Sunday, October 24, 2021

Keep Your Game Up When We Slow Down




For those of us residing here on a yearround basis, summertime, aka “off season,” is a time when we get our little slice of paradise back and things calm down.

Traffic has thinned out. We now see more Florida license plates than out-ofstate plates. No more long lines at the grocery store. We can once again get our favorite table, at our favorite restaurant, without waiting.

Everything has slowed down.

For us full time residents, aka “lifers on the rock,” who are tennis and pickleball players, this is a time when our playing schedules also slow down. Over the last couple of weeks, I have seen a major downturn in the number of players on the courts on a daily basis.

As the old saying goes, it’s “either feast or famine.”

In the height of season, there are too many players and we often have to wait for available courts to open up. In the summer, there are too few players and sometimes we can’t even find enough people to make a foursome!

In tennis, traditionally, someone will reserve a court, and prearrange four people to play a doubles match.

However, in the summertime, I have seen players end up having to play twoon one doubles, aka “Canadian doubles.”

Pickleball is different. People are used to just showing up and playing, but sometimes, in the summertime not enough people show up to even be able to get a game together!

Either way, we don’t want to let our game get stale from lack of play during the off-season.

So what can we do to stay active during this down time?

Here are a couple of suggestions.

As pickleballers, since there are just not as many players in the mix, we need to make an effort to stay in contact with our fellow players, who we know are still around. We no longer, necessarily, have the luxury of just showing up and finding people to play with, as we did in season; so like a tennis player, let’s make sure we will have at least four players available to compete.

Consider going into Naples, to other facilities and mix in with their groups. I always find it fun and challenging to go and compete against new players. Also, while you are there, invite your new friends, to come down to Marco and play here!

Talk a friend into giving pickleball a try. Take them out and show them how fun and easy the sport is to play.

If you have your kids or grandkids in town over the summer for a visit, take them out to play some pickleball, it’s a great family activity!

But most importantly, as a competitive player, take the spare time to improve your game!

Find yourself a practice partner and arrange regularly scheduled times to drill and practice. Try learning and incorporating new shots and strategies with your regular practice partner.

Now is the time to experiment and prepare for the onslaught of next season and the possibility of having to compete against new and better players.

Now is the time to work on improving your skills to take your game to a more advanced level of play.

The two most important factors in pickleball, which I recommend players work on to improve, are your serve and your dinking skills.

As an instructor, for beginning players in both tennis and pickleball, I believe that the



serve and the returns are the most important shots in the game.

Players at this level need to be able to get a point started and sustain a rally. They are not necessarily attempting to execute any type of advanced shots or strategies.

Along with that, in both sports, as we achieve a more advanced level of play we should become more confident in our abilities to hit serves and returns, as well as being able to sustain a rally and keep a point going. We can then begin to focus on utilizing shots and strategies to win points.

As an advanced level pickleball player, your goal should be to have a serve above 90%.

In addition to that, players need to work on developing a variety of serves, which can be utilized in different conditions and situations; such as a lob serve, that you can drop right on the baseline on a calm day, or a spin serve, which you can use when the winds pick up.

Players should also have the ability to serve to specific parts of the service box. You should be able serve deep to the baseline, as well as hit a sharp angle/low trajectory, spin serve on the sideline.

The same holds true for tennis. But, because we get two serves in tennis, we don’t have to have our serves be above 90%. However, we should have a variety of serves to choose from, and be able to place them in specific locations, within the service box.

In pickleball, once we have successfully conquered the above tasks of serving, our focus needs to be directed towards our abilities to dink, and strategically utilize the kitchen to finish off points.

In tennis, our focus needs to be directed towards our ability to execute volleys and finish off points at the net.

In pickleball, this is a good time to begin to also focus on third ball opportunity and become more confident in our ability to utilize the kitchen with dinks.

Just like serving, advanced level pickleball players should be successfully executing and making 90+% of their dinks!

In future articles over the summer, aka “down time,” I will provide information on specific drills that will help to improve your serve and your dinks.

In the meantime, get out and practice and play as much as possible. Don’t let down time bring your game down!

The Marco Island Racquet Center (MIRC) is offering adult, summer programing for both tennis and pickleball. The MIRC will have daily, morning, rotational pickleball play, as well as evening, social group play.

Coach Wayne will be providing daily youth programing for kids ages 5 and up. This programing is available to Camp Mackle attendees.

Please contact Coach Wayne or Jodi at the Pro Shop for information on all of our summer program schedules.

Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. He has been the head instructor at The Marco Island Racquet Center since 2001. The Racquet Center offers clinics, private and group lessons for both tennis and pickleball. Coach Wayne’s Island Kids Tennis juniors program runs year round and has classes for players from kindergarten through high school. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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