The Discipline of Letting Balls Go

The Discipline of Letting Balls Go

In a world of pickleball where attacking and aggression is becoming the norm, it is imperative that we learn how to let balls go. Many of my students come to me after tournaments or rec play, and one of the struggles I hear the most from them is the ability to handle hard hitting players. The first thing I ask them is if the balls they are struggling with are actually staying in the court. I see eyes get wide when I ask that. It's something they aren't thinking about mid-match.

The great Tyson McGuffin made a comment a while back that players who are confident in their hand-speed are often the worse ball trackers. (Meaning they have a hard time letting out balls go.) Ill say the same about any player who is 100 percent focused on getting a paddle on every single ball. If we are under pressure and we see that ball coming, the first reaction we have is to HIT! As we develop, we can also apply a better discipline for out balls into our game. There are a couple of things that we must learn to discern in becoming more disciplined in letting balls go. Let's see if we can tackle to those to help you become a better tracker of the ball. 

Are you keeping your balls low? The first thing we need to assess is if we are keeping or balls below the net; where our opponents are hitting up on the ball. If our balls are staying really high, we are giving our opponents permission to hit that ball as hard as they want. The problem isn't how hard they are hitting. The problem is how high YOU are hitting. Keep the ball below the net at your opponents feet. If you are doing this well and they are still hitting hard, This is a good indication that you can get out of the way of their hard shots. 

Does your opponent have a large or subtle backswing? This one is simple to see, but still not as easy to get out of the way of. If my opponent is attacking a ball that I am keeping below the net and I see their backswing get really big behind them, for the most part, I'm ready to get out of the way. A good backswing that is able to keep the ball in is usually shorter and/or lower to the ground. When you see the preparation of the paddle that is staying out in front of your opponent and lower to the ground, they are usually generating some type of topspin that will allow them to keep it in. This usually isn't applicable until you reach a more advanced level, but still something to learn to see when it happens. Big backswing? GET OUT OF THE WAY!

Where are your opponents standing in the court? Third shot drives are balls that we can afford to be really aggressive on and create big backswings on (even below the net) and still keep the ball in. The reason for this is because we are closer to the baseline and further away from the net. We simply have more court to play with. As your opponents start moving toward the net, we need to be more cognizant of getting out of the way. One rule of thumb that I learned early was to get out of the way of a 5th shot drive. If you are playing against a banger who only likes to hit drives, when you block their third shot back and they decide they want to drive the 5th, chances are they are going to hit it out. 

With all of this said, it takes a lot of practice to learn how to let balls go well. As you are working on this skill, just let balls go...just to see. The only way that your brain will be able to tell you when to let balls go is to see more balls land. If you are hitting every ball, you'll never learn this skill. If you leave a ball and it lands in, that's okay. Your brain is programming screenshots of what in balls look like and what out balls look like. This is going to work out in your favor over time. 

I always say, If you aren't letting go of some balls that land in, you're probably hitting too many out balls. Don't be afraid to let some balls go to see how you are doing with this discipline. Over time, you will become an expert ball tracker!

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you have! I am certified teaching pro in Augusta, GA and I help students improve their skills every day! If you would like me to help me with your game, please reach out me about my video analysis services so we can get your game headed in the right direction!

Back to blog

1 comment

This is the best piece of advice I have heard in a long time. We have a bunch of bangers in our area, and I have a hard time with them. I try to block them, but that just leaves the ball dropping mid court for an easy shot for them. I know most of their balls would go out. Their backswing tells me it’s coming. I will try to let them go.

Rich Bailey

Leave a comment