Giving up on being an athlete: the pickleball thread

wiffleballhero

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Anybody out there playing pickle?

What's your take on this game?


OK, so I'm a hypocrite about it. I'm on record here calling it ridiculous, and in some ways it is. And yet, you know what: you get a little older, your shoulder starts to fall apart, and then there are courts right down the street. You can't play tennis anymore because of the shoulder. So, what are you going to do? Well, in my case, you go out and buy a silly paddle and you start playing pickleball.

And ... I sort of have to admit that I am enjoying myself quite a bit.

I guess I am three weeks into playing (mostly singles but some doubles), coming from a pretty extensive tennis background.

Some initial observations:
1. However silly the game seems, it is basically a fine game in which skill, strategy and technique are rewarded and so it is as gratifying to play as any other competition, in that regard.
2. Singles is really very good exercise.
3. Doubles is plenty fun, but not great exercise at all except for the general point that you are on your feet moving around, but it sure is not cardio.
4. The barrier to entry really is pretty damn low and anyone who played even a little baseball or softball with any competency will immediately be fine. If you have played other racquet or paddle sports you'll be even better off. And even if you have some mobility issue that makes it so you are unlikely to go play basketball or whatever, you'd be fine in doubles.
5. Pickleball appears almost to be a game where someone thought that they wanted to create a tennis-like experience in which tennis players with superior technique, power, speed, etc. had a chance to lose to players weaker in all respects. For example, I've been playing with a friend of mine who is a former college tennis player, college coach and tennis club pro. When we played tennis at my peak, I'd be absolutely pumped to lose a set 6-3. I was resigned to regular bagels. We're about even in pickleball, entirely because all of his technique advantages are almost neutered by the rules, court dimensions and equipment, and I have a couple transferable athletic skills that seem to be helping me a bit.
5. OTOH, otherwise tennis players have an enormous advantage. In doubles, I've already been able to play just fine with the alleged 'best' player in the area, and it wasn't that my partner was carrying me. All four players were about the same (I thought) and even though I guess I was the weakest player in terms of some standard pickleball strategy, it doesn't matter much compared to the way playing years and years of tennis overwhelms whatever that imagined advantage might be in pickle-only experience. For example, the most important shot in pickleball is the volley which you have to do from 7 feet back. Tennis technique is gold here and yet there are some pretty accomplished picklers that still seem to be working it out.
6. On the other, other hand, there are some weird shots that simply have no tennis analogy and that tennis players -- like myself apparently -- get beaten by. For example, there are regular cross court 'dinks' that in tennis would be pretty terrible shots because: a. the ball would bounce too much b. the receiving player would have a racquet a foot longer to reach with c. the receiving player would probably attack quicker because in tennis you don't hesitate over a 'kitchen' before jumping forward and d. lacking a no volley zone, in tennis you can cut angles a bit more aggressively. But in pickleball, you get these really weird sequences where the shot strategy is just not mini-tennis.
7. I think probably the best background for coming to the game would be a tennis player with significant squash or racquetball and table tennis experience (because the stroke in pickleball is pretty compact, short and front loaded vs tennis). But again, the barrier to entry seems pretty low. If you can hit a wiffleball, you'll be ok. Currently, I've been playing singles vs. a committed table tennis player with six years of pickleball also. He's very hard to beat, but not impossible -- we're splitting games but I think I am working harder.
8. I have to admit that I am amazed at how little strain this is putting on my shoulder and elbow, both of which for tennis I'd have to ice like they were Bill Walton's legs in the 1980s.
9. I was a kid in the tennis golden age of the 1980s. I don't think tennis courts even in that era ever saw half the traffic local pickleball places are getting.
10. It is pretty funny that the game has caught on with old people because the hardest part of the game is my back strain from bending over to pick up the damn ball. Yes, I've seen the suction cups.
11. I'm not convinced the paddles really warrant the gear fetishism that is out there. Taking a look at what is happening with the marketing of paddles and it is just... wow. I mean the rules are designed to make the paddle not much better than a piece of plywood, on purpose!
12. Really hard core picklers are pretty touchy about the tennis comparison and how 'unique' and 'complicated' the game is in its own right. I don't know. It really is sort of just pickleball-is-to-tennis as wiffleball-is-to-baseball. And sort of to that point, I've played lots of tennis, table tennis, racquetball and now pickleball. I think tennis just has more going on than these other games, athletically, strategically and technically. But that may be to pickleball's gain not loss.



