Basic Introduction for First Time Players
The instructor should start by giving a brief overview of the history of pickleball and how it got its name. This will be followed by a discussion of court size, different areas, and the significance of each. Younger players or those who have not played racquet sports; should probably practice bouncing the ball on the paddle while standing still and then while walking around. Next, players should simply hit the ball back and forth in the air from a short distance and then stepping back one step and repeating. Players should see how long they can keep the ball going. Repeat hitting the ball on the bounce. With experienced racquet sport players, the initial practice is probably not necessary or can be practiced at home. Safety should be stressed now and throughout the beginning lessons. The teacher should introduce the serve and have students practice in a cooperative manner.
Introduce the court to players. Walk around the court as you talk about the various lines and use the correct terms for the each. Use the court diagram provided by the USAPA, full diagram , for the dimensions and the names of the lines. You may want to give players a copy of the diagram or have them go home and study it online. The dimensions are the same as a doubles badminton court, 20’ X 44’. The net is 36” high at the pole and 34” at the centre. The non-volley zone is marked 7’ back from the net.It is critical to take a few minutes to explain the non-volley zone and its importance. Try to avoid terms like the box or the kitchen when referring to that seven foot area.
Explain to players they cannot hit a ball in the air in that zone. They can stand in there but they cannot hit the ball in the air. A player may go into the NV zone to play a ball that lands in there but they must then vacate the zone before taking the next ball in the air. The purpose of this zone is to prevent the powerful smashes at the net that would end most rallies quickly. There are many long rallies in pickleball that result because players must stay back. If in the action of making a volley shot any part of your body or clothing goes on the NV-line or in the non-volley zone, it is considered a fault and the other team gets the point or down.
One of the worst things that can happen to you as a teacher of beginners is to see a player hurt during initial lessons. Please caution players to play within their limits. Do not go for a ball they cannot get and risk injury by falling or over extending a muscle. Shoes are critical. All players must wear proper court shoes and coaches should stress that these should be indoor shoes and used only for pickleball.
Another rule that should be strictly adhered to is the “ball in court rule”. When a ball from another court enters your playing area, all play should stop and the players play a let serve. Stepping on a ball could cause a severe fall or twisted ankle. It is a distraction under the rules and every player should accept this as long as it is called immediately. Opponents will not be happy if you call it after they have won the point and therefore this not allowed.
All players should be encouraged to do a light warm up before playing. Make sure players only stretch until they can feel the stretch and hold it for 20 -30 seconds and repeat several times. If leg, arm, and back muscles have been warmed up, the risk of pulling a muscle is greatly reduced.
There is no need for this to be a full calisthenic work out and each player should develop his or her own program.
Legs can be stretched gently by placing both hands on a wall or fence and pushing gently stretching your ham string muscles. Stretching one arm over your head will gently warm up arm and body muscles. Do "monkey hangs" to stretch the lower back. Twist your trunk from side to side to help your back muscles warm up.
One of the most common injuries is tennis elbow and this can be avoided by stretching the paddle arm out fully, palm up and using the other hand pull the extended figures back toward your body. Make sure it is a gently stretch and held for 30 seconds. Lifting a 5 pound weight several times a day with paddle hand when not playing will also help prevent tennis elbow.
When you go on the court, rally back and forth for several minutes making sure not to over extend at the start. This not only helps you to warm up muscles but allows you to practice all the basic strokes.
Players should be introduced to the grip by telling them to “shake hands with the paddle”. Briefly demonstrate a serve to all players explaining the fact that the server must be underhand in an upward motion and contact with the ball must be made below the waist. The paddle face cannot be above the wrist or the serve is illegal. Both feet must be behind the baseline or back service line before contact with the ball is made. The server may step into the court only after making contact with the ball.The serve is made to the diagonally opposite court and service always begins in the right hand court at the start of the game and when it switches sides in doubles. Beginners should try to aim for the center of the court to begin with. Getting the serve in is the most important thing at this point.
Point out that all lines are good on the serve except the non-volley line. In other words, if the ball touches the non-volley line of the receiver’s court it is considered a fault. All other lines are good. If the serve hits the net but otherwise enters the serving court cleanly, it is a “let’ serve and taken over. Each server is allowed only one fault before losing serve.Demonstrate a couple of serves to show the correct underhand motion.
Have two players come on to one court. Direct one player to go to the right hand service area on one side of the net and the other to go the directional opposite service area on the other side. You assist one player in serving across the net and have the other person catch the ball and throw it back. Practice three services and then switch partners. Have the partners switch to the left court and do the same thing over.
Bring two new people out on to this court and have the first individuals teach the two new players.You now move to the second court and teach two new people and then have them teach two others. Use this process having players as teachers and observers watching others serve and make suggestions to help improve the serves of others. On three courts, you can have 12 people serving another 12 observing so everyone is involved. Make sure you establish a non-threatening atmosphere so players feel comfortable giving and receiving tips.A few final items on serving. The server does not bounce the ball before hitting it. If you accidental drop the ball, it is not considered a fault. If you swing at the ball and miss it, a whiff, it counts as a fault and you lose your serve. Another thing to remember. You and your partner can only win points when serving.
Finally, at the start of a new game, the serving team gets only one serve the first time. To decide on whom gets first serve, players may decide to rally the ball or just simply say start. In an official tournament, the decision on who serves first is made by an official coin toss.
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