It’s always amazing to watch the professional players as they seem to have so much time to hit the ball. They are not rushing and play in control. Professional player, Sarah Ansboury, says this skill has everything to do with balance and being able to move forward. She stated, “One of the most important things for Pickleball movement is a forward motion. And when you are more balanced, you can turn and go forward. Whereas if you are chasing the ball or shuffling side to side or moving backwards and all those types of things, it’s not only an uncomfortable position to be in but you’re also making reactions instead of making choices. If I’m balanced, I can make the choice to move forward. I can make the choice to put my paddle in front of me. Whereas if I’m not balanced, maybe I don’t know where my paddle is. Maybe I don’t know exactly where the ball is. But basically, if you are not balanced, you can’t make choices. You are making reactions and reactions are a very stressful place to be on the Pickleball court.”
Walk, Don’t Run
The goal with your movement is to be stable and move in a forward direction so you can do the most with every shot. One way to practice moving forward is to walk rather than run on the court. Yes, you read that correctly. Sarah says if you are playing a recreational game, don’t run on the Pickleball court, not even from the service line to the kitchen line. The problem is if you sprint, you are going to be out of control. If you walk, you have the choice to walk faster or slow down if you need to while still being in control. Try to develop rhythmic motion whenever you are on the court while giving yourself time to breathe and get your hips and chest underneath you.
The idea is when you are moving slower, it’s easier to accelerate forward and attack or change directions. It’s also easier on your body. Small, quick decelerated steps like shuffling are bad for your knees and hips. This movement can also lead to tripping or falling. When you are in constant motion, it’s easier on your joints to accelerate. Sarah expanded on the idea of moving slower, “If I go too fast, then I stop, then I usually go backwards or sideways before I go forwards again. So, it’s tough. It’s interesting because a lot of times in sports, we think we have got to go really fast, or we have got to get really low. And, in Pickleball, it’s a lot about the ability to accelerate. And essentially that kind of walking gives you a leg up on acceleration from your lower body while keeping your paddle in front of you. Whereas if you run too fast, the tendency is people get their paddle jammed in at their hips or their body, or even behind them as they’re charging the net.”
So, if you want to play more like the professional Pickleball players, be sure to stay balanced and in control. If you need to, slow things down so you are moving forward and stay away from needing to decelerate because you are going too fast.