Pickleball 411 is a highly successful video show on Pickleball Channel that is dedicated to providing helpful information about the sport of pickleball. But we know it is sometimes nice to read something you can turn back to when you’re not on the court. In this article we are lucky enough to have Bob Youngren and Gail Dacey talk about how you can improve your game by working on your soft return. Bob and Gail are great 5.0 players who’ve competed in numerous tournaments, but they also teach other players how to improve their games. They are going to tell us what the soft return is, why it’s important, and how you can improve yours! Once you read through the article, make sure you watch the full-length video that really gives you the visual tools you need to fully understand the concept of the soft return.
Bob Youngren: In all my years of teaching, I think the soft return is probably the easiest shot to learn, and it improves your game tremendously.
Gail Dacey: I like the soft return, and I use it all the time as do most of my competitors. It’s also great for beginners and intermediate players.
Bob: The soft return is nothing more than what some people would call a lob. It’s just a very high, arching shot, and if you can get it deep, it would be perfect. A very common mistake to make on your service returns is hitting the ball too hard. Also, you might hit it in the middle of the court and too short. That doesn’t allow you to get up to the kitchen line.
BENEFIT: MORE TIME
Bob: One benefit of the soft return is that you’ll have more time to get from the baseline up to the non-volley zone and not be rushed. You have plenty of time to get up there and be ready for your next shot.
BENEFIT: SLOWS THE BALL
Bob: Another benefit is that when you hit a soft shot back to the server again, they’re going to have to use the third-shot drop. And that becomes very difficult with a ball that has no pace. Now they have to create their own pace, meaning that they have to hit the ball very hard versus blocking a shot that’s just been hit to them.
BENEFIT: KEEPS YOUR OPPONENT BACK
Gail: As you work on your soft return, focus on getting it toward the back three feet of the baseline. This will give time for you to get up to the non-volley zone, and it will keep your opponent stuck in the back court. It’s always an advantage for you to be at the non-volley zone while your opponents are back. You have the whole court in which you can place the ball. That’s your Pickleball 411 for today. We really hope this has been helpful. Now there’s only one thing left to do, and that’s go play!
Rusty Howes is the Executive Producer and creator of Pickleball Channel. Rusty worked for the likes of Warner Bros. and Disney before creating Pickleball Channel to develop and provide fantastic professional video content for the pickleball community. He is deeply involved in promoting the sport of pickleball at home and across the country.