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The Importance of Being Centered

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I run a quarter horse farm. Horse people say horses need to be "collected." All four legs need to be beneath a horse's body, ready to move in unison in the same gait and in the same direction. Think quarter horse.

A pickleball player needs to be centered. Your head should be over your shoulders, your shoulders should be over your hips, and your hips over your feet. Shoulders and hips matter, your eyes matter and your feet matter. It’s as if you’re suspended from a string that runs through the center of your body. Practice good posture on and off the court. Make it a habit to move with grace. Maintain your balance. Tai Chi instruction is worthwhile. instruction is worthwhile.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BE CENTERED? HERE ARE SIX IMPORTANT REASONS:

1. It’s a component to prevent injury because you’re less likely to be off balance. Your moving parts are in the location where they’re meant to be. Having no unnecessary or awkward pressure on your joints is important. You’re using PICKLEBALL INSTRUCTIONyour hips and legs for power, not your shoulders, arms and wrist. Big muscles do the heavy work. Because your head is centered, your eyes don’t have to constantly refocus and readjust. Your movement is fluid.

2. You’re less likely to fall because your feet are under you, and you maintain balance throughout your stroke. You’re not rolling over your ankles or popping muscles that are being forced to extend beyond their normal range.

3. When you’re centered, you’re not lunging at the ball, unable to recover and maintain your position. When you’re off balance, you leave a portion of the court open. Your opponent can hit behind you before you can recover. This is an important reason to have compact strokes in pickleball—not a big tennis swing. Stretched out in a big follow-through leaves you committed. Better to be collected and centered for the next shot.

4. You have more shot options. If your paddle is up and in front of you and you’re squared off at the net, your opponent has no obvious place to hit. That leaves the middle as the probable shot location, and you both have that covered. Think of a prizefighter throwing jabs. If he gets off balance, he’s vulnerable— when he stays centered, he maintains his stance.

5. When hitting overheads, you’re able to push up through your body (feet, legs, hips, shoulders and wrist) for added pace. Full extension also allows for a better angle. Consistency of direction in your overhead is improved because being centered allows for repetition, and repetition improves your consistency. You push off on your right foot and extend. Your body is not broken up by angles at the waist or shoulders. You maintain one fluid motion with your entire body. And your feet are under you, ready to close back up to the net. Again, think quarter horse.

6. Being centered ultimately requires fewer steps. You’re not constantly scrambling. You’re moving with a purpose. When you get to the ball, you’re prepared to stroke it calmly, coolly, collected—and centered.

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