In both my personal Pickleball journey and pulling from my experience as an instructor, one of the top goals that players come to me with is to learn how to slow the game down with resets and drop shots, especially the third shot drop. Here is the best advice I can give you on this topic. It is a mindset, yes, I know, seems like a very simple answer but one that will not be possible until a player reaches that level of their game and then is ready to accept this and to start working on changing the game in their head.
Once I reached this level where my game was stuck or had plateaued, I realized that learning to slow down the game by hitting third shot drops, resetting attacks and hitting reset shots was the next level. One thing I did immediately was make the decision to play as many games as I could where I hit every shot minus the serve and return into the no volley zone or the kitchen. Yes, every shot that was not a serve or a return I hit into the kitchen. I started to win so many more rallies and ultimately the end result was I started winning so many more games. Now keep in mind that my goal was not to win more games it was just to learn a new part of the game that I felt like was the next level in my progression of growth The wins were just confirmation that I was on the right track. I knew then that i was on to something. If know the saying “You don’t know what you don’t know” then you know it was time for me to find an instructor who could teach me the proper way to third shot drop, reset and learn to hit rest shots back into the no volley zone.
I also have the privilege a lot of times after a clinic or lessons to play some rec games with my students. Most of the time I take it easy and spend time socializing and talking with players about Pickleball. However, when I do get a chance I will step onto the court for a few games and play with students. A lot of times players will tell me that they have not won a game and they would like me to help them win. Now I use this as a great opportunity to challenge a few of my students to hit all shots into the kitchen again minus serve and return. Why? Because ultimately the game of Pickleball is a game of mistakes. Yes, I know most of you will not like that word. I remember the first time I wrote that phrase I was pummeled for that post and how dare I say anyone makes a mistake. It is an error at the most and a fun mis-hit and the very least. Okay, so let me break it down for you. Keep in mind I work with a lot of beginners and intermediate players so I think this applies. When it comes to higher level play the mistakes and errors will look different, so go with me on this. If you play a game and the end result is your team comes out as the team that lost 11-7 the first question I would ask myself is, “how many points did the other team actually earn?”. The second question I would ask is, “how many points did we give them as a team through our mistakes?”. Let’s say that you hit three returns out. This gives the other team three points and then you take those three points away from their 11 and now you have 8 points. Let’s say that during rallies you hit 4 balls out that allowed them to score three points off of. Now take those three points off their total and they are sitting at 5 points. Then you look at those 5 points and realize that they won those points outright with great shots. Now the score is 8 to 5 in your favor. The opposing team won 5 points outright and you gave them 6 points in errors and that is how they won the game. If you make fewer mistakes, most of the time in a game the other team will start making mistakes that give you points and they ultimately win the game for you. This, in my opinion, is where the secret to patience in the game of Pickleball really lies.
Now again, this will look different at each level and at times a player making a mistake allows the opponent to counter-attack or attack and doesn’t mean that you are always passive to earn points off of mistakes. When you know how to hit shots that create mistakes by players that is where the real fun begins and when your level of Pickleball starts really taking off but we all have to start on a small level to first recognize how this can happen.
The next level for you is to start working on the slow game and this is where professional help does come into play as long as you are ready to start working on retraining your brain to slow the game down as much as possible.
There are many drills that can help you learn to reset, third shot drop and hit reset drops. I can show you, or you and a group of players who are interested in drilling weekly, what drills to work on and what modified games to play to help you start working on purposely slowing the game down. Keep in mind we haven’t even started talking about dinking yet as that is what you do once you learn to slow it down. Learning to dictate points through dinking is an art that is beautiful once you start understanding how it works.
I hope this helps bring some clarity both into learning to slow the game down and also my perspective on learning to slow the game down. I think in all of my years of teaching this game I have learned a few things in teaching this part of the game through tons of trial and error and most of it has nothing to do with the actual skill. Success lies between one’s ears. If we can start working on that then the skill you will learn will be very effective. I should mention one other thing. Players will not learn everything in one lesson. It will take several lessons to continually progress each skill until they become a part of your game whether that is weekly or biweekly while working on it in between.
Practice not until you get it right, practice until you can’t get it wrong.