Enjoy Watching the Spinning Ball: Winning Advice From Glen Peterson

Here is some great advice from our resident expert, Glen Peterson.  Enjoy!

Onix Pure ball

To start, here are three things I tell every beginner:

  1. Be mesmerized by the spinning ball and ignore everything else.
  2. Move into the best position to hit the ball and get to the kitchen.
  3. Stroke the ball over the net and inside the lines every time, and let your opponents try to hit the winners.

Keeping my head down and eyes on the ball throughout the stroke is the most effective way to improve my game. This is likely true at every level of pickleball. Some suggest watching your opponents to anticipate their next shot or target their right hip or shoulder or hit to the hole between them. All of that is fine as long as you are not actually watching them but are simply aware. One of the greatest advances in tennis occurred when a well-known instructor authored a book essentially suggesting players do  only one thing: watch the ball. Everything else happens by instinct.

Pickleball is fraught with distractions. Where is my partner? Where are our opponents? Where will they hit the next ball?  How close are my toes to the kitchen line? Did we serve or receive correctly? Where should I hit the next ball? What is all that commotion in the adjacent court? Does my outfit match my paddle?

The wiffle ball is no distraction. It is the focus. The only focus. So watch the bouncing ball and say goodbye to all distractions. And watch it all the way to your paddle!

Why is this important?

First, check out the paddles of great players. You will likely find a 3 inch circle at the center of the paddle where the paint is marred or the paddle is discolored indicating that most balls strike the center. A ball which strikes the center of the paddle emerges with a consistent velocity. Beginners use the entire paddle face. Balls which strike the paddle near the edge come off with less energy and consistency.

Second, keeping your eyes on the ball throughout the stroke keeps your head down and steady. Most beginners raise their heads just before hitting the ball to see their opponents and find a good target. When they raise their heads, their entire body lifts, often resulting in miss-hits. Golfers get this.

Thirdly, raising your eyes before hitting the ball telegraphs to your opponents where you plan to hit. This may not seem intuitive, but your body is aware of the target without actually looking at it. In many sports, including basketball, only the target matters. In racquet and paddle sports, only the ball matters. Never aim. Let your body perform. Baseball pitchers see only a target while hitters and fielders see only a ball.

Fourthly, if you see how the ball is spinning, you can make adjustments. Look for back spin that might require that you lift the ball a bit higher to avoid hitting the net. More importantly, by looking for ball spin, you will actually ensure that you are focusing on the ball.

Now for one small exception: Don’t watch the ball when your partner is hitting. Keep your eyes forward and see the ball emerge back into your peripheral vision. If you watch it carefully, you will see it hit the opponents’ paddle and be prepared when it flies toward you.

Pickleball is such a simple game!  Practice being mesmerized by the spinning ball and see whether this helps your game. When I won the Senior Open Men’s Singles and Doubles at the US Open in Naples a few weeks ago, I reminded myself at nearly every point to do one thing: watch the silly ball all the way to my paddle!

Glen peterson

Glen Peterson at the US Open Pickleball Tournament in Naples, Florida

If anyone has suggestions for drills or tips to develop this habit, I am listening!

Glen Peterson

Don’t Forget This Important Step Before Playing Pickleball

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of pickleball, but if you jump into a game as soon as you hit the courts, it may be more than your technique that suffers. Warming up is a big part of not only improving your performance, but ensuring you stay safe during play. Slogging through a series of stretches and 15 minutes of jump rope isn’t the only way to activate your muscles; instead try these simple tips.

Stretching woman

Stretching doesn’t have to be a pain!

Drills

If you have a partner to work with, practice dinking back and forth or focusing on other techniques that concern play up at the net. You can slightly bend your knees and rally the ball back and forth, making your way toward one side of the net and then the other. This will not only get your body moving, but help you work on accuracy and control.

Walking Lunges

This exercise is a great choice for pickleball since your knees should normally be bent in a “ready” position during play. Take a long step and then slowly lower yourself in to a lunge, then push up with your quad and repeat on the other leg. You can do this a few times by following the length of the court. Don’t just go through the motions; imagine that you’re having to stretch for a wayward pickleball every time so that your muscles really activate!

