Let me ask a question … during a typical game of pickleball, how much time do you spend hitting the ball versus picking up the ball?
This question speaks to the topic of today’s Play Low and Slow© Blog post. The metric I’d like to focus on and discuss is: “the number of times a ball is hit successfully during a rally.” This metric is my favorite pickleball measure because it relates to the control and consistency required to play high-quality pickleball as well as advance in skill level.
And, it’s a measure of quality and performance achieved by only a small percentage of players during an average game of pickleball.
If you don’t believe me, confirm this metric for yourself. On your next trip to the court(s), take time to observe play and count the number of times a ball is hit successfully over the net during a rally. The serve, of course, is hit number one. But after that? Typically, the average rally only sees the ball hit six times (or less).
It’s been my experience in doing this counting exercise that the typical rally very rarely goes for more than ten hits. Yes, advanced players may experience rallies of ten or more hits a greater percentage of time than intermediate or novice players (though not always). However, I’ve not often observed (or personally experienced) this percentage exceeding 25% of the time.
In my coached doubles practice sessions, I sometimes require players to hit a third shot drop and then 6-10 dinks before aiming to “finish” the point. By inserting this requirement into the coached gameplay session, I’m aiming to give these players a taste of how high quality pickleball is played (or should be played, in my opinion).
So, here’s my assignment for you. In the next week, while waiting for time on court, count the number of times the ball is hit successfully over the net during a rally. Take out a piece of paper and pen or pencil and write down the number of successive hits. Out of the total rallies in that specific game, what percentage of rallies had ten hits or more?
Of course, the next question in this quality and performance assessment exercise is to ask the “why” question. Why did the number of hits exceed ten? Why did they not exceed ten? By using this pickleball metric and engaging in a little gameplay analysis, you will become a sharper student of the game. And perhaps translate your insights into better play for you and your partner.
Of course, you can always ask someone else to track this metric (as well as the number and type of unforced errors you make). I do this during coached gameplay practice sessions to help my students and clients reduce unforced errors, increase control, and consistency, and improve skills.
But, ultimately, it’s about raising the quality of play and increasing the joy and satisfaction we receive from this crazy game. So, would you like to spend more time hitting balls or chasing them during your gameplay sessions?