Some strategy issues I'm encountering:
1. In singles, I'm finding that the whole frame of mind for the sport is that the server is really at a disadvantage. It is return and volley not serve and volley.
2. Also in singles, serving hard up the middle is almost always the right decision because it is your only hope to mitigate the returner starting to work an angle. In doubles, serving out wide seems good though.
3. Especially in doubles, passing shots and lobs are really difficult because your margins are so small.
4. In both singles and doubles the game rewards being pretty conservative -- play to give your opponent little to work with more than going for winners early.
5. I am clearly making some strategic mistakes because the 'book' on some of the angles is just not intuitive to me yet.


I'll be interested in seeing what other people are doing with pickleball (and down the road, checking to see if my perspective changes).
 
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jezza1918

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I love the thread name, and given I call it "wiffle ball tennis" I love the thread starter. It's fine, it can be fun, and the easy entry to the game is a huge selling point. If an athletic couple, with no tennis background decided they wanted to pay me to teach them tennis so that they become good enough to hit on their own and have fun/get exercise...you're talking probably a year's worth and thousands of dollars in lessons. Pickleball - maybe a few weeks?
My personal issue with the game is what you get at in #12...I find the strategy lacking. im oversimplifying a bit but I actually enjoyed it more when I was just starting out, now it's basically glorified mini tennis with dinks and dunks at the kitchen line waiting for an opening.
 

wiffleballhero

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I actually enjoyed it more when I was just starting out, now it's basically glorified mini tennis with dinks and dunks at the kitchen line waiting for an opening.
hmmm.... I am a little worried about this. I am enjoying trying to rip passing shots, blast volleys at people and otherwise do things that picklers tell me are the wrong shot. I wonder if it is going to become too mechanical once I submit and just start dinking balls where I am now trying to rip at it.

The Track at NB in Brighton near the Bruins/Celtics practice facilities has public open hours for pickleball...but not use for the actual track...you know, since it's an indoor track....
The courts that I am playing at were tennis courts before the pandemic. Two tennis courts are now divided into six pickleball courts, with a fixed chain link fence down the middle -- tennis no more.
 

Ale Xander

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Pickle ball was created so 80 year olds wouldn’t have cardiac events playing tennis.
 

BaseballJones

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I thought it was dumb. But now I play some and it’s fun. Or at least it can be.

I’d still much return play tennis or even a good game of ping pong. Or golf. Or basketball. Or volleyball.

But pickle ball is fun.
 

Reggie's Racquet

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I played tennis in college. #goeagles. Then USTA mens's B circuit for a year then was a tennis pro for another decade. Our neighbors play pickleball and have been trying to get me to do so for a while. Then I saw an introductory pickleball video. You can't come to the net! Are you kidding? Serve and volley was my game. I might...might give it a try but probably singles...no social chatty doubles.
 

wiffleballhero

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You can't come to the net! Are you kidding? Serve and volley was my game.
A more experienced player might want to chime in with some different ideas, but you'll find that you volley all the time in pickleball and the kitchen rule will make your actual tennis ability to volley more of an advantage, not less, because you'll be immediately unfazed by the 7 foot setback.

I'd bet a fair amount of money that you will need less than ten minutes to be better than your neighbors, based on your tennis résumé.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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10. It is pretty funny that the game has caught on with old people because the hardest part of the game is my back strain from bending over to pick up the damn ball. Yes, I've seen the suction cups.
Pre-pandemic I was playing in a 3-3 outdoor basketball game with some older folks and they gave it up when COVID hit and decided that pickleball would be a better thing to do for all concerned. I played twice and after the second time my back ached - not just from picking up the ball but also getting to shots (I didn't go in and volley so that was probably a strategic error on my part) so I stopped playing.

I'd still rather play tennis.

And basketball.
 

jezza1918

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hmmm.... I am a little worried about this. I am enjoying trying to rip passing shots, blast volleys at people and otherwise do things that picklers tell me are the wrong shot. I wonder if it is going to become too mechanical once I submit and just start dinking balls where I am now trying to rip at it.



