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Engage Academy Lesson FAQs & Tips

The Engage resident Pros, Robert and Jodi Elliott put together the below 'FAQ' & 'Tips' to help improve your game.

 

These are terms Robert and Jodi both use during their lessons.  If you have taken lessons from Robert and Jodi, this serves as a reminder / refresher for you.  If you haven't taken lessons from them, then you can use the below FAQ tips to help improve your game.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1) Know the basics (why and how) so on those days when you are off (which happens to everyone) you can still play good.

 

When we teach, we explain the underlining fundamentals and purpose of each stroke and strategy. Therefore, on those days when you are off, which believe us, it happens to everyone, you can take a moment, and in your head go over the 'basics' so you can correct whatever it is that is off.

 

2) Never hit harder than 75%

 

When you hit the ball or go for a put-away shot…you should never swing harder than 75% of your potential.
 
When you swing harder than 75% (80-100%), mechanically you will do something wrong. This is true for all sports. Therefore, you will tend to hit the ball out half the time. What will go wrong? You won’t stay down as you hit the ball, you’ll lift your head, flick your wrist, take your eye off the ball, etc. When you swing at 75%, you will not try to over-hit; therefore the ball will stay in. Yes, when you swing your hardest and the ball goes in, it will most likely be a winner, but you will hit it out 50% of the time. By swinging at 75%, 3 out-of 4 balls will be winners. Therefore 1 out-of 4 will come back (so be ready), and hit again at 75%. Probability wise, you will win the point over 90% of time. That’s a lot better than 50%. Hitting a winner on the first shot is thrilling and exciting…and you look and feel good, but only 50% of the time!!! Winning the point over 90% of the time is much more thrilling and exciting…and you’ll look and feel like a much better player

 

3) Only hit high-probability shots

 

Short answer. Only hit a shot you know you can make 9 out-of 10 times.
 
Long answer.What is a high-probability shot? It’s a shot that gives you the highest percentage of making the shot without error.
 
Most people have heard the phrase, ‘don’t change direction’.What that means, is if someone hits you the ball cross-court, return the ball cross-court.If a person hits you the ball from straight-ahead, return it straight ahead.
 
Hit your serve deep, and in the middle of the service box. Hit your service return deep in the middle of the court or at the person. Do not hit the ball on the side of the person that’s closest to the side line (that is a very low probability shot where the margin of error is thin).

 

4) Move-Block-Freeze

 

A saying Robert and Jodi Elliott came up with to help block the ball properly.
Move means to actually move your body into a position where you can hit the ball at your focal points.
 
Focal points are the areas located tothe left and right of your body where it is the best center of gravity.
 
Block means just that. Your paddle head is above your wrist and out in front of your body. There is no back swing or follow through. Your paddle face should be facing your target. Just block the ball as if your paddle is a wall.
 
Freeze means to hold your position for 2 seconds after you make contact with the ball. This will ensure that you do not follow through and your body is in the correct position. Freezing enables you to see if you are in the correct position.

 

5) Move-Punch-Freeze

 

A saying Robert and Jodi Elliott came up with to help volley the ball properly.
 
Move means to actually move your body into a position where you can hit the ball at your focal points.
 
Focal points are the areas located to the left and right of your body where it is the best center of gravity.
 
To volley your paddle head is above your wrist and out in front of your body. There is no back swing or follow through. Your paddle face should be facing your target. It is very similar to a block. The difference with a volley is that you punch forward 3 to 6 inches

 

6) Swing low-to-high

 

When hitting a forward or backhand, start your swing with the paddle head below the point of contact with the ball, and finish with the paddle head over your shoulder.
 
This will generate the correct spin on the ball so you can hit harder and keep the ball in.

 

7) Keep the ball in play

 

The game of Pickleball is won by who keeps the ball in the most and make the least mistakes.
 
If you keep the ball in play you will most likely win the game (unless the other team is just that much better than you and are making great shots).Many players want what we call the ‘thrill factor’.They want to hit that one shot that makes everyone cheer.The issue is you’ll miss that shot half the time.If you hit a shot you know you can make 9 out-of 10 times, the only way you will lose is if your opponents do the same thing.Let your opponents go for those winners (which they will only make 50% of them time), and just keep the ball in hitting those shots you know you can make.You may not get that instantaneous cheer, but you’ll be known as the team that wins…which is much more rewarding…and you will surpass those opponents by moving up 1 or 2 ranking levels.

 

8) Less is more

 

Don’t add more motion to your swing than needed.
 
Many people have large backswings and follow-throughs. Players snap their wrists when they volley. Keep your form simple. It is too much to time a moving ball with a lot of motion from the player. Also, if you have a lot of extra movement in your body and swing, it’s hard to pin-point what went wrong. Essentially, you’ll have a hard time getting better. Keep things simple, and you will perform and play much better.

