I’m willing to bet you may think the most embarrassing missed shot in pickleball is missing the serve. A missed serve means no one can help you win a point no matter how good your partner is in the game. I think the most embarrassing missed shot in the game is the overhead put away shot. Not only that, but more specifically, when you put the ball right into the net let alone out of bounds.
This does happen more frequently to newer players but amazingly enough to more experienced players as well. Look, you go to all the trouble of learning and practicing a really good serve. Then you do the same for the return of serve. Next you work hard learning and drilling on the hardest shot in the game, the drop shot and wow you get it in. Then the dink starts. You have practiced this shot over and over again. You have it down, then someone sends a volley at you and you hit a restart or reset shot. Oh yes, now you have the speed angle and pace to control setting up a mistake for your opponent to make which is of course a high shot, sometimes call a cream puff right to you.
What has been done up to this point in the game is execute a variety of set up shots to get the opponent off balance in his game so you can execute the put-away shot. Rather like a stealthy tiger working in the underbrush carefully or so carefully getting ready to spring on the prey as Prem Carnot says.
Then it happens. Your opponent hits a ball a little to high in the air. Now is your time! You wind up to hit a hard shot down on the opposite court. One of three things happen. You hit it and make it. Congratulations. You have done all that hard work and have been rewarded. On the other hand the other two things that happen is you hit and it flies out of the court, or it winds up in the net on your side. All that hard work, all those clinics, all those days and hours of practice are for naught.
What you sometimes see in the game as a result is the player who makes the error stamp his feet or hang her head, or even bang the paddle not so gently on the top of his or her head. Believe me, the opponent who just moments ago saw the eyes widen and froth coming out of the potential winning shot against them are really relieved and calmly walk back to the baseline perhaps with a smile on their face.
So what went wrong here? Some this has to do with getting overly excited with a potential winning shot. The opposite of what your emotions tell you is the order of the day. Be calm and in control should be the state of you mind.
The other thing is really simple. Put your non paddle hand up to point at the ball then rotate the paddle arm forward. Less is more as we say. By making that simple move you slow or stop the head, shoulders and upper body from becoming part of the swing downward. Less movement, more accuracy.
It goes without saying you should have your legs bent and feet planted with your non paddle shoulder turned toward the ball. Some tennis players know this from there early training but forget about it in pickleball at least at first.
For those not knowing tennis, they really do have an excuse until they take the time to get a clinic on it from their coach’s.
After you hit the shot you better get set and get that paddle up as you might be in for a big surprise about a ball coming right back at you. Another story for another column.
Bob Atherton is the Northern Arizona District Ambassador for the United States Pickleball Association (USAPA) a tier two Pickleball coach and credentialed teacher. You can contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 928-499-2498.