Free Lessons From the Pros!

Free Lessons From the Pros!

It’s the holiday season and I have good news. The pros are giving free lessons! Yes, that’s right, free lessons from every pro, including Ben Johns. Now that I have your attention, I will explain. Yogi Berra once famously said, “You can observe a lot by just watching”. He was 100% right. All year long, we are given an opportunity to watch the best pickleball players in the world compete on the PPA tour. We get to watch them on TV for free. When you watch the pros, whether on TV or in person, you can observe a lot by just watching. Next time you watch the pros, watch AND learn. Here’s how to do it.
First, watch pros who play with the same hand as you. Are you a lefty? Then focus on Tyler Loong or Rafa Hewett. That sounds pretty basic, but I see right-handed players taking lessons from left-handed instructors (or vice versa) all the time. I think it is a mistake. Lefties and righties play differently. To learn better, watch pros who play as you do, lefty or righty.
Second, watch pros who have a grip similar to you. Riley Newman and JW Johnson have very different grips. It causes them to play differently. Riley’s grip is more forehand dominant, and JW’s is more backhand dominant. You will learn more from watching a pro with a grip similar to yours.
Third, watch pros with a similar style to you. Do you play mostly or all on the right side? Then watch Lucy Kovalova or Thomas Wilson. Do you like driving the ball and playing an aggressive style? Then watch Anna Bright or Anna Leigh Waters. Do you hit a two-hand backhand? Then ALW or Riley are players for you to watch.
Finally, every pro is not equally adept at every shot. Everyone is different. Watching pros hit certain shots that they are particularly adept at is a good way to improve your game. Imitating specific shots and adopting them as your own will help you progress. For me, I started pickleball when Scott Moore was dominating the game. I have many shots that are direct imitations of shots learned from watching Scott play. Here are some examples of pros who have particular expertise worth imitating.

1. To learn patience, watch Ben Johns. Ben has lots of great shots, but his most underappreciated asset is his patience. Watch how he does not rush his shots, watch how many times he lets the ball drop low before dinking, and watch how he moves his feet a lot to get in the right position before hitting the ball. Patience, you have more time to hit the ball than you think.

2. To learn the topspin drop shot, watch Christian Alshon. Topspin is far more prevalent in pickleball today than it was 5 years ago. The forehand topspin drop shot is a great shot to take advantage of how topspin helps you hit a safer shot, that gets at your opponent’s feet.

3. To learn the backhand flick volley, watch AJ Koller. He puts the paddle way out in front and can hit a quick flick winner.

4. To learn the forehand topspin dink from the right side, watch Thomas Wilson or Lucy Kovalova. This is a key shot in pickleball, especially for women in mixed doubles.

5. To learn the forehand topspin dink from the left side, watch Julian Arnold. He runs around his backhand to hit forehand topspin dinks crosscourt.

6. To learn the simple forehand dink, no topspin, watch Collin Johns dink crosscourt. It is a simple motion, and he basically never misses.

7. To learn how to do Ernes, watch Federico Staksrud and Pablo Tellez play doubles. They do more Ernes as a pair than anyone.

8. To learn how to do a two-handed backhand drop, watch Riley Newman. He has the steadiest shot of this type in the game.

9. To learn a better backhand volley, watch JW Johnson. His backhand volley is as good as it gets.

These are just some examples of specific shots to watch where a player has particular expertise. There are many, many more. The point is that there are pros out there that play a game similar to you. Obviously, they play it better than us, but it is the same game. When a player similar to you plays on TV or you see them in person, watch their strokes carefully, see where they position their paddle and their body pre-shot. Watch how they execute the shot. Then try to imitate it yourself the next time you play. You can learn a lot by just watching. And the lesson is free.
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