Becoming a Dual Threat Player: Part I

Becoming a Dual Threat Player: Part I

In my time of teaching, I have worked with many individuals and partnerships that often reference the issue of "getting sucked" into their opponents game. There are many different styles and strategies when it comes to pickleball and all of us have a preference to play a certain way. But what happens when your opponent plays a completely different way than you prefer? How do you avoid getting drawn into playing their style instead of sticking to what you feel more comfortable with? Over the next 3 articles, I want to talk about developing skills within two different styles and how to use both of them to adjust during your matches without getting flustered.

For the most part, teams that prefer to dink and play a more patient style of pickleball are the ones who get sucked into playing their opponent's game. It is also seen where the more patient style of play dictates the pace of the game, but more often, this happens at higher levels of play. Beginners and intermediate players have a better opportunity to dictate the pace of play from an aggressive standpoint. As your skills develop, you will be able to dictate better with a softer approach. I want to help you in this short article series to become a dual threat player by obtaining both playing styles. We will look at what you should work on to master both and how to use your skills to effectively transition between the two when needed in a match.

The first thing we must do is read our opponents and figure out what they are most comfortable doing. If a team comes out swinging and you see they have no interest in dinking, you can assume they are more comfortable driving the ball than playing the soft game. This doesn't necessarily mean that you automatically need to transition to the soft game, it just means that you are aware of where your opponent's comfort lies and this allows you to make the necessary adjustments throughout the match. Watch your opponents play and pick up on the shots and style of play that puts them under the most stress. You will want to use these shots effectively to make them uncomfortable. 

The next thing we need to be able to do is commit to our own game plan. There will be times where this game plan needs to be adjusted, but know what you are good at and how you win points best, and stick to that formula no matter what your opponents throw at you. It's easy to get caught up in a faster paced game when you don't want to, simply because it creates a little more chaos  and doesn't allow you a lot of time to think. Stay calm and work the points with the shots you know you have in your tool belt and stick to your strengths. I will give you some tips in the next two articles to help you do this, but mentally, we should be committed to our plan and know how to stick to our strengths to give ourselves the best chance to win. It's only when your game plan isn't working that you will need to adjust, and by becoming a dual threat player, you will be able to do that seamlessly. 

Lastly, we need to know when to change the style or pace of the game, why we are doing it and how to do it purposefully. I myself am guilty of this, but often we change the game plan before we really need to. It's important to be able to recognize when our game plan isn't a good one and when the problem is just our execution. You can have the right game plan and still lose because you aren't making your shots. If you are playing against a team that you know you can beat with a softer style of play, but find yourself losing dink rallies, don't abandon your game plan just yet. Know you may need to focus and raise the level of your play to execute the game plan you have in place. If you get frazzled and change a game plan when it's an execution problem, chances are you are just going to find another way to lose the match. Be committed, analyze how well you are executing, and only change the plan when it just isn't working. 

In the next article we will talk about skills needed to play an aggressive style of play and how to use them against a more patient style team. We will also discuss using the soft game to set up your aggressive style of play. Just because you are an aggressive player, it doesn't mean that your opponents will allow you to succeed by being aggressive. You'll need to know what to look for and how to adjust your game based off of what your opponents strengths and weaknesses are. Stay tuned for part 2 in this "Becoming a Dual Threat" Series! 

Please feel free to reach out to me with any pickleball questions or if you are interested in taking pickleball lessons in Augusta, Georgia!

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