4 Methods for Dealing with the Smug Lobber

One of the primary reasons tennis players migrate to pickleball is to avoid rotator cuff injuries related to the overhead smash. Additionally, lobbing in pickleball is relatively difficult compared to tennis because the court is so much smaller. So players with fantastic overhead smashes may not see a lot of lobs.

Pickleball overhead

Credit: Chad Ryan

While there are several effective strategies to counter the banger, there are fewer effective strategies to contend with the smug lobber. Have a shorter and less mobile player with a weak overhead smash get lobbed over and over again. Or lobbed and then dinked in turn repeatedly until they are exhausted.

Sort of a cat and mouse game. There is very little the exhausted player can do to erase the smug smile off the Cheshire Cat. Here are four options for dealing with the smug lobber:

1) Learn to leap like Michael Jordan and crash an overhead smoking into the corner. For some of us, this option is not viable. We have a hard time getting our shoelaces off the floor and we lack upper body strength.

2) Finish the game, tap paddles and never walk back in the court with that player on the opposite side again. This is not a bad idea for those of us whose frustrations mount when lobbed repeatedly. This is a better option then getting a concealed carry permit!

Overhead smash

Credit: Chad Ryan

3) The third option is to bear with it and simply hit overhead smashes back to the center line and try to endure. It may help to stand a couple feet behind the kitchen line to be better prepared for a lob. A corollary to this option is initiating the lob yourself. Unfortunately, most lobbers happen to have great overhead smashes and do so with glee.

4) Ask the lobber to desist. Not in the existential sense, but to simply stop lobbing. Tell him or her that it’s simply not fun.

Regardless of what route you take, don’t get discouraged. Pickleball is often a game of out-thinking and outlasting your opponent. Eventually the lobber may lose their cool, make a mistake or get tired of their own game. Wait for your opening to strike or work on sending those balls flying toward the baseline.

In the meantime, if you want to play pickleball that’s less a war of attrition, there’s nothing wrong with that either! Play the game that’s the most fun for you.

Meet The Pros – Lucy Kitcher

Meet The Pros – Lucy Kitcher

Lucy Kitcher

That Lucy Kitcher SMILE

Lucy Kitcher, originally from England, loves pickleball and she loves the people she meets wherever she plays. She is GAMMA’s first pickleball pro! Enjoy!

Can you list for us your recent wins so we can correctly introduce you?

2018 Great Lakes Regional, Mixed Doubles 5.0 with Ernesto Fajardo – Silver and
            Women’s Doubles 5.0 with Bobbie Phoumy – Silver
2018 Gamma Pickleball Classic, Pro Women’s Doubles with Bobbie Phoumy and
             Women’s Singles Open Pro – Silver
2018 SoCal Summer Classic, Mixed Doubles age with Tao Thongvanh – Gold
2018 Minto US Open, Mixed Doubles age with Ty Petty – Gold and
             Women’s Doubles age with Mary Helen Atkins, Gold

What paddle do you play with and why?

Gamma Mirage – it has great touch so I can dink with accuracy and the Gamma Needle.

What’s your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

About three years ago I was taking my daughter, Rebecca, to soccer practice at Bamford Park in Davie, Florida. A friend posted on Facebook to try pickleball. As luck would have it, pickleball courts were at the same park where my daughter was practicing. I dropped her off at practice and hunted around for the courts. The people at the park were so friendly, they gave me a paddle and allowed me to join in. One game and I was hooked! After that, I went to play pickleball three times a week when I took Rebecca to soccer practice. It wasn’t long before I was playing pickleball even on the days she didn’t have soccer practice!

What’s your preference – playing indoor or outdoor?

I usually only play outdoors.

US Open Women's doubles Lucy Kitcher and Maryhelen Atkins win Gold

US Open Women’s doubles Lucy Kitcher and Maryhelen Atkins win Gold – with Jodi Elliott and Geegee Garvin.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

Doubles!! I never played tennis and singles is more like tennis. Doubles is more about strategy and shot choice and placement.

What’s your favorite place to play? Why?

After this weekend my new favorite is Chicken n Pickle. There are outdoor courts which are covered so you can play even in the rain. There is also a restaurant right at the courts. My local courts are at Bamford Park in Davie, Florida.

What’s your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

Slowing down the game. Especially when playing against players who love to hit the ball hard.

What’s your day job?

Pickleball. I run tournaments and trips through my company Zero Zero Stay. I also attend lots of tournaments!

