By: CJ Johnson | September 7, 2019 |

Teaching Pickleball and Advice Giving-A Look Through the Eyes of a Contrarian

One of the things that makes teaching pickleball so much fun is there are always exceptions to the rule. It also makes receiving pickleball advice confusing.


In addition to teaching pickleball, I coach golf and skiing. In my career as both athlete and teacher, I’ve encountered a lot of advice-givers, some good coaches, and a few great coaches.

What’s the difference?

Advice givers are everywhere. They are eager to share the latest tip or tell you what you should be doing to improve. Mostly they parrot something they’ve heard and rarely understand if or why that skill would be appropriate. Usually, their input is unsolicited.  (Beware; they are lurking in every sport!)

Good coaches have a fundamental understanding of how to teach a skill. They understand the fundamentals and how to build correct movement patterns.

Great coaches master more than just the skill. They understand people, and they know how to teach the skill that’s most appropriate for the student. Additionally, they are well versed in communication and can adapt to the student’s preferred learning style.

My friend Bev drove this point home when she recently shared her thoughts on taking the ball out of the air versus letting it bounce.

To a person, instructors and coaches tell us to take the pickleball in the air as a volley whenever you can, rather than bouncing it.

I guess I have always been a contrarian, and once again, I see it differently. Here’s why I sometimes favor the bounce.

Taking the ball in the air is all about speed – giving your opponents less time to react or get into position. And that is a great advantage. But you also have to be mighty quick to hit all volleys. And, you can only volley the higher shots that come to you, often reacting rather than plotting and controlling the delivery.

Letting the ball bounce gives your opponents more time to get into position and anticipate your shot. But it also gives you more time to consider your options.

What I have found is the longer I  wait for the ball to bounce, the more entrenched the opponents get in their positions waiting for the action. If I am patient and can disguise my return shot, I will hit a well-placed winner. Since I am not much of a slammer, I find more finesse opportunities if I let it bounce.

To each her own. . .

Perhaps this isn’t just a contrarian’s thoughts on the bounce. Maybe there’s a message about advice-giving and teaching pickleball here.

Some might read this and think that Bev shouldn’t be trying to hit a well-placed winner. Others may say that letting the ball bounce moves you off the non-volley zone and puts you in a weaker position. Still, others would encourage her to work on her reactions and volleys. While there may be some truth to all of those observations, in reality, her approach makes perfect sense for her.

In my opinion, two of a coach’s most significant considerations when teaching are physical stature/ability, and current/desired level of expertise. It’s evident to most that teaching someone who is 5’0 vs. 6’0 is as different as teaching someone who is 30, 50, or 70.

What’s less obvious is that it also means considering if that person wants to be a little better rec player or desires to be a competitive 5.0.

Perhaps most importantly, WHY does a person do what they do?

What does this mean if you aren’t regularly “teaching pickleball”?

It’s a great reminder that coaching or merely doling out advice requires you to understand THE INDIVIDUAL.

Yes, the advice may be correct, but if you don’t understand their goals and if they haven’t asked for your input, do you know what’s best for them?

Maybe next time you are in a situation to teach or give advice, you’ll stop and ask the player WHY?

Is Bev a contrarian? I think not.

What are your thoughts, to bounce or not to bounce or to coach or not to coach? Put your comments down below.

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)