Pickleball: 3 Things that Will Never Change

Pickleball: 3 Things that Will Never Change

Paddle technology, faster balls, and an influx of power hitting tennis players into the game have changed the way we see pickleball being played. Lower attacks are now possible due the the power and spin our new paddles now posses. Resets and keeping the ball in are more difficult with harder balls, and a more prevalent sense of aggression has been introduced at every level. Every player who has been playing for 4+ years has had to make some adjustments to how we play. I don't consider myself a pickleball purest as I'm fine with all of these changes and I think they are good for the sport, but there are several aspects of the game that I believe will never change. There are some staples that make pickleball what it is and will always be essential in the strategy that comes with the game...I want to share 3 of those with you.

You can only hit the ball so hard - This is one of the adjustments that is becoming the most difficult to make, but in every sport ever played, the greatest players find ways to make good adjustments and I believe we will see this power  tamed to a certain degree in the not so far future. Pickleball was created with a very small court, making it very risky to hit the ball too hard without hitting it out. Yes, now with the power and spin that we have, we can take a little more risk and hit the ball harder while still keeping it in, but it isn't a limitless game...there will always be boundaries to how hard we can hit it. The biggest adjustment that players are having to make now is being able to get their bodies out of the way of out balls. The ball is coming so fast now, we are seeing more body bags than out balls in any regular match. But as I said before, players will learn to make these adjustments and make their opponents take pace off of the ball. Learning to let balls go is more important now than it ever has been. Even with the new power and spin, players are still having trouble keeping the ball in on low attacks. We will only ever be able to hit the ball so hard. 

Fast hands will always keep your opponents in check - With the new pace of the game, we are seeing more high-risk attacks from transition and below the net. Because the ball is faster, we are able to do this at a higher percentage than we used to, but none-the-less, anytime we put the ball in our opponents strike zone, there will always be some kind of risk involved. The quickness and damage that our opponents can do with their hands will always dictate how aggressive and risky we get with our attacks. Developing faster hands is the best way for players to keep their opponents from attacking them. This is and will be one of the most important skills for players to develop as the game continues to speed up. Just a quick tip that I personally use...over the past year or so I have really been working on increasing my hand speed. I have developed a rule of thumb for myself that if my hands aren't quick enough to counter a ball that is being attacked below the net, it is more than likely hit with too much pace for it to stay in. You can figure out how this rule applies to your game based on your own hand speed, but it's just an example of how we can still diffuse this aggression in a faster paced game. 

At the advanced level, control will always trump chaos - I teach a lot of 3.0 - 4.0 players and I persistently teach them to attack. At that level, it is a little easier to get away with risky attacks since their opponents hands probably aren't good enough to handle that aggression. I see chaotic attacking working at a high percentage at this level - So chaos certainly has it's place. But as we move to 4.5 and above, we see that chaos starting to get punished a little more. Chaos certainly has it's moments in the pro game as well. Last year, we saw Riley and Matt take down Ben and Colin Johns in several tournaments due to their relentless attacking style, but Ben and Colin made the necessary adjustments and they never let Matt and Riley beat them with that chaotic style of play again. We are starting to see this as well with Anna Leigh and Catherine Parenteau. Anna Leigh is probably one of the best chaotic players on the women's side (and yes she does it well!), but other players are starting to neutralize this and make her pay for some of those decisions. We will see more players make the needed adjustments, ultimately making the chaotic players make adjustments of their own, mostly causing them play smarter and a little more patient with good dinking and more strategic attacks. 

Of course, we do see the game changing and I'm not in denial that it is. I am however making a case that the pickleball gods have a way of balancing out the game to keep it unique and strategic. The game was designed to be played not like a slug fest, but more like a chess match. We are seeing some slugfest stuff happening at the moment in the game, but with time and as players make adjustments to neutralize this aggression, we will see players start being patient again and making more calculated decisions...if they want to make it to and stay at the top that is. 

It will be interesting to me to see if at any point, more regulations are put on paddles as far as spin and grit goes. I can actually see that happening in the very near future. If paddles have reached their limit, I can see the game as it currently is being more manageable and getting to a point where the best are forced to play a more controlled (instead of a chaotic) game. If they allow more power and spin to these paddles though, we will just have to see how far they allow it to go. Without better limits on paddles, this game can get very dangerous pretty quickly, so I see them enforcing more regulations very soon!

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