Last week we highlighted the differences between tennis balls and pickleballs. Today we focus on another difference. Every tennis player needs to ask themselves if they are moving too much when they play pickleball.
Tennis, Tennis, Tennis
I have a strong tennis background. I was nearly born on a tennis court and certainly grew up on one. Having a tennis background is wonderful. It makes pickleball an easy sport to transition to as there are many similarities. However, there are also significant differences.
When I started playing pickleball, I realized quickly that a lot of the things I did in tennis just didn’t make sense when playing pickleball. The most important difference was the size of the court. You can fit four pickleball courts onto one tennis court. That fact changes things! Let’s look at how.
The Last Two Steps
When I taught tennis I was always telling my students “5 more steps”, “2 more steps”. However, when I am working with pickleball students I am constantly saying, “You are moving too much.”
Certainly, when we play tennis there is a lot more court to cover. We are making large strides getting to the ball and smaller steps adjusting to each and every ball. However, in tennis and pickleball, the most important steps we take are the final two before we make contact with the ball. These steps set our foundation for the swing and allow us to transfer our weight into the ball.
The important thing about these steps is that you are let your weight sink into the ground. You want to be able to push off the ground as you are making contact with the ball.
When I observe students at the non-volley zone line, I often see them constantly moving. I call this constant movement the pickleball shuffle. When you are constantly moving on the pickleball court you don’t have the time to actually load those last two steps. These players also can:
- Cause unnecessary foot faults;
- Get caught when their opponent predicts the shuffle and hits to a spot behind them; and
- Drops their paddle lower and lower as they move.
Proper Pickleball Movement
Ideally, you want slower more controlled movement at the non-volley line. You want to be light on your feet but sturdy enough to hold up against a hard ball coming at you. I always want the majority of my weight to be in direction of the ball. This supports me when the ball comes and also gives me something to push off of when I need to move to the ball.
To protect against moving too much, I like to have a zone that I move within that is usually one step. If I need to move outside my zone I focus on picking up my feet, making softer, slow steps. By picking up my feet I am able to transfer weight and again push off if I need to change direction.