 

9) Don’t try for a winner off a winner

 

Most players, when their opponents hit a great shot they try to hit a better shot back.
 
Don’t. Just get the ball over the net and get back into position. Then you are able to start to control the point again and wait for the right shot.

 

10) Paddle head above your wrist

 

When you volley or block your shot, your paddle head should be above your wrist.
 
The reason is when the ball makes contact with your paddle, no matter how strong you are, your paddle head flexes back slightly.Therefore, if your paddle head is above your wrist and the paddle flexes back, your paddle head is facing up. Therefore, the trajectory of the ball will be up and over the net.If your paddle head is below your wrist, when it flexes back, guess what… your paddle head is facing down or straight at the net.Therefore, the trajectory of the ball now will be directly into the net.

 

11) Split-step

 

The proper way to approach the no volley zone or the kitchen.
 
The main goal in Pickleball (besides getting to 11) is to get to the ‘kitchen’. The first team/person to the ‘kitchen’ has the greatest probability of winning the point. Therefore, when you move from the back-court to the net, right before your opponent hits the ball, make a small jump forward, stopping with your feet shoulders distance apart, and in your ready position. When the ball gets to you, you will be ready to move backwards, forwards, or side-to-side easily so, you can hit the ball correctly. After you fully hit the ball, continue toward the net repeating this process until you reach the ‘kitchen’.

 

12) Hitting an Overhead

 

When hitting an overhead, you should turn sideways and point your finger up.
 
The reason you turn sideways, is so you can make a full overhead motion. Keeping your finger pointing up until just you make contact with the ball is so that you can keep your head up.If you drop your head while hitting an overhead, your hitting shoulder will rotate down, so when you make contact with the ball you will be hitting in a downward motion, which will cause the ball to hit the net.So, to make the proper contact and wrist snap over the ball, you need to keep your head up.

 

13) Stay down, and flex your knees

 

Whenever you hit the ball, your knees should be flexed.
Once you start hitting the ball, your knees should stay at the same level until you completed your hitting motion. This will help ensure you make the strongest contact with the ball and hit properly. If you pop-up while hitting the ball, you will drive your paddle in an upward motion causing the ball to go out. Depending on your swing, you could also come off the ball too fast, resulting in less power and therefore causing the ball to hit the net. The question now comes, how much do I flex my knees? When hitting a groundstroke, you should flex your knees enough so when you start your swing, the paddle head starts under where you make ball contact. At the kitchen, you should flex enough so when you make a block shot or volley, your paddle head is above your wrist.

 

14) Hitting your serve and return-of-serve

 

Both your serve and return of serve should be in and deep.
 
It is never a good idea to throw a point away.When serving you have the ball in your hand, controlling the start of the point. When receiving the serve…you know it is coming to you! Therefore, since you only get (1) serve and (1) return of serve, you should get it in.The reason to keep the serve and return of serve deep is to make it harder for your opponents to get to the ‘kitchen’.Only at the top national levels, can players make (and practice) a fast or tricky serve that will benefit them.Even at those levels, it’s very difficult because their opponents are so good, no matter the serve, they will be able to return it easily. In all levels, the team/person that keeps the ball in play the most, will win.

 

15) Get in ready position

 

When waiting for the ball, your body should be centered. Your feet should be shoulder width apart, your knees slightly flexed, and both your hands in front of your body.
 
When at the base line, your paddle should be facing straight, so the top most edge is facing the net.The reason is you have plenty of time to decide if the incoming ball is going to be a forehand or backhand.When you are at the ‘kitchen’, in your ready position, your paddle should be in-front of your body, and in a backhand position. When holding your paddle in a backhand position, you can cover all the balls hit at you and toward your backhand side (2/3 of the area in-front of you).This will give you a higher probability to hit the next shot, especially if it is hit hard at you.Advanced players may hold their paddles when at the ‘kitchen’ facing the net because they are fast enough, and know how to anticipate the ball so they can make that quick judgment whether the ball is coming to the forehand or backhand.

 

16) Paddle out front

 

Your paddle should be way out front, not just a few inches from your body, but a good 10 to 12 inches.
 
Whenever you are at the ‘kitchen’, either in the ready-position or hitting a ball, your paddle should always be and remain in front of your body.You should never take a back-swing for any shot at the ‘kitchen’.

 

17) Hold your paddle with the ‘continental’ grip

 

With Pickleball, because it’s a fast pace game, it’s best to have only (1) grip for all your shots.
 
It’s called the ‘continental’ grip. Put the paddle in your ‘hitting’ hand, and stretch your arm out straight (ensuring you are not twisting your arm, wrist, or hand in a non-standard/normal way/position). The top edge of your paddle should be facing directly up, and the bottom edge of your paddle should be facing directly down. Another way to do this is to hold out your hand as if you are going to shake someone’s hand. Then place the paddle in your ‘hitting’ hand so the top and bottom edges are facing directly up and down.