Jogging

This is usually more fun if you can run outdoors, but taking a few laps will get your heart pumping so that your body is prepared for fast action when the game starts. The warmer your body is, the more hemoglobin gets produced, meaning higher levels of oxygen in the bloodstream pushing you toward peak performance.

Ready for a Jog

Suit up for a quick run

Swinging Motions

You know how you can end up flailing a bit when reaching for tough shots? Well, this warm-up technique is like that, but more controlled. Moving your arms in big circles or “windmills” will loosen up your joints and muscles so they’re ready to swing for pickleballs later on. The more prepped your arms are, the more flexible and resilient they’ll be.

Rock Your Ankles

Be careful moving into this position, but if you can comfortably get on your hands and feet, try linking one foot behind the other and gently move your grounded foot up and back. You should feel a stretch along the back of your calves. This motion can also improve your balance. Keeping your ankles safe during play is very important since it can be easy to trip by moving too quickly.

These are just a few ideas to get started, but if you want to continue playing pickleball for a long time to come, please be sure to properly care for your body before and after play. What are some of your favorite ways to get your body ready for pickleball?

Is It Me or My Paddle? A Definitive Guide

A lot of pickleball players will jokingly say that they must be using the wrong paddle when they miss a shot, hit out of bounds or otherwise trip over themselves during a game. As much as we appreciate this humble sense of humor, sometimes it really is your equipment at fault! But how can you tell if it’s you or your paddle? Allow us to help you decide what needs fixin’ below…

Missed Shots

This issue is about a matter of degrees. When you miss a ball, do you find that you’re just a hair’s breadth away, or are you a few good inches apart? If you’re not that far off, it may be the case that the paddle you’re using is simply too small or slender to accommodate your play.

This is why we frequently tell new players to use wider paddles, so that they have more surface area to work with. Alternately, you may want a paddle with a longer handle so that it’s easier to perform groundstrokes during games.

If you’re in an entirely different location than the ball when you miss, then unfortunately it may just be you. The best way to ensure you’re moving the right way during a return is to watch your opponent and not just the ball. Looking at their movements and the way they angle their shot will allow you to predict which way the ball will go instead of having to react once it’s already left their paddle.

Returning a pickleball

Can you return most shots, or are you scrambling across the court? (Image credit Michael Martin)

No Control

Are you always hitting out of bounds? Smacking the ball near the baseline instead of dinking into the kitchen? Or perhaps it’s the reverse. Your serve may end up short of the net, or you can only tap the ball onto the court instead of putting it away with a slam.

You could fix this by controlling the power of your hits. Reign things in if you’re slamming too often or work on improving your strength if your shots lack “oomph.” But usually it’s easier to find equipment that suits your strengths rather than catering to your paddle.

If you’re hitting too hard, then you should try a medium to lightweight paddle made with softer materials, such as a composite face with a polymer core. This will help to temper your strength and provide more control.

If you have a light touch, then use a middle to heavyweight paddle or pick materials that have a tough, “poppy” surface like graphite. The added mass will add more power to your swings and help ensure you can give the ball a good smack when needed.

Can’t Add Spin

Let’s face it, spin can be tricky. A large part of it is about how you angle your paddle, the motion with which you hit the ball, and being able to read the direction the ball is coming at you. It takes time and practice to learn. But this also isn’t tennis—there are no strings to help grip the ball or allow it to “sink into” the surface of your paddle.

The USAPA has cracked down on textured paddles to some extent, though there are a few remaining options that can help you literally “get a grip” on pickleballs so that they’re easier to spin. If you’re having trouble learning the technique, they may help. A few good textured options are the Apex, 30P-XL and Graphite Z5.

Working on spin

Does the thought of spin leave your head spinning? (Image credit Tanner Jackson)

Soreness

Most players can quickly tell if their aches and pains are simply from pushing their body during a game or due to a paddle. Pickleball has its own version of “tennis elbow,” as the muscles and tendons associated with hitting a ball can become strained. It may be the case that you have arthritis or older injuries contributing to problems with your swinging arm as well.

While physical therapy may help, and you could simply struggle through the pain, your health definitely takes priority over a favored paddle. We usually recommend a balanced middleweight paddle to players with joint problems, as going too heavy can stress the problem, while a light paddle will force them to use more of their own strength to get the same amount of power. It’s all about finding what feels best for you and understanding your body’s needs.

