In 1976 Timothy Gallwey wrote The Inner Game of Tennis. Why are we opening this post with a 31-year-old tennis book? Because if you are serious about pickleball you should read it; then say “bounce-hit”.
Pickleball and Tennis
Those of us that have had no tennis, or serious racket sports background, and started playing pickleball a decade ago know that the recent flood of tennis players has changed our favorite sport. There is no denying that virtually all the young pickleball professionals benefited from college tennis scholarships, coached college tennis or were tennis professionals before taking up pickleball. We can bemoan the fact that former tennis players’ progress on the pickleball court laps our own. Or as the old saying goes, “If you can’t beat them…join them.”
There are many chapters in Mr. Gallwey’s book that can help your pickleball game, but let us recommend just one: bounce-hit. As we have commented in many prior posts, mental focus is key to pickleball success. So is keeping your eye on the ball. We have found that saying bounce-hit as one practices pickleball, focuses the mind on the current stroke and keeps one’s eye on the ball.
When Nancy was teaching Pickleball 101 in The Villages, she often encountered students of widely varying skill levels. Simply asking the students to tap the ball up and down on a paddle while standing still could cause balls to fly widely about the court. She also observed that many players looked at their target rather than the ball before their paddle made contact. Those with limited hand-eye coordination found nearly every dink hitting the net.
Asking the students to say bounce-hit aloud often did the trick. As the students would learn to dink, they would say the word “bounce” when the ball bounced in the non-volley zone. When their paddle made contact with the ball, they would say “hit”. “Bounce-hit”…first aloud and then silently to themselves.
Not Just Dinking
When we read Andre Agassi’s brilliant book Open, we learned why Steffi Graff squealed the way she did on the tennis court. She and other players were taught to exclaim a two-syllable grunt. “Ahh-aaaa!” “Ahh” when the ball bounced on the court and “aaaa” when they made contact. Coincidence? We think not.
We all know that missing a return of serve is a cardinal sin in pickleball. If you are having difficulty with your groundstrokes try it. Instead of sounding like Steffi, simply say “bounce-hit” in your head. Your partner won’t think you are nuts and you will be surprised just how well it works.