The courts that I am playing at were tennis courts before the pandemic. Two tennis courts are now divided into six pickleball courts, with a fixed chain link fence down the middle -- tennis no more.
I think what you'll find is if you try to rip against better players/people with good hands when you aren't supposed to rip, it typically won't end well for you. I have more fun playing 'intermediate' type when I can play somewhat stupidly.
I played tennis in college. #goeagles. Then USTA mens's B circuit for a year then was a tennis pro for another decade. Our neighbors play pickleball and have been trying to get me to do so for a while. Then I saw an introductory pickleball video. You can't come to the net! Are you kidding? Serve and volley was my game. I might...might give it a try but probably singles...no social chatty doubles.
I'm probably in the same relative bucket as you (#gospiders), and my advice is to give it a whirl and get good enough at it so when the opportunity presents itself to play, you can take part and have some fun/get some exercise while doing so. It's the avenue I've found, although I pretty much loathe playing tennis on a regular basis at this point, so we might differ there.
 

Reggie's Racquet

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I think what you'll find is if you try to rip against better players/people with good hands when you aren't supposed to rip, it typically won't end well for you. I have more fun playing 'intermediate' type when I can play somewhat stupidly.

I'm probably in the same relative bucket as you (#gospiders), and my advice is to give it a whirl and get good enough at it so when the opportunity presents itself to play, you can take part and have some fun/get some exercise while doing so. It's the avenue I've found, although I pretty much loathe playing tennis on a regular basis at this point, so we might differ there.
Thanks. Singles and even doubles tennis is too hard on my knee at this point. So maybe pickelball is the answer.
 

Rick Burlesons Yam Bag

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I played a lot of racquet sports as a kid and have been on a ton of folks’ “oh shit we need an emergency doubles partner” list for the last 20 years. I can play well enough to be a decent partner to folks who have been club champs and consider themselves competitive.

However, I am also a strong, lifelong “basement ping pong” player and that experience is at least as relevant for pickleball.

As others have mentioned, as you get better at pickleball the things you are doing will get torched. Pickleball is like the French Open, you need touch, the ability to spin the ball, and strong court awareness. But it is way easier on your knees, elbows and shoulders.

As far as getting bored, I am not there yet and I have been playing 2-3 times a week for about 9 months. I played with some very good guys a few weeks ago and quickly learned that my game has way more holes than I realized.
 

Rick Burlesons Yam Bag

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Thanks. Singles and even doubles tennis is too hard on my knee at this point. So maybe pickelball is the answer.
Get the basics down and then play some competitive doubles pickleball. singles CAN be hard on your knee if you have stability problems. If you don’t have court shoes that are in good shape - and I know you know this - then get a pair. You do change direction a lot in competitive pickleball.

If I play tennis for 90 minutes now, every joint on my right hand side is in excruciating pain for days. With pickleball, after the first week I was “take a few ibuprofen” sore the next day and that was it. It has restored my passion for racquet sports.
 

jezza1918

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Thanks. Singles and even doubles tennis is too hard on my knee at this point. So maybe pickelball is the answer.
even better advice - just load up on advil and play platform tennis, way more fun than all of the above...yet I digress. Pickleball definitely has it's place, but I also understand why regular tennis players arent fans (although the uppity way some attack pickleball does a disservice to the tennis world IMO). With a shoutout to the thread title, I hope everyone enjoys this Instagram tip, it kills me (cant figure out how to embed this reel, sorry): https://www.instagram.com/reel/CosnFGHpUSo/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY=
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I'm 51 and just started playing tennis again after... um... a 30 year break. Still love it and it's crazy how quickly my good serve and backhand came back to me. I do like to shit on pickleball as tennis-whiffleball --- mostly joking though... BUT the amount of pickleballers that have taken over all the good tennis courts is infuriating (and the assholes leave their fucking tape on the court which really messes with the ball (tennis) when it hits those spots.
I played pickleball though and it is undeniably fun and it does reward strategy more than athleticism and power- which is fine... but it feels more like a social event activity (less than golf though) than a sport.
 

wiffleballhero

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If I play tennis for 90 minutes now, every joint on my right hand side is in excruciating pain for days. With pickleball, after the first week I was “take a few ibuprofen” sore the next day and that was it. It has restored my passion for racquet sports
Yeah, essentially this is it for me. I'd rather be playing tennis but the pain stopped being worth it. Even playing mostly pickleball singles, it is just not the same level of arm damage, or any damage at all.
 

radsoxfan

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My partner and I joke that the clinical indication for half the MRIs we read is "pickleball injury" these days. Not far from the truth, it's incredible.

