The Pickleball Skill No One Talks About

Movement Away From The Ball

We often focus on shots, strategies, grips, and a handful of other skills that all add up to our ability to compete on a pickleball court. However, one crucial aspect that often goes overlooked is movement away from the ball. While it may not be the most glamorous topic, mastering movement away from the ball will take your game to the next level. 

1. Anticipation

Anticipating your opponent’s shots and positioning yourself accordingly is a hallmark of elite pickleball players. Movement away from the ball begins with anticipation – the ability to read your opponent’s intentions, shot selection, and court placement. Developing a keen sense of anticipation allows you to proactively move into advantageous positions, preparing for the next shot before your opponent even makes contact with the ball.

2. Court Coverage

One of the most overlooked aspects of movement away from the ball is maintaining optimal court coverage. Successful pickleball players continuously adjust their positioning to cover the maximum area of the court efficiently. Utilize a split-step technique, bouncing lightly on the balls of your feet, to remain agile and ready to respond to any shot. 

3. Non Motion, Motion

Pickleball is a delicate balance between offense and defense. While moving toward the ball aggressively can be necessary at times, learning when to fake such movements adds incredible pressure on your opponent as they read your movement as a poach and change their shot selection. This non-movement is arguable the most effective movements you can make while playing, mostly because it is not the kind of movement that is taught. Athletes from other sports, like basketball, football, soccer, and baseball have a tendency to project these nuanced moves, but these small movements can pay off in big ways.

4. Recovery

Movement is also important in recovering after execution of a shot. After hitting your shot, don’t stand and admire your work; instead, recover quickly by moving back to defend the next shot coming your way. Watch professional players and you will see how quickly they recover and make a conscious effort to return to their ready position after each shot, allowing them to maintain a balanced stance and be prepared for the next exchange.

5. Create Opportunity

By purposefully moving, while away from the ball, you can manipulate the court and create openings for offensive opportunities. Strategic positioning can force your opponent to make mistakes, leaving them vulnerable to your well-placed shots. Anticipating angled shots in the Kitchen that can be played for ATPs or pushing a deep dink down the line to create an Erne are great examples of creating these opportunities. The ability to dictate play through intelligent movement away from the ball can give you the upper hand in any match.

While it might not be as glamorous as executing an Erne or an ATP, movement away from the ball is an essential aspect of high-level pickleball play. By honing your anticipation, maintaining court coverage, and understanding the balance between offense and defense, you can elevate your game to new heights. Embrace the art of movement away from the ball, and you’ll find yourself outmaneuvering opponents, creating opportunities, and taking your pickleball skills to a whole new level. 

Remember, becoming a complete player is much more than what you do when you have the ball, often it comes down to what you do when you don’t. 

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