I talk a lot about playing offensively. This is a challenging concept, especially if you have never considered the difference between defense, neutral and offense.
What Position are You In?
A big part of thinking offensively is being aware of what position you are in. Defense….neutral…offense. It is difficult to make an effective offensive shot if, at the time, you are in a defensive position. I often see players trying to come up with a marvelous winner when, in fact, they are in a defensive position with only a 50/50 chance of hitting a winner or an error.
The Steps to Offense
There is a logical sequence of steps to get on move through the three positions; defense, neutral, offense:
- When you are on defense, your goal must be to get back to neutral.
- Once in neutral, our goal is to work towards being on offense.
- When on offense, we want to take advantage of that situation and attempt to finish the point.
When I bring up this concept with students I sometimes hear, “I’m just trying to get the ball back over!”
I know it is tough to change the way you think. However, when we are thinking only of getting the ball back over, we are keeping ourselves on defense. This is a negative way to think, and will likely end with you losing the point.
Shift Our Thinking
If we can shift our thinking to awareness, then we can start doing things that will help us build points rather than just end up in points. You’ve heard me reference my pickleball mantra, and the importance of balance and breathing.
Being conscious of your balance and breathing will help you identify what position you are in. If I am off-balance i am in a defensive position. My goal is to regain my balance so that I can breathe and slow myself down enough to start seeing what options are available in front of me.
Now if you are balanced and you are able to control the direction of the ball that is great! The question then becomes are you on offense or in neutral? If you and your opponents are both balanced and holding your positions that is likely a neutral position.
If you are balanced and moving your opponent with the balls you are hitting that is offensive! Now you are dictating not only what the ball is doing but how your opponent is moving. YOU are moving them!
Learning to relax is a key to being able to identify: defense, neutral and offense. If you have a death grip on your paddle and are jumping around reacting to every movement it will be difficult to feel what your body is doing and what you want your body to do. Take a deep breath and let your shoulders drop. Allow the paddle to move a bit in your hand. Once you get yourself back to neutral, move your opponent from side to side or up and back and look for an opportunity to go on offense. Only then will you win the point.