The Basics and General Thoughts about the Game
Keep Your Head Still Throughout the Shot
When you miss a shot, you may think you weren’t watching the ball. Sometimes you are watching the ball, but you may not be keeping your head still.
When you hit a ball, your eyes will instinctively follow the ball’s path until the moment of contact (even if you can’t really see the ball traveling that fast). Keeping your head still throughout your shot will help you maintain better balance. This is particularly important on shots close to the net, especially when you have to run up to reach the ball. It’s very tempting to raise your head just before you contact the ball in order to watch the intended target. This typically results in poor ball contact and a loss of accuracy.
If you can keep your head still through the entire swing, your shots will be stronger, more consistent, and more accurate.
Get Ready for Each Shot
What happens if you don’t make it up to the non-volley zone line and get caught in mid-court? This isn’t the area you’d like to be, but it doesn’t matter where you are on the court — still at the baseline, halfway up to the non-volley zone line, or waiting there: the moment your opponent’s paddle makes contact with the ball, assume the ready position. Really do this! Don’t just think, oh, I can just stop moving. Put your paddle up and in front of you. Keep your weight on the balls of your feet and be ready to move, keeping your eye on the ball. Then, after you hit the ball, head for the non-volley zone as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Pay Attention to the Details
The little things can win or lose a game. UCLA basketball coach John Wooden used to start every season by teaching his players how to tie their shoes. Actually, he had them learn to put on their socks properly first. All this because it avoided blisters and made game play much more comfortable. It’s the little things that can make a large difference in your game. The grip of your paddle – is it too large or small? Is it too short or too long? Is your paddle too heavy? Not responsive enough? Take time to analyze the details and try new things to make your game better.
Find the Right Ready Position
The ready position most people are familiar with is with your feet about shoulder width apart, knees bent slightly, your weight on the balls of your feet, and your paddle pointing toward the net so that you are ready to move to your forehand or backhand, depending on how the ball comes to you. This position comes from tennis where the court is large and there is more time between your opponent’s hit and your return. Using this ready position is fine when you’re at the baseline, but it may not be the best choice when you are up at the non-volley zone.
This close to the net, there often isn’t time to move from this ready position and make contact with a shot coming at you quickly, especially a volley. Try this instead:
Hold your paddle in the backhand position up in front of your chest. This way, you can return most shots by simply rotating the paddle. If the ball comes to your forehand side, just rotate your body toward the ball and you’ll be able to reach the forehand volley.