Pickleball Magazine 1-3 | Page 47

SENIOR VS. YOUTH STRATEGY 4 After dinking the ball low and short, make sure you keep your paddle up and out in front. By dinking short and low you are only allowing your opponents to hit high. So learn to block all the balls that are coming right at you. This block will usua lly be done by using your backhand. If the ball is hit hard between you and your partner the forehand player should block it back. Learn to block all these shots down to your opponent’s feet. Since you hit the ball short and low, you should be able to block it back down. STRATEGY 5 Dink most of the balls to the middle. By hitting the middle you are taking away a lot of the sharp-angle dinks. Remember, we don’t want this to be a speed contest. If you hit sharp angles to young players, they will probably easily get to the ball and then hit another sharp angle back and make you run. They may even hit a winner around the net post! STRATEGY 6 Buy time! Remember the young players are quicker than you are. So, anytime you are being pulled off the court, hit a dink back so you can buy some time to get back to your correct spot on the court. If you are being pulled wide and just hit a hard ball, your senior partner will be left all alone on the court. Another example of a way to buy time is learning to hit a dink when a lob has gone over your head. Don’t just panic and run after it and hit a lob back or, even worse, hit a hard ball. Learn how to dink that ball. This shot is no different than a 3rd shot dink. The odds are better when you dink the ball back after a lob has been thrown over your head. You can buy yourself time when hitting this shot by letting it almost fall to the ground before you hit this dink. If you just try to volley a ball hard from the middle of your court you have just allowed the younger players to play the reflex power game to their advantage. STRATEGY 8 Don’t lob from the baseline... and maybe don’t lob ever. If you are lobbing from the baseline you are just letting your younger opponents hit the ball down and make you run! I would rather you learn to hit a dink from anywhere on the court so that you can reset the point and turn the game into a dinking game. I have a mental list of players back here in Oregon that I will almost never lob to. The only time I can possibly get a lob over these top young players is by hitting a volley lob just over their heads while they are riding the kitchen line and leaning forward. Even then they might jump straight up and smash it. STRATEGY 9 Be consistent! Get rid of as many unforced errors as possible. You may not be as athletic, but you can learn good mechanics and cut down on errors. STRATEGY 10 Make sure your senior partner understands these strategies and is willing to play this way. Both senior players must be on the same page to make these strategies work. A Couple of Strategies When Your Partner is the Young Player • Be willing to take much less court. Remember your partner is faster than you; let him/her take most of the court. I always hear weaker players say, “It’s not fair that I don’t get to cover half the court.” Just remember that even though you are taking a smaller section of the court, you will still be hitting most of the balls. • Since you won’t be taking up so much court you should be able to easily dink the ball into good positions that might give your younger partner a set-up. • Your job is just to keep the ball in play and not give your opponents pop-ups. CONCLUSION I think you will enjoy trying these strategies, and at least you should find that your points are much longer and your matches are a much better challenge for the young teams. You might even pull off a couple of upsets! These strategies could also give you more tools when playing against the other senior players too. • STRATEGY 7 Learn to hit volley dinks from anywhere on the court. This allows you to reset the rally so that you are able to get to the net and resume the dink game. Left to Right: My longtime pickleball partner Randy Bither, who is now a senior player like myself, next to Kurtis Campbell and Rob Davidson. We are fortunate we get to practice with and against these extremely talented young players, just to name a couple of young guns from our area! JUNE 2016 | MAGAZINE 45