In pickleball, it is important to mix up your shot selection and remain unpredictable. You want to keep your opponents guessing as to where you will hit the pickleball. Otherwise, your opponents will be able to anticipate your shots and counterattack more aggressively.
One way to mix in shots and remain unpredictable is to add misdirection shots to your game. A misdirection shot is a shot hit in the opposite direction of what is “natural” or what the setup of the shot looks like. In other words, imagine a right-handed player on the odd/left-hand side of the pickleball court. The player lifts up the paddle to his or her backhand side, looking like he or she is about to hit a backhand crosscourt dink. Then, all of a sudden and at the last second, the player manipulates his or her wrist and lays the paddle face back to send the pickleball quickly down the line. The player misdirects the pickleball from the natural shot or what the setup of the shot looked like—a backhand crosscourt dink—to something unexpected—a quick down the line shot.
Before you hit the pickleball courts to work on your misdirection shots, consider these 5 tips for success:
- Disguise, Disguise, Disguise – Misdirection shots are all about the element of surprise. As a result, it is important to disguise your shot and not to give off any clues or tells that a misdirection shot is coming. To do this, be conscious of keeping everything the same, which includes your body position, stance, paddle swing, head and eye movement, demeanor, etc. The only element to change will be your paddle angle, as you will manipulate your paddle (using your wrist) to strike the side of the pickleball that is opposite to the natural or usual point of contact. Further, to disguise your shot and give your opponents less time to react, it is important to wait as long as possible to execute this paddle change. This may take some practice to hide your tells, but this is crucial to maximize the element of surprise that makes misdirection shots effective.
- Pay Attention to Your Paddle Face – The pickleball will go where your paddle face is pointing. So, when hitting your misdirection shot, be sure that your paddle face is angled in the direction that you want the pickleball to travel.
- Use a Strong Wrist – As noted above, to hit a misdirection shot, you will manipulate your paddle by using your wrist. As a result, it is important to have a strong wrist to control your paddle angle and manipulate your paddle. Misdirection shots have a higher chance of error because of this change in your paddle angle. So, be intentional and focus on controlling your paddle with a strong wrist (but, remember to still have a loose grip – no death grips on the pickleball paddle!).
- Use Misdirection Sparingly – Generally speaking, think of misdirection shots like dessert. If your meat and vegetables are your main entrée, or the majority of your game, then your dessert or misdirection shots should only consist of a few shots. Use your misdirection shots every once in a while, to keep your opponent honest and guessing, but not too much that you (a) increase your unforced errors (as these shots are more difficult to execute) and (b) lose the “surprise element” and cause your misdirection shots to be the expected default. With that said, if your misdirection shots are working with a high rate of success, then you can consider using them more often.
- Be Ready for the Next Shot – Sometimes, your misdirection shot may result in a clean winner. However, other times, it will not and your opponents may be able to get a small piece of the pickleball (which may result in a pop up) or your opponents may have picked up on a tell you have and were able to counterattack your misdirection. In any of these scenarios, it is important to be ready for the next ball. The next ball may be an easy put away or you may be to clean up an attack from your opponents. Never assume that you hit a winner. Always be ready for the next shot.
Get out on the pickleball court and incorporate some misdirection shots into your game. Be sure to disguise your shot as long as possible and not to overuse this shot in a way that increases your unforced errors or makes you too predictable.
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