Many people like to just get out on the Pickleball court to have fun, but if you really would like to improve your game Coach Dominic Catalano believes you need to spend time drilling and you may even need a coach. Dominic said, “You look at the top players in our sport, they make things look so easy. And the reason is because when they do go out and drill, they drill with a purpose. And they go out and they do their drilling and they do it meticulously and they do it over and over and over and over again.”
How You Should Drill
So, the question is what should you be doing when you drill? You might think higher level players should do harder drills than beginners, but the idea is that drills should not differ based on a person’s skill level in Pickleball. According to Dominic, it’s all about the basics, such as dinking, third shot drops, serve returns, serving, etc. Dominic said, in reference to the tennis great Rafa Nadal, “I heard an interview with Rafa Nadal’s uncle who was his coach. And he was asked in the interview what drills do you do with Rafa that no one does? Tell us these drills. What are the secrets? Why is he so good? And he almost laughed at the question and said, ‘I don’t do anything different with Rafa than I do an eight-year-old junior player’.” But the difference is that Rafa does the drill perfectly, while the youngster is making mistakes because he or she is still learning.
How Much Should Your Drill
While Dominic believes the types of drills you do shouldn’t vary based on skill level, he does tie the amount of time you drill to your level. For example, if a 3.0 or 3.5 want to play for an hour, they need to drill for 10 minutes. If they play for three hours, then they should drill for 30 minutes. More advanced players should drill for 15 minutes for each hour they play so if they compete for three hours, they should drill for 45 minutes.
Dominic suggests keeping a Pickleball notebook and writing down the time spent drilling versus playing. He has seen this practice become very successful with many of his students. Dominic said, “Every week they’d come to me with their lesson, and they’d have to write it down for me. And they would show me, and they would be so excited because like a lot of the players in Pickleball, most of my clients are retired. And it was almost like they were back in school again, and they’d be coming to me with their notebooks and going hey coach look what I did. I did all this drilling. I was actually 20 minutes to 1 hour this week. I was 30 minutes to 1 hour this week. They’d get all excited. But if you can get them excited about doing something like that, that’s great.”
It May be Time for a Coach
Dominic believes not only drilling is important for Pickleball players, but also working with a coach, especially at the higher levels. While Dominic works with a couple of professional Pickleball players now, there still isn’t enough money in the sport for players to pay for full-time coaches. Dominic commented, “When the sport continues to grow at the rate it’s growing and with some of these prize pools, the smart players are going to have coaches. They’ll have coaches that work with them constantly because you can practice all you want and all day long with your hitting partner, but you need someone that can step back and look at what you’re doing. You can’t see yourself do everything when you’re on the court. Look at every major sport. Every professional sport has coaching. We’re the only one right now that doesn’t have that full-time kind of coaching thing. We’ll get there. But we’re just not at that point yet.”
Still, Dominic believes drilling at a minimum is necessary to improve your game and if you really want to get good or play at the highest levels, you’ll need a coach, at least, in the future you will.