Pickleball Poaching: If you’ve been playing pickleball for any length of time and you play against people who are determined to win, you’ve probably been in the situation where the only time you get to hit the ball is on the serve or return of serve because your opponents hit every other shot to your partner (presumably the weaker player).
A question I hear a lot is: “Prem, do you have any suggestions for what to do when I’m playing with a lefty? “What I don’t hear quite so often is: “Prem, how do I play against a right-left combination?” and the reason I don’t hear it much is because a surprising number of players never even NOTICE when one of their opponents is left-handed (not to mention if both of them happen to be).
One of the best ways to improve your pickleball game is to play with better players. It forces you to play at the top of your ability, makes you pay for your mistakes, and puts you on the fast-track to a higher skill level.
All of that is GREAT for you, but how about for those “better players” who are playing with you?
It does almost the OPPOSITE for them…
Playing with you keeps them from having to play at the top of their ability, keeps them from paying for their mistakes, and keeps them from improving their skill level as quickly.
The culture of pickleball has always been very welcoming and inclusive of new players, but as you become more intent on improving your game, you DON’T always want to play with less-experienced players.
But everyone’s gotta start from somewhere, and even the best players in the world were beginners at one point…
So the question is: as a newer player, how can you graciously get to play with better players so as to improve your game? And as a better player, how do you “remember your roots” and play with lower-level players, and when is it fair to ask them to step aside so you can get a higher-level play?
Yes, it’s true. There IS a time when it is absolutely OK to talk like a top pickleball player, even if you don’t play like one. But I don’t mean trash-talking or even friendly banter (though you can do that if you want).
What I mean is: You can communicate with your partner the way top players do — even if you don’t play like one.
Part 1 – Call the Ball
Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “Down the middle solves the riddle.” In pickleball, a soft or hard shot down the middle often leaves your opponents both thinking the other person was going to get the ball and as a result of a lack of communication, neither of them gets it. — Score one for your team!
Of course, it’s fantastic when it’s your opponents who are confused. On the other and, it’s frustrating and sometimes embarrassing when you and your partner are the ones to be confused.
Equally as frustrating is the situation in which you are all set up to make an excellent shot and your partner goes in to make a less-than-stellar smash into the net. (Not to mention–AHEM!!–the case in which you are the one to take a great shot from your partner…)
So what’s the answer to these pickleball conundrums?