A good player can make any paddle work for them, but it’s also true that certain paddles will complement your strengths better than others. Have you ever switched paddles after thinking the problem was you, only to find a “night and day” difference?

Give a Special Gift with Custom Pickleball Paddles

Have you ever thought it would be fun to design your own paddle? Or create a unique paddle for a friend or family member? The good news is—it’s entirely possible to do this!  While we currently don’t have the ability to make custom paddles here at PickleballCentral, some of the manufacturers we work with do offer this service at a fairly affordable price.

Custom paddles make wonderful gifts since you can use pictures or other personal images on the paddle’s face, giving the giftee a little reminder of you whenever they play. They also serve as great prizes if you want to offer a truly unique reward for members of your local club during tournaments. You can use your team’s logo or another clever image to make your prize paddle stand out.

Pro-Lite Custom Paddles

An example of Pro-Lite’s custom paddles

The first and probably easiest way to get a custom paddle is through Pro-Lite. You can use your own image on their popular graphite Blaster paddle through the order form here. You can even select what type of grip you’d like them to apply and put different pictures on each side of the face.

The other option is going through Manta. While they don’t have an order form on their site, you should be able to contact them and request pricing. They have stated that they currently do custom images on their Extreme and Custom Pro series, however you must make a minimum purchase of 12 paddles for them to do this. As such, it makes more sense going through Manta if you want matching paddles for clubs or other communities.

POP Paddle Designs

Different variations of POP designs

We’re pretty sure POP offers custom paddles too. There are limited designs to choose from, but you have more flexibility when it comes to selecting the materials and weight. You can contact the owner, Brian Jensen, at brian@performanceonepaddle.com.

And what if you want a paddle with its standard design and slight modifications, such as a smaller grip size? Manufacturers are usually pretty accommodating with such requests. We ask that customers give the manufacturer a call directly, as sometimes they will be able to shave down a grip or modify a paddle’s weight to better meet a player’s needs.

Would you ever use a custom-designed paddle? What image(s) would you like to see on it?

Historic First – Professional Pickleball TV Broadcast!

cbs_program_banner

On Friday, May 20 @ 7 pm EST and again on Monday, May 23 @ 7 pm EST, millions of viewers will have the chance to watch professional pickleball on TV! This is the first time professional level pickleball competition is getting widespread national TV coverage. The CBS Sports Network is a cable channel with over 50  million subscribers. Will these viewers be inspired to find a court and play? We think so! Pickleball is ready to explode and we are excited to be a part of this community.

You can make a difference. The more people who watch the show, the more frequently CBS will rebroadcast it. Let’s all watch the show and help pickleball enter into the mainstream! Invite your friends over to watch the show together or organize a viewing party at your local sports bar.

CBS will be paying close attention to the reaction to this broadcast.  If the viewership is high and they get positive feedback, they will be more inclined to re-broadcast the show again and again. Consider writing and letting CBS know you want to see more pickleball on TV. Here’s the address:

CBS Headquarters
51 W. 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019-6188
1-212-975-4321

Need help finding the CBS Sports Network channel?  DIRECTV (channel 221) carries CBS Sports Network in its Choice Extra package while Dish Network (channel 158) carries CBS Sports Network in its America’s Top 200 package. A few cable operators have placed CBS Sports Network on a sports tier.  Click here for the Channel Finder.

In celebration of this historic event, we’ve made it easier than ever to start playing with our “Paddles Under $50” collection—now’s the time to encourage friends and family onto the courts. Be sure to tune in and enjoy the games!

SELNEO-4T

Neo Composite Paddle, Regular Price $47.99

 

test

Club Wood Paddle- Koko Dom, Sale Price $19.99

tyro large

Rally Tyro Pickleball Paddle, Regular Price $39.99

Raven large

Raven Oversized Widebody, Regular Price $49.99

Jackson, Missouri Gets It!!!! – Pickleball!

