So there I was. I had finished my first day, a mere 90 minutes or so, of playing pickleball. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was hooked. I’d be heading back to Derby Park the following Sunday morning for more.
I’m not one to do things halfway. Once I commit, I jump in with both feet. I don’t leap blindly, but once I do, it’s “all in”.
I started watching video after video on YouTube on how to improve in Pickleball. The Pickleball Channel is particularly informative, as are the Third Shot Sports videos (by Canadian Mark Renneson) and also the super helpful instructional videos by Joe Baker.
I also subscribed to The Pickleball Show podcast on iTunes—it’s bit heavy on the promotional aspect of it, but the content is typically good. Episodes are about 20 minutes or so and you can always speed through the redundant promo parts. As I type this (February 26, 2017) there are nearly 100 of the shows recorded and I’ve listened to about a quarter of them so far.
The Serving Disadvantage
Last time I mentioned that the serving team is at a disadvantage. Why?
First, it’s important to know that any team at the net has a huge advantage. This is the same as tennis. There are far more angles to send the ball off of the court and out of play from the net than from the baseline.
Secondly, should explain another pickleball rule. The two paddle hits after the serve must be after the ball bounces. In other words, it’s serve, return (on the bounce), hit (on the bounce). Once those three hits are complete, volleys may commence.
Because of this rule, it makes no sense for the serving team to have any players at the net before the third shot since they cannot volley the ball. It’s illegal. Therefore, the serving team stays at the baseline. However, the receiving team has no such strategic restriction. Of course, the receiving player needs to be at the baseline, but that player’s partner can already be up at the non-volley zone line. (Most people stay a few inches back from the line to be safe.) Since half the team is already up at the kitchen, this gives an advantage to the receiving team. To balance this, in terms of fairness of the game, only the serving team can score.
So, some history. Pickleball was invented by happenstance in Washington State back in 1965. A politician’s kids were bored and so the adults cobbled together a game for them using a badminton court, the badminton net (dropped to the ground like a tennis net), ping pong paddles, and a plastic wiffle ball that was lying around. The game was addictive. (As I have personally discovered!) The story goes that one of the adult participants was tall (6’2″, if I recall correctly) and he would just stand at the net and slam down any ball hit in his direction. To balance this, the no-volley zone was invented. The tall man had to stand 7 feet back from the net and his height was neutralized.
Many of the pickleball rules were a result of trial and error. If the game was unfair, a new rule was added to make it more fair. Eventually, they figured out they needed bigger paddles than just small ping pong paddles so they cut some out of plywood on a bandsaw. Now we have paddle cores made out of Nomex (basically cardboard covered with resin), aluminum, graphite, and fiberglass . . . and new paddle technologies are developing all the time.