Where Should I Hit the Ball?
By Tyson McGuffin
Calculated Speed-Ups and Premature “Attackulation”
Speeding up from the kitchen line and being sneaky is one of the most enjoyable things in pickleball. There’s a phrase we use on the pro tour—a term I heard frequently from other players when I played with Matt Goebel—it's called getting “Goebilized.” Matt has a wicked speed-up and getting “Goebilized" means being able to put your opponent in a pretzel or when your opponent ends up giving himself a wet willy in opposite ears because he didn’t see your speed-up coming. If you ever see your opponent in one of these positions, you know you did your job.
It’s important to know there’s a time and a place for a speed-up. I see this a lot with 3.0-3.5 players who want to pull the trigger when out of position, off balance, or simply because they feel pressure. If you start the mess, it’s either your or your partner’s job to clean it up. I call this a one-shot wonder, trying to be the hero, or premature “attackulation”! What’s unfortunate is that some lower level players find success in doing this and it throws them a carrot and makes them feel it’s acceptable, but Beginners Beware—don’t take the bait. This won’t work at the next level. I always tell my campers, “Ask yourself, is this shot going to work at the next level?”
Think about it—whether you’re on the right or left side or the court, if you speed-up in the middle, the counter usually comes right back where the speed up came from, so stay middle and get ready to re-counter. Start middle, stay middle! When speeding up from the kitchen line, make sure your attack is calculated and well-disguised. When attacking, remember SLY (stability, location, and yellow zone). If you can check all three boxes, then you have license to pull the trigger. There are two types of speed-ups—a precise off-pace attack and a fast-paced “chin music” attack. The well-placed, off-pace attack is aiming at vulnerable places on your opponent’s body causing them to feel uncomfortable and setting you up for a one-two combo or maybe you have two or three cleanup balls so it’s a 1-3 or 1-4 combo. Essentially, it’s a start and a cleanup ball. The other type of attack is geared toward an opponent who tends to hit a lot of out balls. You add pace aiming a bit higher or at their chest, knowing they’ll take the bait and hit an out ball. Players who have wide stances, limited mobility from the kitchen line and hold the line like a leach are susceptible to hitting out balls. Also, players who are prideful with their hands tend to be susceptible as well. Keep in mind, when playing with fire be ready for fire to come back or you will get burned. If you attack your opponent and the ball comes screaming back in a hurry, you should ask yourself these questions: 1. Do I have a stamp on my forehead that says, ‘I’m coming in hot’? 2. Did I hit the wrong spot? 3. Are my opponent’s hands better than mine? 4) Do they like pace? 5) Do they like to attack or counterattack better? 6) Did I have a case of premature “attackulation?” Most players are generally an attacker or counter attacker—players rarely excel in both. Players who like to attack don’t like to be attacked and players who counterattack don’t like to attack. Keep in mind, if you’re going to start the mess it’s your job to clean it or put your partner in a position to bake off of your shake!
According to Global Pickleball Rankings, Tyson McGuffin #2 in Singles , #5 in Men's Doubles, and #4 in Mixed. He’s also Head Clinician for LevelUp Pickleball Camps, an IPTPA/PPR Certified Teaching Pro and Selkirk Professional Athlete.