We all know that consistency wins in tennis and pickleball. No question about it.
How would you like to be that player who wins more matches, regardless of how good (or average) your strokes look?
Sounds simple, and it is! You can significantly speed up your improvement in tennis or pickleball without paying for more lessons.
Using visual guidance systems is the key. But it is often misunderstood. It’s simpler than you think since we all use visual guides hundreds of times EVERY DAY!
Here are some examples of visual guides in everyday life: Being guided to drive in traffic lanes by painted lines on the road … well at least most of us stay in our own lanes!
And, then there are walkways. And, guides to stand in lines in banks, supermarkets, movie theaters, and airports! You get the idea. Physical lines, openings like doors, arrows directing traffic, and even hiking on established mountain paths use visual guides to help us move through life efficiently to safely and successfully reach our destinations!
So, what about tennis or pickleball? Have you ever hit a great shot and someone says, “Wow! That was a terrific shot!” Then, because you didn’t actually aim for that spot, you think to yourself, “Gosh, was that a lucky shot. I didn’t even aim there!”
Targeting in tennis, pickleball, and many other sports requires the player to visualize their target before they hit their shot.
However, most coaches and players set up a bulls-eye target like a can of balls or a water bottle. BIG mistake! We’ve all tried AND failed to hit bulls-eye targets. They’re just too small. For visualization to work, we need to succeed more than fail. I like to use a 70-30 success to failure ratio. How does this work?
Simple. Set up a large enough court target on the other side of the net. Make the target big enough for you to succeed more than you fail. Here’s an example:
In a baseline rally in tennis, we want to hit as many balls well behind the service line on the other side of the net. To master hitting consistently deep into the court set up rectangular target areas. Use a ball machine or find a partner who can feed balls to you or someone who can rally consistently under control. Then, when practicing, if you hit too short, increase the arc on the next shot to hit deeper. And, if you hit too deep, then hit the ball a little lower for it to land shorter.
For pickleball, since the court is almost half the length of a tennis court, and the fact that players come to the net much more often than tennis, we need to practice hitting pickleballs lower over the net to avoid setting opponents up for point-finishing volleys or smashes. So, in pickleball, practice hitting your groundstrokes to land close to the Kitchen Line, keeping the balls low at your opponent’s feet! Again, just set up rectangular target zones where you need to hit your shots. And, adjust the size to match your playing level so you succeed more than 50% of the time!
The result of smart target practice with highly visual target areas is that you will improve twice as fast! This is a fact.
The next question is obvious. How can we practice like this? You can use tape or other types of materials to create these rectangular target zones, or even large pieces of carpet! Or, something simpler and more versatile that allows you to modify the size of your targets as you improve!
Joe Dinoffer is a Master Professional in both the USPTA and PTR, has been recognized with numerous national awards including the 2019 City of Dallas Humanitarian Award for contributions to inner city tennis, and has conducted clinics and exhibitions in over 50 countries. Joe is the author and editor of 9 books and more than 20 DVDs, has more than 300 published articles in various tennis and pickleball magazines, and has aired many instructional tips on the Tennis Channel. Plus, Joe’s YouTube channel has more than 2 million views and growing! His latest book “Words, Wisdom, and Whimsy” is the second volume of an illustrated series called “Poems from the Heart.” In 1994, Joe founded OnCourt OffCourt, Ltd., a company dedicated to serving the tennis, pickleball, fitness, yoga, and physical education industries with innovative training aids and educational tools. Today, he has designed and manufactured more than 150 creative products being distributed and used in 100 countries worldwide.