I have no idea if these are injuries that would have happened to people playing tennis (or other sports) anyway, or it's more in people that wouldn't be exercising at all without Pickleball.

Of course exercise is good and I would never recommend not playing, just an interesting side note. The number of age 40-60 Achilles ruptures, ankle sprains, stress fractures (the list goes on and on) is amazing.
 
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Mooch

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My partner and I joke that the clinical indication for half the MRIs we read is "pickleball injury" these days. Not far from the truth, it's incredible.

I have no idea if these are injuries that would have happened to people playing tennis (or other sports) anyway, or it's more in people that wouldn't be exercising at all without Pickleball.

Of course exercise is good and I would never recommend not playing, just an interesting side note. The number of age 40-60 Achilles ruptures, ankle sprains, stress fractures (the list goes on and on) is amazing.
As a beginner, I was shocked to see how many people have turned ankles and knees playing pickleball. Nearly once a week I see someone go down. Mainly people who aren't very fit in the first place.
 

mauidano

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Was a big tennis player for a good portion of my life. Derailed by shoulder and knee injuries and haven't picked up a racquet in years. PB is all the rage here in Hawaii too obviously. Sadly there are no public PB courts here on Maui as the County is slow to move and convert. Politics at play. The only courts are at private clubs or private homes. So the general public has no access to the game and it's pretty much for the wealthy.

My son plays a lot because my ex (his mom) belongs to a Country Club and she drags him out.
 

BaseballJones

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My partner and I joke that the clinical indication for half the MRIs we read is "pickleball injury" these days. Not far from the truth, it's incredible.

I have no idea if these are injuries that would have happened to people playing tennis (or other sports) anyway, or it's more in people that wouldn't be exercising at all without Pickleball.

Of course exercise is good and I would never recommend not playing, just an interesting side note. The number of age 40-60 Achilles ruptures, ankle sprains, stress fractures (the list goes on and on) is amazing.
A friend of mine recently tore his Achilles playing doubles pickle ball.
 

radsoxfan

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A friend of mine recently tore his Achilles playing doubles pickle ball.
I see this almost every day.... it's wild. Gotta be a decent chunk of people who weren't previously very active trying to do too much, too soon.

My partner is a big tennis player and is a bit annoyed with the pickleballers taking over his club.

He might get a very small sense of satisfaction seeing them parading down the hall to the MRI scanner.
 

Rick Burlesons Yam Bag

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I see this almost every day.... it's wild. Gotta be a decent chunk of people who weren't previously very active trying to do too much, too soon.

My partner is a big tennis player and is a bit annoyed with the pickleballers taking over his club.

He might get a very small sense of satisfaction seeing them parading down the hall to the MRI scanner.
As with all exercise, people also don’t stretch or warm up anywhere near enough.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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Another long time tennis player with serious ping pong (fuck “Table Tennis” Elites) skillz. Lots of squash and racketball background, too, so my first forays into pickleball were quite successful. But I have bad habits from those sports, like the kitchen line needs to be electrified or I am going across it. But it’s relatively easy to find a game here at Shady Acres, just mostly when I am working, so I won’t be able to hustle some games for another year or two.
 

SoxJox

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Ok everybody, this is a demographically important stipulation...that I recommend every poster's initial post in this thread reveal their age. My theory is that there aren't very many pickleballers under 40, maybe even 50.

Personally, I've never played the game, but am intrigued. I have a very close cohort aged 69yo friend in Palm Desert, CA who has picked up the game with his wife (niece of Steve Garvey) and neighbors and does nothing but rave about the game. So much so that he tries to leverage it as a principal reason for Mrs Jox and me to move out there and join them in their retirement community.
 

AlNipper49

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We play a ton. We have a court that is basically ours anytime that we need it. It's a perfect sport in the sense that I can bring my 11 year old to get him out running around and can play with folks with almost no experience. Like anything else, there are a small group of people who make it not fun by not realizing that they are not "good" at it because it's a fundamentally pretty easy game to play.
 

wiffleballhero

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My theory is that there aren't very many pickleballers under 40, maybe even 50.
Sure, it tips older, but not severely. At least this does not seem to match up with what I am seeing.