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I currently play about five days a week. I was playing every day but decided to try some other exercise such as Zumba and Pilates to keep me in shape.

Pickleball Joins the AAU and Brings Players of All Ages into the Fold

The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is a multi-sport event organization that promotes programs across the U.S. It was recently announced that pickleball will be added to the group’s roster and more opportunities to play will spring up in the AAU’s 55 U.S. districts.

The AAU has around 700,000 members and 150,000 volunteers, and formerly served to establish global standards in amateur sports. It also helped prepare athletes for the Olympic games. In the 70’s, they changed their focus to promoting sports programs for both adult and youth participants “beginning at the grass roots level.”

AAU Logo

This is an incredibly exciting development for pickleball—not only will the AAU provide yet another burst of visibility to the game, but the USAPA will work in conjunction to co-brand a series of recreational pickleball leagues and tournaments.

Those who are already part of the USAPA will be able to enjoy a special membership through AAU website (in conjunction with a full AAU membership) in order to enjoy these new programs.

Partnerships like this will form the foundation of credibility that pickleball needs to be recognized as a viable sport on a global stage. The more support the USAPA gets from longstanding organizations such as the AAU, the more easy it will be for pickleball to find its way into schools, rec centers, and hopefully one day, the Olympics!

AAU Junior Games

AAU Junior Games Medalists

If you’re interested in taking part of these competitions, keep an eye on the AAU Pickleball site to see upcoming events.

The Junior Olympics took place on July 30, but the Indoor Nationals will happen August 13-19 while the Outdoor Nationals in Nov. 28 – Dec 2. Both will be taking place in Florida, where the AAU’s headquarters are located.

Meet The Pros – Jay Rippel

Meet The Pros – Jay Rippel

Jay Rippel and Glen Peterson

Jay Rippel and Glen Peterson, International Indoor Pickleball Tournament, Sr. Men’s Doubles  – Gold

One of Jay’s goals in life is for his doubles partners to say he is a “really good partner.” If you ask Glen Peterson, he would say Jay Rippel is an outstanding doubles partner. Enjoy!!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

2018 International Indoor Tournament, Sr Men’s Doubles, Open with Glen Peterson – Gold,
       Mixed Doubles with Kim Jagd – Silver,
       Sr Singles Open – Silver
2017 and 2018 Canadian Nationals Tournament SR Open Mens Gold, 2018 Gold Sr mixed open
2017 Lakes tournament (1st ppf event)  Silver Sr Open Men’s Doubles
2017 USAPA Nationals, Men’s Doubles, age 50-54 with Scott Burr – Gold
2017 International Indoor Tournament, Mixed Doubles with Julie Haney, Bronze

What paddle do you play with and why?

I’m currently a member of “Team Selkirk” and play with the Selkirk  “Amped Omni” lightweight paddle. I love the touch and feel it gives me without sacrificing the power that my original Omni had. I play with the lightweight version and this has helped me tremendously with my “paddle speed” at the net when playing doubles. I feel I return a lot more balls with this paddle that are hit hard at me.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I was introduced to pickleball way back in 1992 at a 24-Hour Fitness Club in Bellevue, Washington by a gentleman named Ewol. It was played on carpet with the old Cosom ball. I was instantly hooked. There really weren’t any tournaments back then, but a group of us played several times a week until the club was shut down. Unless I’m injured, I have played pickleball weekly for the last 26+ years.

What is your preference – playing indoors or outdoors?

I really prefer to play outdoors with the Dura ball, since its such a fun ball to try and master.

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

When I was in my 30’s and 40’s, I preferred to play singles since its such a challenge to compete, especially against the younger players. Now that I’m in my 50’s, I prefer men’s doubles to everything else. I will occasionally play singles, but usually in the bigger tournaments. I also enjoy mixed doubles and have been lucky to find some amazing ladies to partner with.

What is your secret sauce? Any tips for players?

I think my style of play is a bit more aggressive than a lot of players. I’m always trying to create shots for my partners and keep opponents guessing on where my shot will be placed. I think with the way the game is evolving, my advice to new players is to not be too predictable, like always playing one style. I think everyone who plays tournaments and wants to compete at a high level should also look to add some sort of “offensive” shot to their game. Communication with my partners during a match is crucial to the success of our game.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

Jay Rippel

Jay and daughters Caitlin and Mackenzie

I’m able to play pickleball on a regular basis. I have a fabulous support system of my wife, Leigh and two great daughters, Caitlyn and Mackenzie. I play usually 3-4 times a week with a great group of pickleball players. Each session is usually 2-3 hours and mainly consist of doubles. Sometimes we will drill before tournaments.

