Despite your age or your previous sports background, I think you can excel in pickleball with the right tools. I am convinced that focusing on balance will make you a better player.
“I’ll Never Get Better”
As I travel across the country I often hear players say, “I’m as good as I am going to be. I’m too old to get better. I didn’t play a lot of sports growing up.” You may not be as strong or as fast as those you play with, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get better. Frankly, one of the great things about pickleball is that no matter your age or your prior experience, you can love this sport and continue to improve.
However, to get better you need to focus on the right things. Rather than trying to learn a goofy trick shot, or spending endless hours on the court playing exactly the same way…I want you to commit to focus on just one thing.
Commit to This Experiment
For the next week, I want you to focus on balance…yours and the balance and stability of the players you watch. Make a commitment to focus on this for just one week, and I bet you will notice a difference. When you watch other players look for the following:
- Are they out of control at the end of a rally?
- When they must move to get to a ball, are they flailing widely to recover after they swing?
- Are they leading with their head?
- Do they appear stable and balanced at the non-volley zone line or are they hopping about never really getting set before they make contact with the ball?
Now when you play, I also want you to commit to analyze your own performance.
- Did you miss a shot you shouldn’t have because you were off-balance?
- Are you able to hold your position after the ball leaves your paddle, or are you falling or listing to one side?
- Are you able to stop and maintain your position, whatever it is, at the end of a point? If you do, are you in a good stable position?
- Is your paddle in front of you?
- Are you tracking the ball?
- Are your feet at least shoulder width apart? On the balls of your feet?
- Are you set? Are you stable? Are you balanced?
If you have others you drill or practice with regularly, perhaps you want to suggest that everyone stop and maintain their position at the end of a point. Take time to analyze your positions and see what you can learn.
Analyzing My Play
After a tournament, I will always spend time watching videos of my matches. My primary focus is my balance and stability. I analyze how quickly I am able to recover from a defensive, off-balance, position to an offensive one? I watch to see if I was stable enough to hold my position at the non-volley zone line? Before I look at strategy or the mechanics of any particular shots, I focus on my balance. I know that balance is required for me to feel comfortable and confident. I know that comfort and confidence is required for me to play at my best.