Pickleball Magazine 1-3 | Page 12

So, to sum it up: Scenario #1: If you’re playing with an equal-or-better partner, hit to the middle to keep him/her involved. Scenario #2: If you’re playing with a weaker partner, still hit to the middle to keep your opponents from taking advantage of your partner. If you go for a sharp cross-court shot and your partner is not shifting correctly to cover the alley, chances are a good opponent will go down the line on your partner’s side. #7) Hit to the Middle, but Probably Not ALL the Time Call me Captain Obvious, but if you are hitting toward the middle, chances are you aren’t hitting to the side. Sure, you might mess up and hit it into the net, but hitting it wide is probably not going to be a problem. Also, you may know that just keeping the ball in play is often enough to win a point. So, thinking yourself extremely smart, you might decide to hit every single shot into the middle. After all, you’ll keep the ball in play and reap all the benefits outlined above, right? Well, depending on your skill level, hitting to the middle all the time may or may not be a smart strategy. The ideal percentage depends on your skill level. Do you know what your skill level is? If not, go to www.RatingsAndGoals.com right now to request your FREE copy of my highly acclaimed Ratings & Goals Guide, which will help you figure out your skill level and will also give you skill-level specific goals to help you take your game to the next level. Once you’ve identified your skill level, then come back here to find your target ration of middle shots on the sidebar.  • Prem Carnot, author of the #1 Bestseller Smart Pickleball: The Pickleball Guru’s Guide, is the premier pickleball coach on the planet. Use his simple “Yes or No” criteria to determine YOUR precise skill rating and EXACTLY how to take your game to the next level. Go to: www.RatingsAndGoals.com. 10 Here are some quick, skill level-specific guidelines for how frequently to hit to the middle compared to going for a cross-court shot or hitting straight on. Newbie (2.0) SKILL-LEVEL TARGETS FOR PLAYERS OF ALL LEVELS Aim 5/5 Shots to the Middle If you are a Newbie, aiming for the middle on every single shot actually IS an excellent strategy. It will reduce your unforced errors and stay in the rally. Just do it until you can come back to my Ratings & Goals Guide and be sure that you’re at least a beginner. But for other skill levels, hitting to the middle every single shot will cause you to become way too predictable AND it will keep you from taking advantage of the openings when you have them. Beginner (2.5) - Novice (3.0) Aim 4/5 Shots to the Middle Yep, I know, it’s still kind of a lot, but trust me. For the level of player you are, to find the right balance you should still hit the vast majority of your shots to the middle, but make sure to keep an eye out for the opening, and even if there isn’t one, throw the occasional cross-court or straight-on shot in just to mix it up. Novice (3.5) Aim 3/5 Shots to the Middle That’s right: The majority of the time you should still be hitting to the middle, but at your level you’ll need to make sure that you are a little more strategic about it. Hit to the middle when you want to involve your partner. Hit to the middle to construct your point. Hit to the middle when you’re off-balance and need to keep the ball in play. But don’t go there 100% of the time. Intermediate (4.0) Aim 2/5 Shots to the Middle At your level, you’ve got to keep your opponents on the move and you MUST use a variety of strategies to create your opening. You’ve got to know exactly when to hit to the middle and make sure to use it to your advantage. Go for the cross-courts and the straight-on shots when you can, but make sure to hit to the middle when: • You are in a cross-court