shot – not necessarily because the factors to poach were not present.  The same way that a player who hits a winning shot will conclude that he played the point perfectly even though some of the points we win we win badly (the shot not being repeatable in a consistent manner).

A brief digression into numbers.  There is an “awesome” putaway shot that you make 25% of the time – so 1 in 4 is a winner.  Whenever you hit that shot for a winner you think “that was awesome.”  I assure you, however, that your opponents are the ones cheering you on to try that shot.  Because the other 3 times it is they who are saying “that was awesome.”

Approach pickleball as a process – did I do the right thing instead of did I win the point?  If you do the right thing over and over and over, you will win your share of points.  And the more you do the right thing the more points you will win.

Don’t let the tail wag the dog.  Understand the difference and your game is sure to improve.

Tony Roig

Hola. Hello. Konichiwa. After 40 years playing tennis, I am now a full-time pickleball player and professional. As a 5.0 rated Senior Pro Pickleball Player and an IPTPA-certified Master Teaching Professional, my focus is on helping players like you learn to play their best pickleball. In 2016, shortly after starting to play pickleball, my friend Tom and I jumped into the highest division at the first US Open in Naples, Florida. That morning it became clear just how much there is to learn in this seemingly simple sport – a lifetime of learning if you so choose. Since 2018, I have been on a mission to share my knowledge of pickleball so other players can enjoy the game at a higher level and attain their pickleball objectives. When not studying or playing pickleball, I like to travel with my other half, Jill.