Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Going Through the Gears

Coach Wayne’s Corner

Photo by Wayne Clark

If you follow my column on a regular basis, you know that I’ve recently been focusing on the importance and necessities of applying spin to the ball in all sports. As it applies to the sport of pickleball, I have discussed the comprehension and understanding of strategically using the third ball shot to get ourselves into a comfortable position at the NVZ line, and the need of putting “a little mustard on our shots.”

So, let’s now begin to understand the mentality applying spin to the ball.

In order to help us master the physical skills required to apply spin to the ball, we first need to prioritize and organize our thought processes of hitting a shot. Think of it like shifting gears in a car. There is a specific prioritized process/pattern which I follow to get up to whatever speed I need to be going, depending on the road I am traveling on.

The prioritization of the thought process/pattern of how I am going to execute my stroke is like going through the gears in a car. Obviously, the first part of the process is deciding where my shot is needing to land on my opponents’ side of the court. From that decision, (in this specific order of occurrence), I determine:

  1. What is the required height and apex of the flight of the ball needed to successfully place my shot where I want it to land?
  2. What type of spin am I going to apply to the ball?
  3. How much spin am I going to apply to the ball?
  4. Lastly, I decide how hard or how soft I want/need to hit the ball.

Applying this theory of a proper prioritization of a thought process/pattern when hitting a shot will help in the long-term goal of mastering the physical abilities required to confidently and effectively apply a variety of spins and speeds to your shots.

In upcoming columns, I will discuss in more detail, how and why the intended flight path of the ball determines our choices of what kind of spin and how much spin I/we need to apply to the ball; as well as the physical applications of executing underpin/slice shots.

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years’ experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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