Water bottle and pickleball gear in hand, two contenders
walk onto the court talking about what their grandchild has
just accomplished in first grade or raving about their
friend’s latest hairstyle! They come out for a good time. If
they warm-up, they might continue talking about anything -
they haven’t seen each other since yesterday! Some players
are out to prolong the warm-up time, stretching it 10 to 15
minutes. (Tournament play only allows 5 minutes.) Others
are wishing they could lose a few extra pounds, or use you
as a human ball machine. Usually, the more skilled the
player, the less likely they are to prolong a warm-up, and
they tend to rush through it like a half-frozen biscuit!
Defrost Your Strokes in 5 - Minutes
If you think about it, your warm-up is your last opportunity to get off to a great start and stay hot the whole first match! Even if you’re just going out for a friendly match, a warm up gets your body and mind prepared for what you’re about to engage in.
What’s on Your Plate? The Menu:
Dink to Dink –1 minute ~ Instead of running onto the court and blasting a few groundstrokes back and forth, get behind the non-volley line. Hit crosscourt or face-off dinks with your opponent or partner. Watch the ball come to your paddle face, hitting with very little effort and stepping inside the kitchen when necessary anticipating a ball skimming the net. After every return get your paddle up into a volley-ready position behind the non-volley line.
Ground Strokes –1 minute ~ Focus on hitting your groundstrokes deep within 2 ft of the baseline. Don’t strive for any short groundstrokes! Your nerves will do that for you - especially if you’re not following through or taking your eye off the ball to admire your shot! Work on consistency instead of power. Gradually increase your pace as your arm warms up. Don’t run around your weakness, but force the other player to hit to your weak side. Better to practice it now while you still have a chance. Your opponent will find out soon enough!
Soft 3rd Shot Drop –2 minutes ~ This shot is probably the 3rd most important shot in pickleball after the serve and return of serve. Begin at the baseline. Your opponent is at the non-volley line not attempting to put the ball away, but actually returning your shots to you while you hit your shots into the kitchen.
Overheads & Volleys –30 seconds ~ In my opinion the most exhilarating and humiliating shot in pickleball is the overhead. Many players avoid the practice during a warm-up because when you whiffle the ball or drive it out of bounds, it is a weakness indicator. And if you lob to his overhead and it's not going deep enough, you'd better watch out because you just hit him a ball to crush. This warm-up will also help you determine how he executes a lob and this will be a clue about his ability to send up one of those bombs deep into your court.
Serves –30 seconds ~ Serve with a relaxed motion. Breathe to relieve the yips, take a couple of ball bounces, get yourself a routine going and get your serves in deep. I never show any power, spin, or placement while warming this shot up, but attempt to get every one in. Your spin, power, placement, and ball height ~ well, just leave it for the surprise!
Time’s Up! Remember, the warm-up doesn’t always mean the food will be hot!