What is your day job?

When I’m not playing, my day job is in the field of “financial services” and with stock market hours.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

My goals for pickleball are pretty simple. I would love to win a “Sr OPEN” Gold medal in one of the major tournaments (USAPA Nationals, US Open, Tournament of Champions). I’d like to stay healthy and pain free, and I’d like players to think that “yes he’s a pretty good player”; he is also a “really good partner!”

Engage Adds More Power to “Blade” Design with Control Pro Black Core in the Poach Extreme

In January we announced that Engage was releasing the Poach Advantage, a paddle that introduced several pioneering features such as its 6-layered face and black polymer core (dubbed “Control Pro Black”), which helped the paddle react to pickleballs differently depending on the speed of play.

Engage is now bringing its newest creation to the world of pickleball: the Poach Extreme. This paddle has the same qualities as the Poach Advantage but uses them in conjunction with the long 17″ design of the Blade. The result is a piece of equipment that allows players to drive balls past their opponents with minimal effort, all without losing the versatility that the lengthier face provides.

Its unidirectional texture meets USAPA guidelines yet makes it simple to send balls down unexpected paths, especially when paired with its versatile reach. And the Poach Extreme looks better than ever thanks to an updated design that features clean color blocks and a sleek targeting reticle.

The standout option in this line is the Marcin Rozpedski Signature look, showing the US Open champion’s name in the center. Engage shares that “Marcin, one of the best known Blade users, switched to the Poach Extreme and never looked back!”

As many players have noted, longer-faced paddles have become something of a trend, but it’s far more than a passing fad. Pro players across the board have found that the amount of court coverage and power they can get from these designs is incomparable, and now that they’ve been combined with Engage’s high-end technology, they’re more noticeable than ever.

The interview below is worth a listen for any players who have been reluctant to get on board with extended reach paddles (or those who want to know how to get the most out of their equipment). In it, the owner of the Pickleball Paddle Reviews channel on Youtube, Jack Bandel, interviews pro player Matthew Blom.

It’s an interesting talk that has Matthew explaining how he became one of, if not “the” first player to popularize Blade-style paddles. Back then, the first widely available extended reach paddles were produced by Brian Jensen of POP Paddles, but now many manufacturers have caught on and players are eager to find the style which allows them the most aggressive behavior without losing control.

Find out why Matthew had his first POP paddle taken away from him by a tournament director and why he now enjoys the Poach Advantage even more than the Blade! If you think you may not be prepared for a longer paddle, he also has some helpful words regarding the pickleball skills you need to master to use these types of paddles.



Interested in feeling the difference the Poach Extreme can make to your game? Try it out via PickleballCentral to enjoy our 30-day return policy!

Meet The Pros: Nick Williams

Meet The Pros – Nick Williams

Nick Williams

Nick Williams

Pickleball Pro Glen Peterson says: “I believe Nick is the best player in Washington state right now. It is safe to say Nick is one of the top 20 players in the nation in men’s open doubles.”  He sounds like one serious contender. Enjoy!

Can you list for us your major wins so we can correctly introduce you to our readers?

Gold at Yakima Classic, Quarters at US Open, Semis at SoCal Classic, matching wins against McGuffin/Goebel, Evans/Campbell, Johns/Siebenschein, Farias/Dawson. I also have multiple losses to many of these players so I certainly haven’t gotten the better of any of them.

What paddle do you play with and why?

I have been using the Selkirk PRIME S2 for most of my time playing pickleball. The paddle allows me to feel the ball on the paddle face as well as create spin.

What is your pickleball story? How were you introduced to pickleball?

I have a tennis background and played for the University of Washington in the mid 1990’s. My brother convinced me to try pickleball during the summer of 2016. I’ve been playing regularly since.

What is your preference: playing indoors or outdoors?

I much prefer outdoors on a sunny day. When the conditions are more difficult with wind, sun or shadows the game is more interesting. It’s harder to line up balls perfectly and play pure power. A ball out of round will drive me crazy though.

2017 International Indoor Pickleball Championships: Men's singles Open. Tyson MacGuffin (gold) Nick Williams (silver) Rob Cassidy (bronze)

2017 International Indoor Pickleball Championships: Men’s singles Open. Nick Williams (silver), Tyson McGuffin (gold) and Rob Cassidy (bronze)

Do you like singles or doubles better? Why?

