Pickleball Points

I have written about the third shot drop multiple times. It’s like our old tennis “chip-and-charge” tactic, where we painted the sideline or opponent’s shoelaces with a spinning ball as we charged the net and then set up for a volley.

And by now you must also understand that this shot does not have to always follow the second shot — which is what shot? OK, too early in the morning — the return of serve. It probably was named the third shot because pickleball officials saw how darn hard players seemed to have just scoring pickleball after the numbers four or five.

There are multiple situations where it can be used, like when your opponents have their feet glued to the baseline. It would probably always be the third shot that two world-class players would use to get to the net, so maybe the name likely filtered down to us wannabes.

I have tried to explain the third shot drop in pickleball so many times that the number of articles must be approaching 77 by now. Besides, it seems many of you need to get burned at least 77 times before the lightbulb finally goes off in your head as to why I explain it.

Mike Smith of Fairway Village, one of the active organizers of pickleball in our area, suggested we should have a proper funeral for the third shot drop because it has seemingly been abducted and probably dumped at sea by a couple of bangers with mob connections from New York City. But I am the ever-optimistic coach and trust in human nature. So, by gosh, here we go the 77th time. But, first, an announcement!

Announcement: After three and a half years of surgeries and recoveries, I returned to my community courts recently. It was great fun, and everyone allowed me to laugh and clown around like a 3(third shot drop)-year-old.

In the first session, I just wanted to check out my inventory of shots. I’m afraid my behind-the-backer might have been abducted by Father Time. On my second day, I wanted to check out my precision. My 77th shot drop was terrible.

My plan — or at least my objective — is to practice at least seven hours for every hour I actually play, until I begin to hit the ball with confidence.

Wow. I heard at least a thousand swear words and more than a couple coffee cups hit the floor this morning as folks read the words “pickleball” and “practice” in the same sentence.

Five centuries ago, the French used the word “pratiser,” and, even earlier, the Romans used the word “perfectus” as part of the modern-day expression “Practice to perfection.” So, practice is not a new buzzword, and, as I understand it, those old Romans had a lot of fun.

Every instructor needs to at least explain and have you practice the 77th shot drop, simply to make you aware that this is a shot you will need to “perfectus” as you develop your game. If they see talent in you, they might push you even harder. Perhaps you need to be more appreciative of the compliment.

The Problem: When four players of mixed levels play the game, there is very little need for the third shot drop. Just stand there, and the other team will likely defeat themselves with errors, or pop-ups.

The players who need it have advanced their games to the point that about the only way they can get off the baseline, where their opponents have pinned them, to advance to the NVZ (no-volley zone) is to hit a very soft ball that just clears the net into the NVZ (a.k.a. “kitchen”), forcing their opponents to observe the “kitchen” rules.

Have you ever asked yourself why there is even a “kitchen” in pickleball? It takes the net advantage away from very good volleyers who would be all over the net otherwise. So, why not take advantage of that rule? I just heard you yell. You put down your coffee cup, slapped the table, and said you just want to have fun.

Ball control: The Seven Point Advantage

You have no idea of what you are missing and how much more fun it is controlling the ball and making it do what you want it to do. I sense you already are having a difficult morning dealing with all these threes and sevens, so let’s see if we can achieve indigestion.

The ball is your real opponent. Those other folks across the net are just movie-biz extras. And it is not just the ball. It is the right back side, the left back side, the lower back side, etc. You should not just be looking at the ball — you should be looking at these spots on the ball, depending on the shot you plan to make.

“Plan? Hey, Erma — now that rickety old Baron expects us to plan!”

Why do you think I marked-up the balls in my clinics? To help train your eyes onto the ball. The tennis folks are lucky, because they have a large brand name on a ball that makes a fairly predictable trajectory. Mr. Pickleball seems to make a couple stops at the local beer taverns before he gets to you, wobbling more and more as he nears home. So, learning to focus on a spot on the ball and watch it hit your paddle is vital to hitting the 77th shot drop accurately.

Watching the ball, I call the Seven Point Advantage, and it is pure science. Unlike some modern-day scientists, I am willing to share my logarithm: Multiply 77 times 5 (the importance of watching the ball relative to the actual shot you plan to hit), add 11 (the number of points you need to win). The result is 396, which, added together (3+9+6=18, less the 11 points needed to win a game), leaves 7 (a.k.a. the Seven Point Advantage.) Modern-day science never lets you down.

If you want to know more about the third shot drop, use the search function at CoastalPoint.com and search my earlier 76 articles, because this is the last time I will write about it. Why? Because I’m off to practice my 77th shot drop.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.