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The Third Shot and Net Defense Drill

Strategy & Technique Greg Hansen 02-28-2024

INTRODUCTION

Derived from a drill/game learned at a Tyson McGuffin camp, the Third Shot and Net Defense Drill is a dynamic exercise tailored to enhance both offensive and defensive prowess on the court. Operating on a rotational basis, players alternate between executing strategic third shots and defending the net against incoming plays.

HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED

The game accommodates an odd number of players to prevent any specific duo from dominating. Two players commence at the net, while two hold positions at the baseline. A designated “Server” orchestrates play, hitting serves to the baseline players, and lobs to the net players when they move up. Additional players await their turn to join the baseline.

  • The game begins when the Server delivers a ball to one of the baseline players, employing a variety of serves, including deep, soft shots, hard drives, lobs, or short serves.
  • The receiving baseline player executes a third shot, which may vary between drives, long dinks, or pushes—anything except lobs. A strategic approach might involve a third shot drive followed by a ‘fifth’ shot.
  • The point unfolds with net players adjusting their positioning based on the serve, culminating in one team securing victory.
  • If the baseline team clinches the initial point, the Server redirects play to the other baseline player to continue the sequence.
  • If the baseline team triumphs in both consecutive points, they advance to the net, while the net team falls back, deciding how far back they prefer. Subsequently, the Server initiates a lob that the new net team must endeavor to put away. See image below.

Should the baseline team fail to secure both serve points AND the lob point, they rotate out, yielding space to the waiting team. Partnerships shuffle to ensure diverse gameplay experiences.

Conversely, if the baseline team secures both serve points AND the lob point, they transition to the net, while the former net team joins the waiting line.

Note that players 1 and 2 are now in the waiting line, players 3 and 4 are now at the net, and players 5 and 6 are at the baseline.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

  • Baseline players must prioritize advancing to the net to avoid potential point losses.
  • Net players must maintain optimal court positioning to minimize point concessions.
  • All players must remain vigilant to prevent attempting to hit out balls.

DETERMINING THE WINNERS

The game lasts between a half hour and a full hour, depending upon how many players there are. If one set of players wins six sets of points in a row, that team will rotate out to give other players a chance to be both net players and baseline players. The players with the highest number of victories emerge as champions. Each player must keep track of the number of games they have won – no cheating! 

THE BENEFITS OF THE GAME

Note that a player who is teamed with a weaker player at one point may find themselves paired with a player of similar proficiency post-rotation, ensuring partnership equilibrium. This also helps weaker players understand the nuances of third shops as well as net defense. Stronger players may opt to poach, something the baseline players and players waiting will notice, allowing them to modify their strategies.

Some players have expressed the idea that they are afraid to be at the net against bangers.
This is the perfect opportunity for them to learn that there is nothing to be afraid of. 

Finally, the Third Shot and Net Defense Drill guarantees an immersive and rewarding pickleball experience, fostering both individual skill refinement and cohesive teamwork.

A FEW OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

Sometimes players are a bit confused as to where they go when they rotate. That sorts itself out quickly.

If the server is aware of the skills of the players on the court, it is not only fair, but beneficial, to modify the serves. For example, the server probably will not hit short, weak serves to bangers.

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