As compared to indoor pickleball, outdoor pickleball has the added component of battling the elements, as varying weather and other circumstances can affect on-court play. It is important to understand how these elements affect the pickleball, as your shots and overall strategy on the court may need to adjust depending on the elements that you are facing. This is even more critical, as these elements can change from point to point, hour to hour, or day to day.
There are three elements to consider when stepping on an outdoor pickleball court:
- Temperature and Humidity
How Does Altitude Affect the Pickleball?
The first element to consider is altitude. In other words, how high are you above sea level? Are you near the beach, or are you in the mountains? This is important because the lower the altitude, the more air resistance the pickleball will have. And, vice-versa – the greater the altitude, the less air resistance the pickleball will have. With that said, the pickleball will generally travel faster and farther in higher altitudes.
So, when playing in higher altitude locations, you will want to:
- Control your serves, returns, and drives, as they will have a tendency to “sail” in the thinner air; and
- Be prepared for “power” play with lots of speed-ups and fast points. Some pickleball players will generally want to take advantage of the thinner air in higher altitude and speed up play. So, be prepared for the fast game and hands battles across the Kitchen.
How Do Temperature and Humidity Affect the Pickleball?
The second element to consider is temperature (and, with that, humidity). How hot or cold is it outside? And, what is the humidity index? The hotter the temperatures and the higher the humidity, the softer the pickleball will generally be, which has a tendency to slow down the pace of play. Conversely, the colder the temperatures and the lower the humidity index, the harder the pickleball will generally be, which has a tendency to speed up the pace of play.
So, when playing in hotter and/or more humid climates, you will want to:
- Expect the pickleball to come back, as your opponents will have more time to react to your shot. In other words, it is difficult to put the pickleball away, so be ready to hit one more shot; and
- Mentally prepare for longer, more grueling points. And, be sure to stay hydrated, so that you grind out these long points in the hot, humid weather!
How Wind Affects a Pickleball
Windy days can be some of most troubling days on the pickleball court. The wind can do silly things to a pickleball, as it can whip the plastic whiffle ball (i.e., the pickleball) around in the air.
As soon as you step onto the pickleball court, it is important to assess your surroundings and conditions on the day, which includes the wind. Although sometimes the wind may swirl, generally speaking, the wind will blow in a certain direction on any given day. So, assess which way the wind is blowing. Then, remind yourself how that directional wind will affect the trajectory of the pickleball. Keep this in mind when you are hitting your shots on the pickleball court. For instance:
- When the wind is at your back, it is easy to sail the pickleball long out of bounds. So, hit with intention and purpose. Further, beware of short serves and returns of serve from your opponents. Consider taking a step into the court before the serve or return of serve (as applicable) if you are struggling to reach short serves or returns.
- When the wind is at your face, beware of out balls from your opponents. Your opponents drives and speed ups will have a tendency to blow out of bounds.
- If you like to lob, be wary of lobbing when the wind is at your back. Lob more into the wind, rather than with the wind. Lobs with the wind have a tendency to sail long out of bounds.
- If you are struggling to finesse your third shot drop into your opponents’ side of the Kitchen, consider driving the third shot. A third shot drive will hopefully bring you and your partner in a step and make for an easier fifth shot drop (and since you will be a little closer to the Kitchen, the wind may have less effect on your drop shot).
For more tips and a deeper dive on how to combat the wind on the pickleball court, check out Pickler’s blog “How to Avoid Letting the Wind Beat You on the Pickleball Court.”
Combat the Elements on the Pickleball Court
Pay attention to the elements on the pickleball court. Adjust your shots and strategy to make the elements work with your game, instead of against it!
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