The sport of pickleball is an artful balance of consistency and speed. On the one hand, consistency is key because the team or player that makes the least number of unforced errors on the pickleball court is more likely to win. So, without consistency, you may never win.
On the other hand, a team or player with more speed can create chaos by making their opponents make more forced errors. For instance, players with speed create chaos in pickleball by:
- Constantly speeding up the pickleball, which gives their opponents less time to react;
- Taking the pickleball out of the air or early off of the bounce in order to take time away from their opponents to react to the pickleball;
- Moving around the pickleball court to poach shots, hit Ernes, or otherwise cause confusion on where the pickleball player will be on the court and where the open space is; and/or
- Constantly tracking down their opponents’ shots by using their quick feet, which makes their opponents have to hit more and more shots to win a rally.
This speed can put a ton of pressure on pickleball players and cause them to breakdown. When playing against speed, pickleball players often feel as if they have to hit a better and better shot (e.g., the quick pickler tracked down a shot two feet from the baseline, now I must try to hit within one foot of the baseline, etc.), which leads to forced errors. In other words, with speed, you may force a win on the pickleball court.
With that said, speed is something that you should take advantage of on the pickleball court, so you, too, can cause chaos and force wins against your opponents. Famous race car driver, Mario Andretti once said, “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” But, how do you keep the delicate balance of speed and consistency in check? How do you keep the rewards of speed, without risking your consistency on the pickleball court?
- Take Time Away from Your Opponents – This means that you should take the pickleball out of the air when possible. By taking shots out of the air, you will take time away from your opponents in between their shots, so they will have less time to react to your shot. In other words, you will speed up the game for your opponents and force them to play with more pressure.
Know When to Speed Up the Pickleball – Speed can be tough to handle. However, not every shot is necessarily a great shot to speed up. For instance, if you speed up a pickleball that sits below the net, you risk hitting the pickleball into the net or out of bounds (as you will need to hit up on the pickleball to get the pickleball up and over the pickleball net). Plus, by mixing speeds on the pickleball court, you will make your speed-ups seem faster, as your opponents will not know when they are coming. So, it is important to know when to speed up the pickleball. Consider speeding up the pickleball in the following circumstances:
- If your opponents are routinely struggling to handle your speed-ups and are either popping up your speed-ups or hitting your speed-ups out of bounds or into the net;
- If your opponents are only blocking or resetting your speed ups and not counterattacking, then your speed-ups have little downside;
- If you have a strong drive, then consider using a third shot drive, which may cause errors and will help either set up a “Shake and Bake” or at least make the fifth shot easier for you and your partner;
- When the pickleball is at or above the pickleball net and you can hit down on the pickleball. By hitting down on the pickleball, you will cause your opponents to have to hit up, which may lead to an easy put away for you and your partner.
- Cause Confusion with Court Coverage – Like mixing speeds, mixing movements is also an effective way to apply pressure on your opponents with your quick feet and give the perception of additional speed on the court. This mixing of movements can come in the form of switching sides of the pickleball court with your partner (like a “Shake and Bake” or a poach), in the form of an Erne, or other movements that cause your opponents to second guess where you and/or your partner will be on the pickleball court. This mixing of movements is effective even if unsuccessful, as even the threat of changing sides or moving on the pickleball court will cause your opponents to second guess their shots, pull their eyes off of the pickleball, or take time to think about what you and your partner are doing.
- Move Your Feet and Stay Balanced – Take small, balanced steps to be more efficient in your movements and cut down on the time necessary to change direction. By being more efficient with your feet, you will be able to cover more court, track down more shots, and make your opponents hit one more shot on the pickleball court. This will lead to more forced errors from your opponents, as your opponents will feel as if they have to hit a better and better shot (e.g., the quick pickler tracked down a shot two feet from the baseline, now I must try to hit within one foot of the baseline, etc.).
Try to push yourself when it comes to speed on the pickleball court. This will help you be more offensive and aggressive, and force your opponents to make more errors, leading to more points and more wins on the pickleball court for you and your partner. However, know when to reign in the speed and focus on consistency. The trade-off of risk and reward—or the trade-off of speed and consistency—is a delicate balance and an important balance for you to perfect to win more games on the pickleball court.