Soft-game
By: Tony Roig | January 10, 2022 |

WHY the Pickleball Soft Game is Always the Right Answer

We titled our previous blog post “The Soft Game is Always the Right Answer.” While the majority of the feedback has been positive, some apparently misunderstood the statement. In this blog, I want to explain why the pickleball soft game is ALWAYS the right answer. Not sometimes, or if this, then the soft game will work. The soft game will be the right answer every single time.

Let’s get the most obvious objection out of the way: what about the hard game – more players are playing hard, and that seems to work?

We did not say that the soft game is the ONLY right answer. Just that it is ALWAYS the right answer.

Say your name is Catherine Parenteau. You were ranked fourth in tennis in all of Canada in your age bracket. After playing in high school-you played tennis at Michigan State University.

As Catherine, you come to pickleball with a specific skill set. You can hit an amazing forehand drive. A killer backhand. Can smash volleys at will.

Would you want to use your skillset when it makes sense to do so in pickleball? Sure.

BUT

Most of us do not come to pickleball with Catherine’s background. We do not have reliable forehand, and backhand drives that we can hit out there. So what is the answer for players who do not come to the game with a reliable hard game?

You probably guessed it – the soft game is the answer.

AND

Note that even a player like Catherine Parenteau – who can bang balls with the best players out there – relies mostly on the soft game when she is in a tough doubles match. Why do you think she uses the soft game when she most clearly has a hard game (watch Catherine playing singles if you are not sure about her soft game)?

It is because she knows the soft game will get her results.

You can replace Catherine Parenteau with any number of top pro players: John Sperling, Cammy McGregor, Matt Wright, Dekel Bar, Simone Jardim, and on and on. They all have the ability to play a hard game – better than any banger at our local courts. But yet they all choose to play the soft game.

We usually urge caution when using pro play as a measuring stick. In this case, though, pro play supports an approach to the game that any player can use. In other words, we are not looking at pro play to isolate some shot or technique that they use that is difficult, if not impossible, for most players to use.

An example of this is the Erne. Players see pro players use the Erne and conclude, “this is something I should add to my game.” The Erne, however, is an extremely difficult technique to do reasonably well, much less master. Most rec play “Ernes” end up just being players jumping out to the side, leaving their partner alone on the court.

Thus, the Erne is not a technique that can be fairly adapted from the pros for use by us mere mortals of the game.

The soft game, however, is an approach to the game that we can adopt from the pros. We can see from watching the pros play that they use the soft game, repeatedly and successfully, to win games. Pros are playing at the highest level of the game, and the soft game is an integral part of their approach to pickleball.

How is this different from some other techniques that the pros use to their advantage – like the Erne?

It is different because the soft game is accessible to all players. The mechanics of the soft game are achievable by any player, regardless of 

    • Skill – a 2.5 and a 5.0 can both learn to dink.
    • Background – it does not matter if you played college tennis or no racket sports at all.
    • Physical characteristics – same whether you are 5’/120 lbs or 6’3”/240 lbs.
    • Age – 30 years versus 70 years does not make a difference

AND

We know that the pickleball soft game approach is an effective strategy. Exhibit No. 1 – the pros all use it when they are playing for the highest stakes. If there was a more effective strategy, you better believe they would be using it, and certainly when they are vying for the title of a major championship.

If you are not yet convinced, here is a link to a game breakdown we did of a top pro match illustrating the soft game being used. It is a hard-fought gold medal match between four of the top women pro players: Simone Jardim and Lucy Kovalova vs. Leigh and Anna Leigh Waters.

Conclusion

So, is the soft game the only right answer to a game? No. But it is always going to be the right answer.

And, as we discussed more fully in the other article, the soft game is available to every player regardless of your background, skill set, age, etc.

When you are in doubt about what strategy or approach will give you positive results on the court, add the soft game 

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.