Recently, there has been an increase in indoor pickleball tournaments on the PPA Tour, the APP Tour, and even a USA Pickleball National Indoor Pickleball Championship. With these growing indoor pickleball events, it is important to understand any differences—for pickleball strategy and otherwise—with indoor pickleball play compared to outdoor pickleball play.
Before jumping into the details, what is indoor pickleball and outdoor pickleball? Indoor pickleball is pickleball played inside an enclosed building and generally refers to pickleball played on a gym floor or wood floor surface. On the other hand, outdoor pickleball is pickleball played outside (typically without cover) and generally means pickleball played on a hard-court surface. With that said, there could be hard-court surfaces for pickleball that are indoors—particularly in cold-weather climates. So, indoor pickleball, in certain circumstances, could also include pickleball played on a hard-court surface.
There are some key differences between indoor pickleball and outdoor pickleball, which include the following:
- The Floor Surface and Ball Matters – In outdoor play, you will find a hard-court surface and a lot of pickleball players using the Dura Fast 40 or Franklin X-40 pickleball. However, when you go indoors, this can change.
A. Indoor Gym or Wood Floor: On an indoor gym or wood floor, you will find pickleball players using an indoor pickleball (e.g., a Jugs or Franklin X-26 pickleball), which is a different type of pickleball that is a bit softer with a bit more bounce. As a result of these different indoor pickleballs for this court surface, the indoor game will automatically be a bit slower and a bit higher than the outdoor game. This will result in a more drives (as opposed to drops) in indoor play, as the pickleball will have a tendency to sit up high with the bigger bounce. Further, the pickleball net will likely be a temporary net, which tends to favor more drives (as the net cord can be more forgiving). The indoor balls also have a tendency to skid and skip on the gym or wood floor, so spin plays a larger factor in indoor play.
B. Indoor Hard-Court Surface: If you find yourself on an indoor hard court, then things will be a bit different than a gym or wood floor. You will likely still play with a Dura Fast 40 or Franklin X-40 pickleball. With this harder pickleball, and no wind or other elements to deal with since you are indoors, the game will be faster. In other words, drives will fly through the air a little faster and be more difficult to control your power on. The game will also be more consistent in this environment.
- Different Elements – The elements also differ between indoor pickleball and outdoor pickleball. In outdoor pickleball, you may have to deal with some menacing wind or the sun, which at times can blind you. You will not have either of these elements in indoor play. Rather, you will have to deal with poor lighting, blurry rafters, and, sometimes, a slew of multi-colored lines. These different challenging elements will make lobbing a much more popular and effective strategy in indoor play. Also, based on lighting and backdrops, one side may be much easier to play on in indoor pickleball because it will be easier to see the ball (this side advantage is similar to outdoor pickleball with the wind and sun at times).
To summarize the keys to think about for indoor pickleball (as opposed to outdoor pickleball):
- Gym or Wood Floor: Use more drives than drops, as the indoor pickleball will be slower and higher. You can also speed-up more effectively when the pickleball sits higher up. Use the lob and make your opponents look into the lights and rafters. And, lastly, use spin (particularly on your returns and dinks), as spin will cause the pickleball to skip and slide on the gym or wood floor.
- Hard Court: Use drives and counterattacks, as the pickleball will generally travel faster indoors. However, be cautious about your drives and counterattacks sailing out of bounds (as there is no wind and less resistance to drag down the pickleball, like there is outdoors). Also, use the lob, as the lob is easier to control indoors (e.g., no wind to push the pickleball around in the air).
Although there are some differences between indoor pickleball and outdoor pickleball, the crux of the game of pickleball is the same. Continue to play the same game and play to your strengths. However, as noted above, be ready to change your strategy and emphasize different parts of your game when playing pickleball indoors.
Do you have any pickleball strategy tips for indoor pickleball? Share with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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