Movement on the pickleball court is so important. You should constantly be in motion on the pickleball court in order to react and counter-react to the pickleball, your opponents, and your partner. This includes movement both when you are “on the ball”—in other words, when you are or will be hitting the pickleball—and when you are “off the ball”—i.e., when you are not and will not be hitting the pickleball.
Generally, movement brings you to the pickleball, puts you in the right court positioning with your partner, and allows you to implement various strategies on the court. And, movement can help you accomplish one of the most important skills in pickleball—being unpredictable!
If your opponents know what you are going to do, then they can adapt their game to counter yours. As a result, it is crucial to remain unpredictable on the pickleball courts. It is important to keep your opponents guessing as to what shot you will hit, as well as where you will be on the pickleball court. Your movement can cause chaos for your opponents, and your movement alone can help you win easy points each and every time you hit the pickleball courts.
3 Movement Tips to Win Easy Points on the Pickleball Court
To help you use your movement to your advantage, try the following tips:
- Master the Movement Basics – First, make sure your foundation is solid. Master the following movement basics:
- Use a Split Step – A split step helps to get you in a powerful ready position, as well as allows you to remain balanced, change direction, and react to the pickleball hit by your opponents. You should enter into a split step just before your opponent makes contact with the pickleball.
- Stay in Tandem – On the pickleball courts, it is imperative that you stay linked with your partner and work together as a team. You should imagine that a six- to eight-foot rope holds you and your partner together at all times. If you move right a few steps, your partner should move right a few steps. If your partner moves left a few steps, you should move left a few steps. If you and your partner do not stay linked and do not move in tandem, you will find yourselves leaving large open spaces on the pickleball courts for your opponents to take advantage of.
- Follow the Flight of the Pickleball – A general rule of thumb for positioning on the pickleball court is to follow the flight of the pickleball. By following the flight of the pickleball, you will (1) create angles of attack for you; and (2) minimize angles of attack for your opponents.
- Become a Movement Strategist – Next, understand that your movement is a key component of your pickleball strategy. It is important to change patterns to be unpredictable and cause chaos on the pickleball court. To do this, consider implementing the pickleball strategies that will allow you move around the pickleball court. Here are a few examples of how to incorporate movement on the pickleball court:
- Stacking and Switching – Stacking (and switching) is a pickleball strategy that is used to keep each partner on a doubles pickleball team on their respective preferred side of the court.
- Shake and Bake – The “Shake & Bake” is a nickname for a particular set play or strategy in doubles pickleball that is popular amongst aggressive-style pickleball players. This set play or strategy is when one partner of the serving team in doubles pickleball drives the third shot, while the other partner crashes (i.e., runs to) the pickleball net to put away the fifth shot if the opposing team pops the drive up into the air.
- Erne – The Erne is a shot where you hit the pickleball either (1) in the air as you are jumping around the Non-Volley Zone (also known as the Kitchen); or (2) after you run around or through the Kitchen and re-establish your feet out of bounds, just to the side of the Kitchen.
- “I” Formation – The “I” Formation is a strategy used by a serving team to cause confusion and add pressure on the receiving team. The “I” Formation can be used with the non-serving partner crouching in the middle of the pickleball net, just behind the Kitchen line, or with the non-serving partner standing just behind the server.
- Fade Shot – The fade shot is a strategy to squeeze your opponents target and force your opponents to change their placement. If you are targeted you will fade to the sideline and commit to one shot, as everything on the other side will be out of bounds (for instance, if you are on the right-hand side of the pickleball court, you will fade and commit to hitting a backhand, and everything to your forehand side will be out of bounds). Your opponents now have a smaller target and are forced to change their pattern and hit to your partner.
To note, the sport of pickleball is frequently seeing players specialize their play to one side of the pickleball court. Although there are advantages to specialization, you can inadvertently restrict your ability to play with movement and movement strategies. So, learn to play both sides of the pickleball court and get comfortable on each side. This will help keep your play even more unpredictable.
- Disguise Your Movement – Lastly, to keep your opponents guessing on the pickleball court, it is important to disguise your movement. To do this:
- Hold Your Movement – Hold and wait to move as long as you can. If you move early, you will give your opponents time to adjust and react to your movement. So, hold and wait as long as possible to disguise your movement.
- Be as Good as Faking as the Real Thing – To help disguise your movement, use fakes. Faking movement can be just as effective as the real thing. So, be just as good at faking your movement as the real thing.
You should be implementing movement constantly in your pickleball game and pickleball strategy. However, there is one time that you should not be moving—when you are making contact with the pickleball. If you are moving while hitting the pickleball, you will likely make an unforced error or mistake, as one of the most common causes for a missed shot or a mistake is overrunning the pickleball and hitting the pickleball behind your body. So, use your split step to set up your shot and keep the pickleball out in front of your body, then hit the pickleball. After you hit the pickleball, then you can continue to move and react to the next shot.
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