For anecdata:
Yesterday I played a bunch of doubles games with a partner in his 20s who I had never met before. I was on a court next to a group of dudebros no older than early 30s and we were behind a court with people ranging from 40 to 60. There was a doubles game going with women in their 20s and 30s, I'd guess, and then the other two courts had people in their 60s, it seemed.

The time before that, I was playing singles next to a group of four that was using a couple courts, switching between singles and mixed doubles. They were maybe late 20s? They were all total bangers and clearly were experienced tennis players giving it a go. I've even seen teenagers playing not just with their parents.

Weekday mornings though, that is the geezer circuit.
 
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TomTerrific

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Yes, this is our current vice. My wife was an outstanding tennis and ping-pong player but back injuries made her stop the tennis, and ping pong can only go so far. Now we have something we can participate in together, and it's a load of fun. We're even playing in a tournament this weekend (for only the second time, so still kind of a new experience). I was a really crappy tennis player though good at ping pong, but as I improve I actually I find my basketball footwork skills matter almost as much in playing well as do my paddle skills.

It's a great sport for the simple reason that men and women can play on a more or less equal basis. Also, while it can be picked up really quickly there's endless opportunity to improve. I beg to differ with an earlier poster who implied it can be summarized as just waiting at the kitchen for an opportunity. Tell them to go play a 4.5 or higher player and see how many of those opportunities they get.
 

SumnerH

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Ok everybody, this is a demographically important stipulation...that I recommend every poster's initial post in this thread reveal their age. My theory is that there aren't very many pickleballers under 40, maybe even 50.
I only ever played in junior high/high school and always thought of it as primarily a kid's game, but thought it'd also be great for older folks.Nice to see it filling that niche now.

I don't think it has the same distinction as wiffleball, though: the pitching there is insane and requires skills not really used in other sports, and the pros just make new players (even skilled athletes) look silly.

Pickleball is intentionally kind of equalizing, which annoys people who are super competitive but makes it great for a big portion of the population: it's social exercise.
 

jezza1918

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Yes, this is our current vice. My wife was an outstanding tennis and ping-pong player but back injuries made her stop the tennis, and ping pong can only go so far. Now we have something we can participate in together, and it's a load of fun. We're even playing in a tournament this weekend (for only the second time, so still kind of a new experience). I was a really crappy tennis player though good at ping pong, but as I improve I actually I find my basketball footwork skills matter almost as much in playing well as do my paddle skills.

It's a great sport for the simple reason that men and women can play on a more or less equal basis. Also, while it can be picked up really quickly there's endless opportunity to improve. I beg to differ with an earlier poster who implied it can be summarized as just waiting at the kitchen for an opportunity. Tell them to go play a 4.5 or higher player and see how many of those opportunities they get.
I do play with a few 5.0+ guys who play tournaments, and this is kind of my point...there are very few opportunities. And a lot of the point play is the dinking and dunking at the net. I should say im not nearly as good as these guys - can hang because of my tennis/platform tennis and general racquets skills background - but unless I commit to playing regularly lll never get up to their speed.
 

wiffleballhero

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I do play with a few 5.0+ guys who play tournaments, and this is kind of my point...there are very few opportunities. And a lot of the point play is the dinking and dunking at the net. I should say im not nearly as good as these guys - can hang because of my tennis/platform tennis and general racquets skills background - but unless I commit to playing regularly lll never get up to their speed.

What do you see as the barrier to moving to a higher level/ what would you work on to move forward?

I am asking because in other sports the unbreakable ceilings seem pretty obvious to me. Pickleball? I wonder.
 

bigq

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We play a ton. We have a court that is basically ours anytime that we need it. It's a perfect sport in the sense that I can bring my 11 year old to get him out running around and can play with folks with almost no experience. Like anything else, there are a small group of people who make it not fun by not realizing that they are not "good" at it because it's a fundamentally pretty easy game to play.
This is great. It’s been a couple of years since I have played pickle ball but I had a blast when I did. We play a fair amount of badminton, ping pong and a bit of tennis in my family and I have been talking up pickle ball to my wife and kids (ages 15, 12 and 9) for a while. I think they will pick it up quickly and have a lot of fun with it. I’m going to pick up paddles and balls this weekend.
 

