Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Serve Return of Serve Tips

It has been over 10 years since I last had to work to earn a living.  I don't remember much about my job, and certainly don't miss it.  It comes to mind periodically in the middle of the night when during a nightmare I am trying to get to work but can't remember where to go, or who to report to.  I have something really important to do but cannot remember what.  That, of course is strange since my last office was in my home. If I can't find that I am in dire straits.

But, there is one particular bit of wisdom I remember from my work life.  Xerox, the company that commercialized the photocopy business had a very strong sales force, so strong that they also commercialized sales training.  So, as much of my work was sales related I took their sales course once upon a time.

So, the sum of all the wisdom I gathered in 40 years of working, and remember, was that "Nothing happens until somebody sells something" from the Xerox sales training course.

Every other department in a company believes that they are driving the bus, though in reality somehow the accountants got to be in official charge, which has driven out most of the creativity in commercial enterprise. But, no sales means no productions, means no accounting, means no jobs.

What has that got to do with pickleball?

Well nothing directly.  But in pickleball nothing happens until one team gets a serve into play, and that is similar in concept.

What got me to thinking about the serve was a short video by Bob Youngren about serving.  Bob is 70 years old, and is a Very accomplished medal winning 5.0 player and coach out of California and Surprise AZ.

Serves should always be put into play.  Missing a serve is missing an opportunity to score a point.  If less than 100% of your serves are put in play you need to re-evaluate your serving strategy.

I find that I very seldom miss a serve, but when I do I can always attribute it to cranial flatulence.  I know what to do to put my serve in, but sometimes my brain goes numb.  Bob Youngren says in the video to take 2 seconds to collect yourself when you are at the line serving, essentially to make sure that your brain and your body are in the same place and on the same planet.

Simple advice that should reduce your loss of serves significantly.

Of course, while we are at it, I have a simple tip for how to handle serves.  The best players make every serve count, and usually just focus on putting the ball into play, but there are still many players that we know and love who try to beat us with their tricky serve.

Now, if they are like most who try to dazzle with their serve, they can beat you with one serve in 20 and will put at least 2 into the net or out of play.  Personally, I will take those odds, but there is a way to reduce the odds of them beating you any time with their serve.

Typically, when a player is serving we pick the ball up shortly after it leaves their paddle. The problem with that is that it reduces the amount of time you have to prepare for your return.

If instead you focus and pick the ball up while it is still in the server's hand you have more time to respond to where it is going to go.  If you are watching the ball before it is struck, then you can also see how the hitting hand moves, inside or outside or straight up, which gives you a jump on the ball.

Try both of these tips to reduce unforced errors on your own serve, and to reduce misses on opposition serves.

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