In today’s video/blog we’re going to go over the four key skills that you need to be a 4.0 player and above.
Skill #1 – Consistent Serve & Return
The very first key skill that you’re going to need to achieve a 4.0 or higher level is that you’re going to have to have a consistent serve and a consistent return.
Those are the first two shots of the point and you need to hit them with accuracy and consistency.
Let’s start with the serve.
I’m on one side of the court and I have Katrina at the other end. I’m on the odd side serving to the odd side. But, make sure to practice this from both the odd and even side.
I have three cones set up. One towards the “T” in the middle off the court which is going to be to her forehand, one towards the middle of the odd side which is going to be a serve to her body, and one towards the sideline which is going to be towards her backhand.
Those are my three main targets.
They’re two and a half feet deep from the baseline. I’m just going to work on hitting consistent solid serves. I’m going to try to hit the cones if I can.
Katrina can work on her returns at the same time.
As I’m drilling, I’m really focused on one of the targets before I serve. This is something that you can do in a game. Find out where your opponent’s weakness is and serve to that but also mix it in when you need.
This is a good way that you can really develop your serve into a weapon.
Now let’s jump into returns.
The return is so key because the quality and the depth on your return is really going to affect what happens on that third shot for your opponents. We really want to get our returns deep and hit it with some pace or spin if we can.
This is a good drill that you can do to practice that.
You can have someone serve either from the odd side to the odd side or from the even side to the even side.
Right now I’m going to show the odd side.
I have the 3 cones set up as such (see image below) a few feet inside the baseline: one towards the sideline of the even side, one towards the middle of the court, and one to the sideline of the odd side.
Depending on what player you’re targeting, or if you want to hit a nice deep return middle, this is a good drill that you can do to practice.
Skill #2 – Solid 3rd Shot Drop
Let’s jump into the second skill that you’re going to need if you’re trying to get to a 4.0 level player or above – a solid third shot drop. This is inevitable if you want to become an advanced level player.
A good way to work on this is to have a partner or friend on the non-volley zone line across the net and you at the baseline. The person at the baseline is working on their third shot drop (in this case Jordan).
Jordan is going to focus on getting into position early and having a consistent contact point out in front.
The goal for this drill is for the net player (Katrina) to put a lot of pressure and hit a lot of deep balls to me (Jordan) so that I can practice my third shot drop.
Work on being consistent and being accurate on your drops.
We know this game is ever-evolving and there’s a lot of players that hit with a lot of power, a lot of ground strokes, and that is definitely needed as well to be a complete player. But, they can’t get to that level unless they also have a good and consistent third shot drop.
Skill #3 – Reset Shots In The Transition Zone
The third skill that you’re going to need to become a 4.0 level or higher is the reset.
You have to be good at hitting reset shots from the transition zone and the reason for this is when you and your team are serving, and that return comes back and you hit your third shot, you are going to have to work your way through this transition area.
You’re not going to hit a third shot and get right up at the non-volleys zone line 99% of the time.
You’re going to have to hit at least one, maybe two, or maybe three shots from the transition zone. It’s important to work on your reset shots and hitting them into the kitchen.
I’m going to show you a good drill that you can start off with and then we’re going to progress to a full drill where you transition from the baseline to the non-volley zone.
Let’s get in to it..So, I’m in the transition zone and I’m about eight feet back from the non-volleys zone line. My wife Katrina is going to feed me the first ball and I’m going to basically try to drop every shot that I can.
The reason why I’m doing this is I’m trying to hit a neutral ball into the kitchen so that I can then follow it in so I could get up to that non-volley zone line.
She’s going to try to put as much pressure on me as she can and she’s actually going to try to put the ball away if she gets a high enough ball from me.
I’m just trying to neutralize every ball.
I’m really trying to force her to have a low contact point. Anything high, she tries to put away.
This is a great way that you can practice your reset shots.
Next, I’m going to start from the baseline and she’s going to feed the ball hard, like a good hard return, and I’m going to try to work my way from the baseline to the non-volley zone.
If I could hit a third shot drop and rush right up I’m going to do that. But, if I need to hit a shot or two in this transition I’m going to take my time, be patient, and then work my way up to that non-volley zone line.
Skill #4 – Solid Volleys At The Net
Let’s jump into the fourth skill that you’re going to need and that is consistent solid volleys.
This game is played up at the net. You’re going to volley a lot so the skill that is needed is good block defensive volleys as well as counter attacking volleys when someone else is speeding up the ball.
Let’s talk about how to do that..so Katrina and I are up at the non volley zone and what we’re going to do is just feed each other a ball so that we can work on our volleys.
This is a cooperative drill. We’re not going to try to hit winners right now. We’re just trying to get the feel and get that consistency on our volleys.
There’s a couple of things we want to focus on.
The first is going to be your contact point. You want to make sure your contact point is out in front the best you can because you’re going to have the most control out here. You don’t want it too close to your body and you don’t want to get jammed. So, you’re going to have to move at times to create space to have a consistent contact point out in front.
The next thing we want to focus on is a stable paddle face.
I’m not talking about swinging volleys. These are just regular push or punch volleys.
These are the kinds of volleys you’re going to hit a lot in pickleball. You’re not going to see a lot of wrist action at all and you’re not going to see me changing the angle of my paddle when I volley. It’s pretty consistent.
As I hit my forehand or hit my backhand, I’m just pushing or moving it forward. It’s a very compact stroke and this is a good way to work on it up at the non-volley zone line.
That was a good way to work on defensive blocked volleys and neutral volleys. But now, what we’re going to work on is counter attacking volleys. This is when someone chooses to speed it up and you are trying your best to be ready and trying to counter attack back and down.
What I’m going to do is I’m going to dink with Katrina and I’m going to be the attacker and she’s going to be the counter attacker.
She knows that I can attack at any time. We’re going to dink and I’m going to attack. I want her to practice her counter attack.
That’s just a great way that you can work on your counter attacking.
This concludes the four skills that you’re going to need if you want to achieve a 4.0 level or higher.
Every high-level player has all these skills and they’ve mastered them.
Go out there and practice these skills!