Back in 2010 legendary Pickleball Coach Richard Movsessian at 70 years old won a silver medal in doubles at nationals with Phil Bagley in the Men’s Open 35+ division. So how did he and Phil have so much success? They practiced as a team and played percentage Pickleball.
Coach Mo said, “Percentage pickleball is strictly only hitting the ball as fast as you can be accurate and consistent. Unforced errors decides who wins or loses at every level, even at the national level… It’s the team that makes the least mistakes.”
To give an example of how this translates to the court Matty Klein, who is Coach Mo’s teaching partner, talked about his experience on the court. “I would say personally, my wife and I try to keep her unforced errors down to two or three per game. Usually we win our games. If we each have only two to three or four unforced errors. So the team that of course has more unforced errors is usually going to lose the game. So really this game is about keeping it in play and having somebody make a mistake.”
Practice and playing percentages might seem boring to many players. However, if you want to succeed in competitive play and in tournaments then you may need to adjust your game. According to Coach Mo, you need to be able to make a shot 80% of the time before you should be hitting it in a game. The idea is that you should clearly know your strengths and be working on your weaknesses in practice. If you are working on hitting serve returns, you should only hit the ball as deep in the court as you can be accurate and consistent. Then in practice keep trying to hit deeper without sacrificing placement.
When Coach Mo and Phil earned the silver at national, they practiced every afternoon before the tournament. Coach Mo said, “We practiced in the afternoon and broke the game down into segments and became like robots in a sense. So you become mentally tougher the more you practice because you’re confident. And when you’re confident, you can make a shot. When it gets to be 10, 10 you’re going to be a much better player because you feel confident that you can outlast your opponent. And you’ve got to size up your opponent. If you feel that your opponents are not as steady, you don’t have to beat them. Let them beat themselves… Don’t try and win the point every time you touch the ball. Work the point and you’ll be fine.”
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