“Prem! I lost my serve! It just disappeared. I’m struggling to just get it in, let alone where I would I like to put the ball. Is it mental or physical?”
My answer to this question is, “Yes. It’s both!”
Losing your serve is awful. And yes, I’ve lost mine! Besides the fact you miss out on an unknown potential of points and advantages, it remains one of the top things that typically frustrates our partners the most. And, of course, the rest of your game suffers with the stress and worry of knowing it might happen again.
All you really have to do is get the pickleball ball in the serving area. I mean you have 150 square feet and you’re sure you can get it in. You’ve done it plenty of times. When you just can’t get your serve in you’ve acquired a state called the yips. The yips affect your mechanics and motor skills, and slowly seep into your confidence, creating a great amount of stress. Often with no apparent reason. The term originated in golf, but is now widespread by the sports media inclusive of any sport.
Recently at the US Open, a top player approached me and asked me to help as she was suffering from the yips and could not get her serves in.
This seems to happen quite frequently in odd situations. Unfortunately, this often happens on the brink of tournament!
How to get rid of them?
One of my suggestions is to try and relax. Like I mentioned in my last newsletter, take as many deep breaths as you can before preparing to serve. The more relaxed you are the easier it is serve accurately.
Like telling you NOT to think about a purple polka-dotted elephant, this is easier said than done! Sometimes it’s just not that simple to find your ’happy place.’ Your mind is tense, which makes your body tense, which tightens our muscles, which then leads unforced errors.
So if the mental aspect of resolving the yips doesn’t work, here’s the physical solution. Put an extra finger behind your paddle. “That sounds crazy.” But it works. And, it worked for her, even though she said, “This is soooo weird and awkward.”
I suggested she do it anyhow, as she could always revert back to her normal grip if it didn’t work. Nothing to lose! Lo and behold it worked! Yes, sometimes I even surprise myself! She did it! I saw her paddle acting all wobbly due to her tense mood, so I called in the-old-finger-on-the-back-of-the-paddle trick. This limits the ability to wobble because it loosens the grip.
Getting the serve in once again relaxed the tension and increased her confidence. It worked miracles on her serve and once she de-stressed, I suggested she go back to her normal serve…which started falling in place.
Remember to try this as soon as you get frustrated – it also may be a good to idea to practice this serve just in case you come down with a case of the yips.