Coach Mark is an advocate for and practitioner of the “play low and slow” style of pickleball. Play Low and Slow is an approach to pickleball emphasizing defense, strategy, and teamwork instead of brute force and unfocused power. The goal is to take control of game tempo and force opponents into making mistakes or popping up balls for easy winners. And when the other team plays low and slow too, you experience exciting and fun rallies of 20+ shots instead of frustrating rallies that last only 4-6 shots.
I learned about the “low and slow” approach to pickleball from one of my coaches, Bud Meltsner. Bud introduced me to this approach by candidly dissecting the way I was playing pickleball (at that point in time). After going down to yet another defeat trying to overhit and overpower an opposing team, Bud gave me some feedback and shared one of his many pickleball mantras with me: “hit smarter, not harder.”
Bud patiently explained that if I didn’t soften my game, especially at the net, I would continue to put the ball on my opponent’s paddle or send it into the net or back fence. With his usual humor, Bud told me “he had made many a fence cry.”
I was able to put the play low and slow strategy into action just a few weeks after my feedback session with Bud. In a game one evening, my partner and I were down 2-4 against two young and athletic slammers. I turned to my partner and said, “let’s play low and slow against these two.” She nodded her head and we promptly started to block the other team’s hard shots into the NVZ as well as raise our drop shot consistency. We also started to frustrate the two slammers with our dinking consistency and occasional offensive lob from the non-volley line.
In short order, we ran off nine consecutive points and won the game, 11-4. The look of frustration on the other side of the court absolutely reinforced to me the benefit and value of playing low and slow. And, this exact same situation has been repeated numerous times since.
There are a number of skills you must master in order to play low and slow pickleball. In future blog posts, we’ll review these skills as well as dive into the mechanics and their application in game situations.
To help you begin or make quicker progress in playing low and slow, I found two online videos demonstrating drills you can use with a partner to develop the “soft hands” needed to defeat “slammers” on the court.
The first video is from Pickleball Coaching International and is called “Double Touch Dinks.” Use this link and then scroll down the page to find a short video by Mark Renneson of Third Shot Sports demonstrating the “double touch dink” drill.
The second video is from Jordan Briones of PrimeTime Pickleball. Jordan is a 5.0 playing pro and fellow IPTPA certified coach and teaching professional. I recommend subscribing to PrimeTime Pickleball as well as Pickleball Coaching International.
Here’s to your success in hitting smarter, not harder and playing low and slow!