When playing pickleball, it is important to use every aspect of your game and your surroundings to your advantage—which includes the elements. Elements can include:
- Lighting (whether in indoor play or outdoor play under the lights);
- Background color (as pickleballs can be harder to see with certain backgrounds);
- Short fencing (which can limit your space to move in out-of-bounds areas); or
Whether you are playing outdoors or indoors, use the elements to your advantage. Here are 7 quick tips on how to do just that—use the elements to your advantage on the pickleball court:
1. Make Your Opponents Look into the Sun and Lights
If the sun is out on the pickleball court, make your opponents look into the sun, which may cause your opponents to lose sight of the pickleball. The best way to make your opponents to look into the sun is to hit an offensive lob or even a lob serve or lob return of serve. The same is true if there are bright lights above a pickleball court, whether during nighttime play or in indoor play.
2. Use Shadows and Backgrounds to Make It Hard to See
Also, if the sun is out or the bright lights are on, beware of strange shadows on the pickleball court. Watching the pickleball go in and out of shadows (including your own shadow) can make tracking the ball much more difficult. So, if shadows are hitting the court, put extra effort into watching and tracking the pickleball all the way to the point of contact.
The same goes for when you are playing with certain backgrounds on the pickleball court (for instance, a white tarp or blurry rafters). Sometimes, you step onto the court that, when you look across the net, there is a strange background on the other side of the pickleball court that makes the pickleball difficult to see. When that happens, put extra focus on watching the pickleball all the way to your paddle.
3. Beware of Wind on the Pickleball Court
Wind is one of the most common elements that can affect an outdoor pickleball game. Wind can make the pickleball do strange things. When the wind is going, try to hit a few extra practice balls to get a sense of the direction that the wind is blowing and how it affects your shots. Once you have a sense of direction, be sure to:
- Again, watch the pickleball all the way to the point of contact, as the wind will cause the pickleball to move a little differently than normal.
- Try using spin to take advantage of the direction of the wind. For instance, if you are hitting into the wind, slice and inside out spin may have extra effect.
- Use pace to your advantage. As noted above, this can take some working out in warm-up or practice on the day of play. For instance, when hitting with the wind, drives can sometimes be extra effective because they will have a little extra speed. However, sometimes, the drives can be less effective because they sail long with the wind behind them. On the flip side, hitting drives into the wind can sometimes be extra effective because you can hit the drive as hard as you want and the drive will still stay in. But, at the same time, sometimes hitting the drive into the wind can be less effective because the wind holds up the pickleball. Again, it is important to sort out exactly how the wind is affecting your shot before you hit the court, and decide which strategy you will take in connection with hitting with pace.
- When it comes to lobs, the best rule of thumb is to lob into the wind, rather than with the wind. Lobbing with the wind will likely cause the pickleball to sail long out of bounds. With that said, if you are one of the daring few that likes to try a third shot lob, then the opposite rule applies. Hit your third shot lobs with the wind (with a bit of top spin), rather than into the wind. This is because your third shot lob into the wind will likely get stopped short, making for an easy fourth shot overhead for your opponents.
4. Beware of Temperatures Affecting the Pickleball
Temperature on the court can also change the course of a pickleball game, as the temperature will affect the pickleball. Warm temperatures make the pickleball softer, which, in turn, makes the pickleball travel slower with less pace. Warm temperatures are typically favorable for players that do not like pace or otherwise have strong defensive skills.
In contrast, cold temperatures make the pickleball harder, which can make the pickleball travel with faster with more pace. As a result, cold temperatures will favor pickleball players that like pace, as long as those players can control the pickleball from sailing out of bounds (and can keep the pickleball from cracking, which is more likely in cold temperatures).
5. Use the Off-Court Space (or Lack Thereof) to Your Advantage
Some pickleball courts are wide open with lots of space around the lines of the court. However, other pickleball courts are tight, with hardly any room behind the baseline to serve or to hit the return of serve, or hardly any room on the sides. If you are playing on these tight pickleball courts, it is important to:
- Touch the fence before each serve and return of serve to remind yourself how much room you have to execute your shot.
- Make the lack of space troubling for your opponents by hitting deep serves and deep returns of serve. Hitting deep serves and returns will push your opponents into the fence, causing them to make errors.
- Try to hit shots with strong angles if the court is tight on the sidelines. The shots with strong angles will push your opponents into the fencing, limiting their ability to hit a quality shot. Plus, there will likely be no around-the-post (ATP) threat, due to the limited space needed to properly execute that ATP shot.
6. Block Out the Noise on the Pickleball Court
Noise can be a distraction for some players—whether it be any noise causing a player to pull focus from what is happening on the court to cheers from a crowd (or even hecklers) to a loud “C’MON” after winning a point. When you are playing, block all outside noise out and focus on your game and executing your shots.
7. Pick Ends Wisely!
Lastly, each of these elements may depend on which end of a pickleball court you are on. Pay attention to which end of the pickleball court may be better suited for your game, after taking into consideration all of these elements—especially in competitive play. If you are in a competitive play circumstance, consider what end of the court you would like to start on and which end of the court you would like to finish on. There are two schools of thought when determine which end of the court to play on:
- Start Strong – Some pickleball players look to start strong, so they pick their preferred end. However, these players would then have to finish on the “more difficult” end—assuming that these players are switching ends to ensure that the elements are fair to all players (which is true of most competitive play formats).
- Finish Strong – Some pickleball players look to finish strong—especially if they are playing in a best 2 out of 3 game format or a game to 15. This means that these players could potentially have a winning run on the “preferred” end.
Use every part of your game—and your surroundings, like the elements—to your advantage to win more games on the pickleball court!
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