“Look out!” is a common phrase used after someone hits a bad shot. It’s easy to recognize a bad shot—that’s proactive, but why is it so difficult to notice a good shot? So many players aren’t in tune with their own—or their partner’s—good shots, which is reactive. The difference between reactive and proactive often results in a loss of point.
The proactive player is ready for the next shot. He or she strikes the ball where it’s meant to be stuck—in front of the body. A reactive player usually contacts the ball late— on the side of the body—as a result of not being prepared. Being proactive will up your level of play. Here are a few ideas to help you stay proactive.
Every ball is yours. Think, “Mine. Mine. Mine.” Also, staying in a ready position—knees bent, compressed, body comfortably forward, paddle out front. This will help keep you and your mind in the point.
Have a dinking strategy. If you and your partner have a dinking strategy, you automatically stay proactive because you’ll know where to place the ball, enabling your strategy to work. For example, if your partner is working opponent #1 and you’re not proactive, you may undo all of his or her hard work by hitting to opponent #2 and letting opponent #1 off the hook.
Recognize trigger shots. Trigger shots are places where the ball will land and, most likely, force your opponent to hit a bad shot. One trigger shot is dinking to your opponent’s feet. It’s difficult to make a nice shot from your shoelaces. When you see that you’ve hit the spot, be ready, your partner’s next shot may be attacking a high ball. Looking for these trigger shots will keep you alert.
Another trigger shot is hitting behind someone. If a ball lands behind the player, there’s only one place for the ball to go and that’s straight ahead. So be ready for that ball. Your opponent can’t physically return cross-court because his or her body is in the way. So look for that ball straight ahead. Hopefully it will be high enough to make a decent set up or even a put away shot.
Hitting a trigger shot doesn’t guarantee your opponent will hit a high ball. Looking for a trigger shot makes you proactive so you don’t miss an opportunity. When you’re at social play and waiting your turn in line, notice how many people miss a put away opportunity because they were reactive instead of proactive.
Be ready to defend. You and your partner are as one player. Not only do you and your partner need to be ready to attack a trigger shot, you both need to be ready to defend. If your partner has been put in a defensive position, get low and ready for an incoming attack shot.
Start being proactive and see if your level of play rises. I bet it does and it’s more fun, too!