I preferred singles in the beginning as the transition from tennis was easier. I now prefer doubles after learning some of the nuances. There are similarities between pickleball and tennis with singles but doubles is a completely different game, which I like.

What is your favorite place to play? Why?

The first time I actually played games was on a court tucked away in a small park in Bellevue, WA. It’s probably the best outdoor court in the area and is still my favorite place to play.

What is your secret sauce?

I try and stay mentally in the moment. Games are quick and momentum changes often. It can be costly to let negativity carry over from point to point.

Any tips for players?

After watching various levels play, I commonly see issues with court positioning/coverage. Teams shouldn’t get beat down the line or through the middle. Hitting hard with a cross court angle shot is very difficult in pickleball and teams should make opponents try and beat them with the most difficult shot.

What is your day job?

I work for Boeing as a Financial Analyst.

How many hours a week do you play? How do you make time to play?

I usually play twice a week for a total of about 5 or 6 hours a week.

Any lucky rituals before a big tournament?

I am not superstitious, but I do try and break a sweat with a good warm up before the first match.

Do you have any pickleball goals you would like to share?

I would like to experience playing against the top players at as many of the major tournaments as possible. I have a wife and 6-year-old twins, so finding the right balance will be the challenge.

Nick Williams with his twins

Nick Williams with his twins

Is Your Paddle Texture Standing Between You and Tournaments?

In May of 2016 the USAPA announced that paddle textures would be regulated so that players couldn’t impart as much spin in their hits (at least, not without proper technique). This caused several paddle manufacturers to either remake their offerings or maintain their current designs with the understanding that players wouldn’t be able to use those paddles in USAPA-sanctioned tournaments.

The amended rules state:

2.E.2. Surface. The paddle hitting surface shall not contain holes, indentations, rough texturing, tape, or any objects or features that allow a player to impart additional spin on the ball. Paddle roughness is determined using a Starrett SR 100 Surface Roughness Tester. The allowable limits for roughness shall be no greater than 30 micrometers (µm) on the Rz reading (average maximum height, peak to valley), and no greater than 40 micrometers on the Rt reading (maximum height, peak to valley)…

While recreational players went unaffected, there was also a sizable group of picklers frustrated to learn the paddles they’d been playing with would no longer be viable in competitive play.


Using spin as a technique can totally change your game (Credit: Melissa O’Donohue)

Spin is still a high-level strategy used to this day, but it’s more difficult to pull off and less extreme in execution without highly textured paddles, which “grip” pickleballs and send them twisted back across the net. When the USAPA made the motion to regulate texture, it was in the hopes of maintaining pickleball’s accessible nature and ensuring an playing field, so no one would be able to perform these techniques more easily than their opponents.

For newer players that weren’t competing at the time these changes went into effect this may seem like a non-issue, but it’s still an important topic that we see come up fairly often. Some beginners go into pickleball “blind” and buy whatever paddle they enjoy playing with or are recommended, but if and when they eventually look at entering tournaments, they may be surprised to find out the paddle they’ve been using isn’t allowed.

As such, if players think they eventually might want to delve into competitive play and don’t want to change paddles down the road (which is another feasible option), we highly recommend asking our representatives if the paddle they’re buying is “USAPA-approved.”

You can also check this information for yourself by visiting the USAPA website, highlighting the “Rules & Referees” heading, and looking at the “Approved Paddle List.”

Although the USAPA has limited the amount of texture on paddles, this doesn’t mean all paddles are entirely smooth. Our customer service team is always happy to help people decide which option may be best for them, so if you’re looking to get a bit of an edge when it comes to working on spin, we can help!

Lipen Chang, one of our customers, recently reached out to us because he found himself in a situation similar to that described above. He had purchased 6(!) paddles from our Amazon store but discovered that an upcoming tournament wouldn’t allow him to use his paddle due to texture regulations. We were able to replace his paddle with another option… after which, Lipen (and his partner) went on to win gold in the tournament!

Lipen Chang

Lipen Chang and his gold medal!

It just goes to show that even if you’re currently using a non USAPA-approved paddle, it’s more about the player than the gear! Of course, getting the right paddle matters when it comes to complementing your skill and getting into tournaments, so don’t hesitate to try different things until you find the perfect option.

You can always give us a call at (888)-854-0163 if you’d like to find out if your current paddle is USAPA-approved, what textured paddles we recommend and how to stay up-to-date on the newest paddle innovations. Best of luck on the courts!