OK, let’s be honest. For many of us, pickleball is like a drug. We are “addicted!” Addicted to hitting that little plastic ball, addicted to the sound it makes coming off our paddles, addicted to learning and getting better, addicted to the “social scene” and more! We just can’t help it! However, the “need for speed” in the case of pickleball has quite a different meaning.
Now, of course, we see addiction to pickleball as a good and healthy thing (note: if it becomes unhealthy, you might seek counseling). When people first start playing, they are told about and (mostly) understand the value of dinking. That being said, typically, after one or two dinks, they feel... (wait, wait, here it comes...) the need for speed! Right? Whether the player comes from tennis or badminton, racquetball or squash, the ability (or patience) to dink more than a few shots is not there. The dink is unlike any shot in the above-listed sports so our tolerance to it is low. In response, we trend toward what we do know—SPEED!
In most cases, speed is a good thing. However, in pickleball, the opposite is true. The slower the ball and the more unattackable the dink, the more successful the outcome. While we are seeing more and more speed in the current game, we are primarily seeing it after a player has leveraged his/her dink or third shot to earn a waist/chest-high ball. So how does a player effectively learn how to fight “the urge”?
As with any challenging situation, you must have patience and discipline to develop confidence. Therefore, the best medicine for this addiction is practice!
Many love the “Popcorn” drill. Wait, what? I get to eat popcorn and play pickleball? Not exactly, but this exercise will help satiate your appetite. Stand in the middle of the non-volley zone across the net from your practice partner, who is also in the middle of the non-volley zone; start a dink rally trying to make the shot hit the top of the net and still land in your partner’s NVZ. When this happens, yell, “Popcorn!” Play to 3 or 5 (or whatever number suits you) and switch directions.
Once your dink tolerance is up to 20-30 shots, you will be able to intentionally construct a point and earn that opportunity for SPEED that you so desire!! I look forward to seeing you on the courts—along with all the other addicts!