How Well Can You Watch the Ball?
“Watch the ball hit the racquet (or paddle)!”
We’ve all heard it and on the surface, it makes sense. However, the irony of this instruction is that it is impossible.
Don’t get me wrong. There is definitely merit to the instruction, “watch the ball.” After all, tennis AND pickleball are complex and fast-paced sports. In a fraction of a second, players need to judge, prepare, and position for each incoming ball. Of course you need to watch the ball! But, can you really see the ball hit the paddle?
The answer is “No.”
Test it for yourself.
Just bounce the ball off the paddle up in the air repeatedly. Even at this unrealistically slow ball speed, the event of ball contact happens too quickly. How fast? About 3-4 milliseconds. But, even though you can’t see the ball hit the paddle, the process of trying to see that point of contact can help many players. That effort may trigger several favorable things such as better breathing, concentration, and even more relaxed and full swings.
In tennis, much of the momentum of this instruction comes from tennis great Roger Federer since he is often cited as the perfect “ball watcher” and his success alongside his technique is legendary. Federer has a habit of turning his head and appears to rivet his eyes on the strings at the point of contact.
Although pickleball and tennis are very different, the fact that a large percentage of pickleball players have played tennis makes this comparison a relevant consideration.
If you’re looking for more techniques to help improve your game or your students’ game, check out all of our free training resources right here!
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.