by Phil Arinno
I have noticed that when a person new to Pickleball takes up the game they do not have any idea of timing, distance from the ball and rhythm in the stroke. Usually what happens is they will completely miss the ball when trying to hit it over the net or if it is hit the action is quick, and very forceful. In my opinion one of the most difficult things in pickleball is not learning technique or even footwork—it is timing and rhythm.
In baseball we are taught on how to field the ground ball. We learn to drop to the ball, move to the ball and catch the ball in front of us.
If beginners were taught to toss the pickleball (better to use a tennis ball) over the net to each other without the paddle, they would learn to watch the release from the other person, learn how to judge the ball coming at them, learn to drop in the knees and body and at the same time catching the ball in front of them. This drill should be done until the player can execute it without thinking. This usually only takes a few minutes. After this is mastered then the player should put the paddle in hand and practice the same movements with the paddle using a pickleball. No attempt should be made to “hit” the ball back over the net. I use terms like push or guide the ball. I don’t care for scoop because it invites an underhanded wrist scoop which will leave the paddle face in a very lofted position. The reason to proceed in this manner is to stop the impulse to hit the ball back. Learning to block or stop the ball with soft hands is to train your mind to slow down and time your reaction. This should be done with shots to the forehand and backhand. After the student has learned this drill then the next progression should be to catch the ball with the paddle and softly bound the ball up with the paddle and then push it back over the net. Again this should be done with both forehands and backhands. The catch and push can be done with volleys when the student has become proficient in the ½ volley. This drill will improve foot work, hand eye coordination, more feel for the paddle face and learning to control your impulse to hit.
If a person starts this game always hitting hard it become much more difficult to slow down and direct the ball, learning to place ball to open up the court and set up shots for your partner is what we strive for in the game.