Pickleball is oftentimes described as a game of momentum swings, where one player or one team can go on runs and string several points together. For instance, it is not uncommon for a player or team to win 5 or more points at a time on the pickleball court. You better use any momentum while you have it because once you lose the momentum, it can be extremely difficult to get back.
If you are just starting a pickleball game, your goal is to steal the momentum. If you have lost the momentum during a pickleball game, your goal is to dig yourself out and grab the momentum back from your opponents. But, when momentum is an unquantifiable and intangible (but also a powerful) force on the pickleball court, how can you manage and change momentum? Try these 5 ways:
- Use Your Time-Outs – One of the easiest ways to break or change the momentum of a pickleball game is to use a time-out. A good rule of thumb is to call a time-out if your opponents have scored three points in a row. A time-out will help break any momentum and give you and your partner the opportunity to think and refocus. However, time-outs are not foolproof and are usually only an option during competitive play (and not so much in recreational play).
- Manipulate Speed During a Rally – Oftentimes, one player or team will be more comfortable in the “fast” game, while the other player or team will be more comfortable in the “slow” game. In other words, one side will prefer to drive and speed-up the pickleball in order to overpower the other side, and vice-versa (the other side will prefer to dink and grind out a point). It is important to understand what speed you are winning more points with and force the rallies to be played out at your speed. By manipulating the speed of a rally, you can manipulate the momentum of a game.
- Manipulate Speed Between Rallies – Similar to manipulating speed during a rally, manipulating speed between rallies can also help you control momentum. For instance, when a player or team wins a point, they typically race back to the baseline to serve again in an effort to gain momentum. If you are on the winning end, then you may want to hurry up points and make your opponents feel rushed. This also takes time away from your opponents to strategize or change tactics between rallies. However, if you are on the losing end, then you may want to take your time between serves in order to slow down the game and “ice” your opponents. This will also give you time to reevaluate your strategy. So, beware of the time between rallies and use this time to help you either garner or slow down momentum on the pickleball court.
- Give Your Opponents a Different Look – As much as pickleball is about momentum, it is also about finding the “right” pattern to be successful. So, when momentum is not on your side, do something different to give your opponents a different “look” on the pickleball court—in other words, give them a different pattern to deal with. The easiest way to change the pattern in doubles pickleball is to change which player is in front of which opponent. This can be accomplished with stacking or switching (and even fake switching—the threat of switching—is enough to throw your opponents off). Learn more about stacking with Pickler’s article, “How to Stack in Pickleball.”
- Bring the Energy – Lastly, one way to manage momentum is to take it by bringing the energy on the pickleball court. Energy—for instance, positivity, fist pumps, cheers, a “bounce in your step”—can be infectious for your own game and your partner’s game. It can also deflate your opponents and “suck the life out of them.” So, bring authentic, positive energy to manufacture your own momentum on the pickleball court.
Again, pickleball generally is a game of momentum… and momentum swings. Sometimes, you cannot make a shot and, sometimes, you cannot miss a shot. With the threat of momentum on the pickleball court, never feel complacent or comfortable on the pickleball court. Whether you are up 10-1 or down 1-10, momentum can help propel you to a victory or spiral you to a loss. So, use these 5 easy ways to manage the momentum next time that you are on the pickleball court.
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