Civic Center Jackson MO

Brand New Civic Center in Jackson, Missouri

Doug Brown is a Pickleball Ambassador in Jackson, Missouri.  He worked on the City of Jackson the whole time they were building this new Civic Center, asking them to let pickleball be part of the program.  Jackson, Missouri just opened this new building this spring. Before they did the city asked the folks in town to donate funds so that they could fill up the gym up with equipment. So the town had funds given to the city for that.  The city let him tape the courts for pickleball and Doug invited some of the best players to come demonstrate it for several weeks.  He even got the local paper to come and do a feature on Pickleball at the Civic Center in Jackson.  One morning while someone was giving a tour of the building, a man came in and saw them playing and asked about the game. He left the building and came back to give a check to the city, but wanted it to be for the sport of Pickleball. I think that is what got the ball rolling. They had money before but now they had someone that had seen the sport that had money and they wanted to see it get going. $200,000 total was raised, and a portion of those funds was dedicated to pickleball.

They got to start their official pickleball schedule on May 10th.  Jackson, Missouri finally gets it!!! Pickleball!

SEMO (South East Missouri) Pickleball Players

SEMO (South East Missouri) Pickleball Players

The SEMO Pickleball Club on Facebook has a post letting folks know when to show up: “Someone asked when Jackson will start Pickleball. Next Tuesday at 9:30am☺️. This is the only day so far that they will offer a time to play. If we fill that gym up I can tell you it would go along way to getting more days😆😆 I have been working with them and should have a day soon to play at night. As I get that I will post the day they give us and again as they give us a time lets get in there and show them the need for night times for this sport. Doug Brown”

And on the Jackson City Parks and Recreation page, this is the news:

Event: Pickleball Play

Date: Tuesday, 5-10-2016 at 9:30 AM to Tuesday, 5-10-2016 at 1:00 PM

Details: Pickleball Play – Join us for Pickleball on Tuesday mornings at 9:30 am at the Civic Center beginning May 10! Nets, paddles and balls will be provided. Regular Civic Center entry fees apply ($2). Call 204-8848 for more information.

Let’s Give Doug Brown, USAPA Pickleball Ambassador, the SEMO Pickleball Club and the City of Jackson, Missouri a big round of applause for a job well done!

PICKLE ON!!

 

Do Smaller Paddles Have Bigger Sweet Spots?

Growing Trend: Teardrop/Tennis-Style Paddles

Many people believe that the greatest strength of teardrop or racquet-like paddles is their added reach. While this is a plus, along with the fact that a longer handle allows players to utilize a double-handed backhand, there are two other strong benefits that often go unnoticed.

Small Paddles are Big Sweeties

The first is that a teardrop paddle’s sweet spot actually spans more of the face than it does on a standard, rectangular paddle. As you’ll see below, due to the fact that the face is tapered near the handle and balloons near the center, you’ll find that the majority of the face reacts with a viable pop. Even if you end up hitting near the edge, these types of paddles provide a lively reaction.

Sweet Spot Comparison

A sweet spot comparison, the Z5 vs the Power Play Pro

In comparison, while a boxy shape offers more surface area overall, the sweet spot is only relegated to the central area of the paddle. A bigger face does offer more opportunity to hit the ball, and hence, can be helpful for beginners that need as much playing surface as possible. The trade-off is that the ball won’t react with as much vigor near the edges as it would with a teardrop paddle.

In essence, with a teardrop paddle you end up with around 90% of the face being “poppy” and usable, where only 75% or so of a rectangular paddle’s face is as reactive. This means that a small paddle can provide surprisingly big benefits.

Roll Your Way to Victory

The other major plus to having a longer paddle is creating space for the ball to roll across its surface. Without arguing whether a textured surface provides more spin, the fact stands that a smooth surface reduces friction between the ball and paddle, creating opportunity to build up spin as it rolls along the surface.

Of course, you need enough space to do this and develop a “scooping” motion instead of popping the ball away. The elongated shape lends itself to this, and in fact, one of our pros developed several paddles with long faces for this very reason.

The paddles in question are the Encore GP and Omni 30P XO. The Omni definitely has a stronger taper than the GP, but both provide a lengthy face you can use to practice a rolling swing.

Other good paddle options with tapered, long faces are the Evoke, Elite Finesse and Power Play Pro. These paddles are weighted a little differently than most, but once you get used to them, a lot of picklers end up liking the extra surface area and unique tactics they can provide during play.

Do teardrop paddles give you a competitive edge? Or do you think they’re more of a “niche” pick?