Saturday, November 27, 2021

One Step Ahead

Coach Wayne’s Corner

Submitted Photos

As players take up the sport of pickleball, they work on the fundamentals of stroke production and strategies of the game. As we improve and move up in levels of play, we need to be able to depend on those fundamentals to kind of be on cruise control and begin to focus on shot selection.

One of my favorite recreational activities is shooting pool, and a good pool player is always thinking ahead to their next shot, as well as several shots beyond the shot they are currently hitting.

Right from the break of the rack, I am analyzing my options of shot selection which will allow me to ultimately—and hopefully—sink the eight ball and win the game.

On each individual shot, I am thinking how hard or soft I need to be hitting the ball, what kind of spin I am applying to the ball, how much spin I am applying to the ball, and where I plan on the cue ball ending up on the table for my next shot(s).

Paul Newman aka “Fast Eddie” Felson in the movie “The Hustler.”

The same is true when I am structuring a point in pickleball or tennis. I am constantly analyzing my current shot and my opponents next shot. I am anticipating as many shots ahead as possible, deciding if I am going to need to hit an offensive shot or a defensive shot.

I am thinking how hard or soft I need to be hitting the ball, what kind of spin I am applying to the ball, and how much spin I am applying to the ball. I am anticipating where my point of contact will be when the ball comes back to my side of the court for my next shot(s).

I am also paying attention to where on the court my opponents strike zone is and how that will impact their choice of shot, which will impact my next choice of shot.

So, like a pool hustler, start focusing on your shot selections. Try to analyze and anticipate both your position, as well as your opponent’s position, and how you plan on hitting your next shot. 

Think “one step ahead” of the shot you are currently hitting.

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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