AlNipper49

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Yeah man. That’s the other thing. For 99% of people the $10-$20 paddle is perfectly fine. Other than finding a court to play on there is almost no barrier of entry.
 

jezza1918

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What do you see as the barrier to moving to a higher level/ what would you work on to move forward?

I am asking because in other sports the unbreakable ceilings seem pretty obvious to me. Pickleball? I wonder.
Ok this may be slightly annoying because I can only tell you what I see separates the best amateurs from the level right below - but I cant tell you how to get there like I could for tennis.
1. An effective spin serve that doesn't allow the returner automatic advancement to the net
2. confidence at the kitchen line - by this I mean SO many people I see out there are like a full foot, sometimes more, behind the kitchen line. My guess it's because they are scared of stepping over the line on a volley...I had a slight advantage learning to volley aggressively without stepping over from platform tennis, I can see where it takes awhile for tennis players to adapt. But getting right up to the line is key - both for put away volleys and easier to hit a good dink shot
3. transition game - this is probably the toughest. But as the serving time it's huge if you can master your first shot post serve, that dies a little over the net, and gives you the chance to come in as opposed to hitting a higher one and letting them volley it, pinning you back
hopefully this helps a little?
 

TomTerrific

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Ok this may be slightly annoying because I can only tell you what I see separates the best amateurs from the level right below - but I cant tell you how to get there like I could for tennis.
I’m gonna give my own take on this, in part because I disagree slightly with what jezza said, but also because it’s something I’ve thought a lot about.

1. Pickleball has a rating system similar to tennis. Pretty much everyone starting is something like a 2.5. Anyone over 5.5 is almost certainly a pro, and the very best pros in the world are up around 7. (BTW, we're talking doubles ratings here. Singles is a much smaller element of pickleball, and different in style and strategy, so people have different singles and doubles ratings.)
2. Most people, if they wish to, should be able to get themselves up to a 3.5 rating (considered an advanced intermediate). Getting higher than that is going to depend not only on working at it, but on your combination of hand-eye coordination, athleticism, and quick decision making. There are lots and lots of pickleball players between 3 and 3.5 who seem content to stay at that level.
3. To get higher than that you need to master a set of shots and strategies. My personal belief is that the serve is not a big part of this. For a small number of players the serve is an offensive shot, but even for the pros it's mostly not. Most of them hit a reasonably hard overspin serve but most players 3.5 or above can handle those. It's being able to hit those consistently deep, but also in, that matters the most. The biggest no-no in pickleball is an unforced error, especially an out serve.
4. To get above a 3.5, you have to accept that the game is won mostly at the kitchen line. Except for the player on the receive side not receiving the serve, everyone else needs to start near the baseline, so to progress above 3.5 you need to find ways to get forward to the kitchen line. The primary means of doing this is mastering the various kinds of reset shot, first from the baseline, and then from various points in the transition zone between the baseline and the kitchen. A reset is a soft shot that just clears the net and lands in the opponent's kitchen. If done right, it's a safe shot that your opponent can't attack, at least too vigorously, and which allows you to advance forward.
5. Against a good opponent it will often take more than one reset shot to get all the way to the kitchen. Watch the pros. It often takes multiple shots for them to work their way up there. Once at the kitchen, teams are trading soft shots (called dinks) that are (hopefully) not really attackable, until someone either dumps one into the net (less common as you get to the highest levels, but it still happens) or there is a speed-up shot. How successful you are at blocking such shots back without leaving yourself vulnerable (ie, get it over but don't pop it up) is really the determining factor in how far you can get above 4.0 in pickleball, because this is such a crucial part of the game.
6. The principle stated at the end of item 3 extends to the rest of pickleball as well--strive to make shots you are confident you can make that don't leave you open to counterattacks while putting pressure on your opponent. Essentially, try to force the other guy to make a mistake. I remember a pro telling me that the biggest difference between pros and regular advanced players is that pros "make more balls", meaning they are more consistently getting the ball back over, even if those shots look less than spectacular. It's the very low error rate of hitting (mostly) reset shots back that really separates them from us mere mortals.

Anyway, hope that helps. BTW, we won silver today in the men's 4.0 doubles in our tournament, which was not something we were expecting. I'll probably come crashing down to earth tomorrow when it's mixed doubles with my wife as partner, but feeling pretty good right now
 

jezza1918

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
2,945
South Dartmouth, MA
I’m gonna give my own take on this, in part because I disagree slightly with what jezza said, but also because it’s something I’ve thought a lot about.

