Welcome back to my ongoing series of columns on goal setting. Hopefully you have spent the last couple of weeks drilling and practicing “no winners, no whining,” and as a result, your consistency has gone up, your percentages of unforced errors have gone down, and you are now winning more points and more games!
In addition, hopefully, since you are so pleased with the results, you have now made drilling and practicing a part of your regular routine.
At any rate, we are now ready to implement a mid term goal.
Mid term goals should have a time frame which will take weeks to months to accomplish. I have chosen a mid term goal of improving a specific stroke, the serve.
This mid term goal will include a grouping of accomplishments, such as making sure that my serving percentage is at 90%, that I am able to consistently place my serve deep into the service box, as well as strategically place my serve to either a backhand or forehand wing of my opponent and eventually learn how to apply a variety of spins to my serve.
Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida Head Teaching Professional, Courtney Miles demonstrates a relaxed and well-balanced serving motion. | Photos by Wayne Clark
However, it is my opinion that conquering and mastering spin on the ball actually falls more into the category and expectations of one of our long term goals. A subject which I will address in a future column.
So back to our task at hand. Remember, this is a mid term goal that I am giving myself weeks to months to accomplish.
So let’s get started.
The serving motion, as well as the strategic application of the shot, are completely different in pickleball and tennis. In tennis, I have the luxury of having two serves to begin the point. Therefore, I can go for much more on my first serve and still be able to kick in a second serve, if needed. Also, in tennis, I can score points as a returner.
First and most important, is the serve motion itself.
With so many new players to the sport of pickleball, I see too many beginner level players taking a short choppy swing in their serve motion.
The serve, in both pickleball and tennis, needs to be a long, relaxed, extended stroke.
I like to relate and compare the serve motion to a good golf swing, or a follow through when rolling a bowling ball down the alley, or for all of you fisherman/fisherwomen out there, like having a good smooth casting motion!
From beginning to end, we should be relaxed throughout the serve motion, with the direction and momentum of our follow through going towards our intended target and finish the serving motion with our weight balanced on the front of our front foot.
Second, let’s discuss placement of the serve.
Our main goal is getting our serve deep into the service box; in order to prevent the returner from quickly moving forwards after their return and taking a position with their partner at the NVZ line, aka, the kitchen. Once we have successfully accomplished this task, we now, hopefully, have the opportunity hit a more strategically aggressive third ball shot and make our way, with our partner to the NVZ line.
Strategical options for our third ball shot is a subject which I have discussed in previous columns and is a subject which I will cover in a future column, in regard to it being part of our mid to long term goals.
In addition to depth on our serve, we need to be able to effectively direct to the shot to either a forehand or a backhand wing of the returner.
Third, as we are successfully accomplishing our goals of having a confident, reliable, dependable serve motion and being able to place the serve deep in the court, as I previously stated, we will need to develop a variety of spins which we can apply to the ball to direct its flight path to a premeditated, specific spot in the service box.
With that all said, if you follow my column as a regular reader, then you already know that the next required part of this process is to drill and practice!
Two simple drills we can do to improve our serve place cones across the court, in what I refer to as east and west, leaving only the back 25% of the service box as our intended location of placement of our serve. Our goal is to confidently and consistently be able to place 90% of our serves beyond the cones.
Once we have accomplished this, we now do the same drill splitting the service box in half with the cones, going north and south, creating a forehand and a backhand side for our opponent’s return.
And just for fun, let’s make a game out of this drill. Get together with your practice partner and set up the cones to create zones in the service box which represent depth as well as forehand backhand sides. Taking alternating turns, you must call out a specific section of the service box to which you intend to place the ball. If your serve lands in that specific area, you score a point. The first player to score eleven points wins the game.
In my next column, I will address our long term goals, but for now, keep drilling and practicing and working on accomplishing those short and mid term goals. Also, remember to keep playing/competing and applying your newly accomplished skills to your game.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.