Column: How to succeed against the banger ball

'Paddle Up'

I first heard the term “Banger Ball” from coach Prem Carnot, the pickleball Guru. I like the term as it expresses the idea rather well of hitting the ball as hard as you can at your opponents to try to force it past or right at them so they make a mistake. Every shot is a potential winner.

The unique problem in pickleball is the game brings together an assortment of players with strong sports backgrounds such as tennis and racquetball, and players who have very little sports back ground in one setting to learn the game. That is because the game was originally designed for adults and kids to play together recreationally.

So here is the real problem. Bangers come on the court and see every shot a potential winner. Now in pickleball they painfully learn the hard way later that is not so. But at first they have great fun beating up on the less gifted players. The less graphic term for bangers is high impact players. Good folks all around. Their problem for some, but not all, is their early success leads to the illusion that is the only way to play the game. They get stuck with success. They are usually experienced tennis or racquetball players and some naturally gifted athletes.

On the other hand the problem for the less gifted player without a strong sports background is they wind up going against these players and sometimes just finally give up and quit. It takes a lot longer for the less experienced to learn the game in depth, but if they stick to it they too can enjoy success. They do not have to build a wall in muscle memory between their old sport and pickleball.

Here is why.

Five of the seven basic shots in the game are really set up shots to eventually hit one of two put-away shots or bangers so to speak. Those two high impact shots are a block and an overhead slam. I urge students who are not so gifted sportspersons to learn and drill the block and put away early on. This goes along with learning the other set up shots of course, but the block and overhead slam help them to stay in the game, get some points and yes sometimes win some early on games as they grow.

Meanwhile, the high impact players eventually run into a wall. The wall is where they finally come up against players who have the discipline to play the well-rounded game of high and low impact pickleball. This is where those folks either get a wake-up call or stay stuck. That is where they finally say, “Gee maybe I should have taken clinics,” and do so or get lucky and have more experienced players take them under their wing.

That is the harsh reality of the sport but take heart. The vast majority of players in the game are recreational players who are out there to get some exercise, have fun and fellowship and could not tell you from week to week how many games they won or lost and in the end “who cares anyway.” And yes there are a number of really gifted players who will modify their’ game to the level of players who they play with recalling for themselves when they were not all that good themselves. And no you will not lose your edge just because you help out someone less gifted than you on occasion.

Bob Atherton is the Northern Arizona District ambassador for the United States Pickleball Association (USAPA) and coach and credentialed teacher. Contact Bob at bobca39@gmail.com or 928-499-2498.