1. Pickleball has a rating system similar to tennis. Pretty much everyone starting is something like a 2.5. Anyone over 5.5 is almost certainly a pro, and the very best pros in the world are up around 7. (BTW, we're talking doubles ratings here. Singles is a much smaller element of pickleball, and different in style and strategy, so people have different singles and doubles ratings.)
2. Most people, if they wish to, should be able to get themselves up to a 3.5 rating (considered an advanced intermediate). Getting higher than that is going to depend not only on working at it, but on your combination of hand-eye coordination, athleticism, and quick decision making. There are lots and lots of pickleball players between 3 and 3.5 who seem content to stay at that level.
3. To get higher than that you need to master a set of shots and strategies. My personal belief is that the serve is not a big part of this. For a small number of players the serve is an offensive shot, but even for the pros it's mostly not. Most of them hit a reasonably hard overspin serve but most players 3.5 or above can handle those. It's being able to hit those consistently deep, but also in, that matters the most. The biggest no-no in pickleball is an unforced error, especially an out serve.
4. To get above a 3.5, you have to accept that the game is won mostly at the kitchen line. Except for the player on the receive side not receiving the serve, everyone else needs to start near the baseline, so to progress above 3.5 you need to find ways to get forward to the kitchen line. The primary means of doing this is mastering the various kinds of reset shot, first from the baseline, and then from various points in the transition zone between the baseline and the kitchen. A reset is a soft shot that just clears the net and lands in the opponent's kitchen. If done right, it's a safe shot that your opponent can't attack, at least too vigorously, and which allows you to advance forward.
5. Against a good opponent it will often take more than one reset shot to get all the way to the kitchen. Watch the pros. It often takes multiple shots for them to work their way up there. Once at the kitchen, teams are trading soft shots (called dinks) that are (hopefully) not really attackable, until someone either dumps one into the net (less common as you get to the highest levels, but it still happens) or there is a speed-up shot. How successful you are at blocking such shots back without leaving yourself vulnerable (ie, get it over but don't pop it up) is really the determining factor in how far you can get above 4.0 in pickleball, because this is such a crucial part of the game.
6. The principle stated at the end of item 3 extends to the rest of pickleball as well--strive to make shots you are confident you can make that don't leave you open to counterattacks while putting pressure on your opponent. Essentially, try to force the other guy to make a mistake. I remember a pro telling me that the biggest difference between pros and regular advanced players is that pros "make more balls", meaning they are more consistently getting the ball back over, even if those shots look less than spectacular. It's the very low error rate of hitting (mostly) reset shots back that really separates them from us mere mortals.

Anyway, hope that helps. BTW, we won silver today in the men's 4.0 doubles in our tournament, which was not something we were expecting. I'll probably come crashing down to earth tomorrow when it's mixed doubles with my wife as partner, but feeling pretty good right now
This is great and all tracks. And congrats on the W! Best of luck tomorrow
 

wiffleballhero

Member
SoSH Member
Mar 28, 2009
4,754
In the simulacrum
In a little while I am going to play singles vs. a guy who has similarly not played too much pickle ball. Unlike me, he briefly was a professional tennis player-- looks like he peaked at around 700 in the world. When we've played tennis together a few times it has been, as you might imagine, a situation where nails sometimes fare better vs hammers.

What should I do to work some pickle magic in this situation! (This may be his first time playing singles and it might be his second time playing at all since I bumped into him at the court playing for maybe the first time with his wife last week.)
 

jezza1918

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
2,945
South Dartmouth, MA
In a little while I am going to play singles vs. a guy who has similarly not played too much pickle ball. Unlike me, he briefly was a professional tennis player-- looks like he peaked at around 700 in the world. When we've played tennis together a few times it has been, as you might imagine, a situation where nails sometimes fare better vs hammers.

What should I do to work some pickle magic in this situation! (This may be his first time playing singles and it might be his second time playing at all since I bumped into him at the court playing for maybe the first time with his wife last week.)
Id think you'd want to avoid volley exchanges at all costs, his hands are likely far superior to yours. So Id focus on that, and maybe hoping he tweaks a hammie ;) good luck!