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Raise Your Floor… Not Your Ceiling

Sorry, no HGTV tips here. Just PickleballSpeak!

Ever had one of those days on the court where nothing feels right, nothing goes right and the weakest player in your community is smiling because he or she just collected their first win from you and will never, ever let you forget?

Pickleball winners (Credit: Michael D. Martin)

First, if there is any joy in winning, why not give a little joy? Second, we’ve all been there. But some players, whether in recreational or tournament play, are able to perform well no matter the opponents, ball, venue, wind, temperature or emotional state. They have raised their floor to a level of consistency that gets past those first rounds of tournament play until the muscle and mind are in sync and performing.

My wife and I showed up late to the beautiful Freedom Park courts in Palm Desert a couple days ago just after I took two silvers in Marcin Rozpedski’s tournament. We planned to just drill slowly that morning, but within a few minutes we were facing some outstanding players who were feeling great and banging away. One even had my Selkirk Omni 31P XO paddle (I love getting beat by someone with my paddle)!

Anyway, in order to prevail, we really had to focus and play well with almost no warm up! I was afraid that I would have to donate my trophies to the club otherwise!

One way to raise your floor is to jump off of it! (Credit: Chad Ryan)

My floor is often too low, but here are a couple things I think about to try and raise my floor:

1. Find your rhythm by watching the spinning ball. Which way is it spinning? Did I see the blur of my paddle hit the ball? Don’t be distracted by opponents or your partner. There is only a ball and a beat. Feet dancing. Back, bounce, swing. How many balls can I return in a row without mistakes?

2. Be consistent rather than banging away. Bangers often have low floors because balls either go long or in the net. Give every ball a life by hitting over the net and in. Make your opponents beat you with extraordinary shots. Then smile and congratulate them.

3. Warm up for at least 45 minutes prior to an important first match. Get relaxed. Hit at least ten great third shots in a row. I smile at players who spend lots of time and money going to tournaments and then warm up for only ten minutes prior to their first match when they know that their peak performance normally doesn’t occur till after an hour or two of play—and that they can sustain that level for many hours.

Player showing proper finger-on-paddle-face form (Credit: Baliboa Racquet)

4. Grab your paddle more firmly with your finger on the face. This can reduce the wrist action required in strokes. Wrist action in pickleball is tricky because players cannot “grab” the ball with topspin as in tennis or ping pong. Striking the ball more squarely with a firm wrist improves consistency.

5. Drill, baby, drill. Spend less of your time playing games, and more time drilling with a partner.

Some players have very high ceilings and very low floors… and they find it difficult to attract great partners. Players with lower ceilings but much higher floors attract great partners. Being a top club or tournament player demands consistently strong performance through ten to twenty games.

I would love to hear other thoughts or tips from players on raising their floor level of play.

 

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