By: CJ Johnson | December 7, 2016 |

Down the Middle Solves the Pickleball Riddle

3 reasons to hit a pickleball down the middleYou’ve got a good rally going, you force the error and your opponent gives you the opportunity to finish the point and then boom, you hit a sharply angled shot at the sideline and it’s out! Has that ever happened to you? Unfortunately, I still do it too often and you’ll see one of those mistakes in the video below.

One of the first catchy pickleball sayings I heard was “Down the middle solves the riddle”. Why does it seem like I still ignore that logic that I know works and just have to try a sharp angled winner? EGO! At least that’s what it is for me.

I love the feeling of a well hit put away. I’m also a pretty tenacious competitor and would much rather win the game then lose. Much to my chagrin most pickleball games are won because of errors, not winners.

I’ve been watching a lot of video from the recent USAPA Nationals, studying what the top players do consistently and most of us know the one thing they do is make less errors. A second thing is they use the center of the court frequently.

There are a couple of good reasons down the middle works

 1.  The net is lower in the center

2.   A shot hit in the center can cause confusion between your opponents

3.  There is more room to miss

I had the opportunity to play several games with Laura Fenton Kovanda when she was here this summer. At the start of every game she gave me a strategy and it always sounded something like; “this team probably doesn’t play together much, let’s focus on hitting down the middle.”

As I watch top players even the cross court dink, which at first glance looks like they are hit at a extremely sharp angle, often lands in the center of the box not.

Casual play is a great opportunity to practice something like this. I keep one singular focus for the entire game and in this case it would be to consciously try to hit every shot to the center of the court. As the point starts, I look at the center of the court and imagine the target in my mind. At the end of the point I look back and determine if I accomplished the goal and if I didn’t why not.

Dont’ misunderstand you don’t want to hit every single shot to the center all of the time, then you become predictable and one dimensional. However you may notice that as you hit to the center more often you decrease the number of errors and win more games!

Here’s a slow mo video of a couple of what not to do’s and a few winners ripped down the middle by Sarah Ansboury and Christina McGrath.

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)