Okay, here’s a little bit of a rant… Ready?
Getting Better Takes Effort
You have to practice to get better. You have to play against different players to get better. You have to pay for your mistakes in order to get better.
You won’t get better if you keep doing the exact same things you’ve always done. You won’t win more games if you keep hitting the same number of unforced errors. And, you can wish all you want that the tooth-fairy will grant you better pickleball skills, but I’m sorry to say, it probably isn’t going to help next time you’re out on the court.
Pickleball is No Different from Any Other Sport
You see, it’s taken for granted in every other sport that you have to drill & practice to improve. That’s why there are driving ranges in golf. That’s where there are batting cages in baseball. And, that’s why there are ball machines in tennis.
Back in my days of playing world-class table tennis, I regularly hit backhands for a solid 2-3 hours, and then I hit forehands for another 2+ hours.
Only in pickleball is it taken for granted that we’ll get better just by going out and playing our everyday games. And it simply isn’t true. Besides the fact that so many players get taken over by their drive to win a point, that they forget anything they previously learned, it’s simply too hard to make a dramatic improvement, ESPECIALLY if you’re already playing against lower level players.
And yet, how often do we yowl in frustration when we hit a ball out? (No offense, but how many times in your life have you actually PRACTICED that shot you just missed? Probably not very many…)
If You Want to Get Better, Drill. If You Don’t, Don’t.
Now, I know that there are a few of you who DO drill on a regular basis. And I know that there are others of you who would LIKE to, but don’t have a bucket of balls, or a partner to hit with.
But the vast majority of players, especially those who are amongst the top players in their regular group, never ever hit a shot outside the context of a game.
And don’t get me wrong. If you just wanna go out, get some exercise & have a blast, you’re absolutely 100% entitled to do that without ever hitting a drill.
But if you actually want to become a better player, it means doing some drills. If you’re committed to improving your level of play, it means going over the basics. And if you want to win more games, it means reducing your unforced errors so that you aren’t just GIVING away points.
It Doesn’t Hurt to Practice Anything. And Everything!
Now as many of you know, I’ve spent a good portion of the last few months traveling around the country teaching & playing pickleball. I strongly believe that just telling you what to do isn’t enough. You need to practice it not once, not twice, but dozens of times in order to actually integrate something new into your game, or to change a bad habit.
Now some people, particularly those in the 4.0, 4.5 and 5.0 levels tend to think it’s beneath them when they see that in Level 1 of The Pickleball Guru Academy, we cover Serves, Return of Serves & Drop Shots. They think to themselves, “Duh, I already know how to serve & return the serve, why not just focus on the drop shot?” And when they see that Level 2 covers the Dink, Volley & Put-Away shots, they either think “Ugggh, dinking is for wimps, I hate to dink!” or they know they need to practice the dink, but they think they have the volley & put-aways down. Or they brush off a recommendation to keep their paddle up since “Duh! Everybody knows that.”
Well let me ask, when was the last time you missed a dink? or a volley? or a put-away? or a serve? or a return of serve? Of course, most of us miss several of them, almost every time we’re out on the court. And after watching hundreds of players play across the country, I can promise you, it is RARE to see someone who consistently has their paddle up after the first two shots… most people are losing points, watching the ball fly off their paddle and out of bounds, without even realizing their paddle was down!
No matter your skill level, if you truly want to improve your level of play, you’ll benefit from drilling on the basics. EVERYONE will. We ALL need to strengthen our muscle memory on our good shots and we ALL need to reduce our unforced errors.
So Even If You Think You Know Something, Ask Yourself, “How Could I Do This Better or More Consistently?”
My intention in writing this article is to ask you, are you coming to the game with a beginner’s mind? If you really want to improve your game, are you willing to stop saying “I already know that,” and start saying “How could I do this better or more consistently?” Are you ready to put in the time and energy to improve? Are you ready to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way?
I still have clinics planned this year in Fallon, NV & Palm Creek, AZ before I head back to continue teaching near San Diego. Signing up for one of my clinics, if I happen to be in your area, is an easy way to get in a good 4-5 hours of drilling on the basics, but of course, the truth is, you don’t need me to do it. Just take this article as a reminder to stop complaining about the shots you miss and start DOING something to make better ones!
::End of Rant:: 😉