A Pickleball Lesson With a Pro - 5th in a Series of 12 Helle Sparre AGAIN!
You know those stories that start off "My sister's boyfriend's uncle knew a guy who was going to see a man about a ..." Well, in a strange twist of events kind of like that, I ended up getting to take my monthly birthday lesson from none other than the highly esteemed Helle Sparre AGAIN!
It began with a lady's doubles group I've been fortunate to play with while we're in Phoenix. I'll save you all the details between, but someone couldn't make it to the foursome's lesson with Helle and I was asked if I would be interested. Helle yes I said!
I had been trying to decide who our Mr., Mrs., or Ms. February teaching Pro would be and this was the perfect opportunity. We met at the same undisclosed park in Mesa where Ky and I had taken our lesson last month. You have got to be curious by now, but mum is still the word on the location. Book a lesson with Helle to find out where it is ;-)
Lacey, Kim, Angie and I had met each other on different courts at one time or another, but I didn't know any of them well. Pickleball tends to bring people together that way. We got right down to business and drilled on some of Helle's Dynamite Doubles strategies. If you didn't catch my blog post about last month's lesson, you might want to read it now HERE for more info on her system.
I'm glad that Ky and I had our previous lesson with just the two of us since it really can seem like drinking from a fire hose at first. It was fantastic to already know the basics, and then have Helle giving the four of us instructions as we drilled and played. I have to say that while I learned so much in the first lesson, I think more sank in the second time. With four people playing some of the concepts were a little easier to practice and understand.
You might have noticed that Ky wasn't with me. He had the chance to play a round robin with a men's group which was good practice for him in place of getting a lesson this month. He'll be back with our pro lesson next month though, God willing.
Of all of the many facets of the game that Helle covered that day, I'm going to show a clip taken with my GoPro. Despite not wanting to sound like a broken record, I again recommend getting your own GoPro Hero 7 or a newer model (Amazon affiliate link).
After some warm up, Helle had us do a Figure 8 drill. The first 8 hits are cooperative, then anything goes. The order of play is for the first person to dink diagonally cross court, the next person hits a short dink down the line, the 3rd person hits cross court diagonally, and the 4th person hits a soft dink down the line. Repeat the pattern for a second time. This teaches the important concept of resetting soft directly ahead and keeping your cross court dinks wide and close to the net so that your opponent has to let it bounce.
Helle talked about why she likes to do drills where you are required to do certain shots for the first number of shots. That keeps you from going back to old habits and forces you to think about the correct shots.
Watch the video HERE .
What I learned: My forehand dinks still STINK! 😤 They have always been worse than my backhand dinks. On my forehand I flick my wrist in a misguided attempt to create spin, or some other such nonsense. I thought I had eliminated the "wristiness", but there it is, captured on "film". I can lie to myself and think I'm getting better, but the video tells the truth! I also don't use my feet to get in to a better position to dink well. Trust me when I say that by next month's lesson I am determined that the flick will be GONE!
In this one little clip, Helle also discussed an important point about where to go on the court when your partner is returning a lob. I have always tended to slide across to the other side of the court at the NVZ. When my partner goes back to get a lob I should switch sides and move mid-court or more back. I tended in the past, to move laterally along the NVZ line, but now I can definitely understand more clearly why that is a bad idea.
Another skill we practiced was volleying hard in response when a person volley punches a ball at you. Helle said it's best not to try to reset such a volley. Return it with even more force than they used. The counter punch directly back in the same direction from where it came. This reduces your opponents reaction time and reduces your error rate as well. Drilling hard volley helps to improve speed and response time and creates muscle memory.
I have plenty of video from which to draw future blog posts, but for now this is a teaser of a very great lesson. There were so many drills and lessons to choose from, so again, I encourage you to schedule some time with Helle if you can. Several readers have mentioned to me that they have booked lessons - lucky people. Your next best option would be to go to her website http://www.dynamitedoubles.com/. Helle has a video course that goes over all of her strategies.
In another bit of exciting news, I now have a stock video library up at https://www.pond5.com/artist/hoverhigher#1/2063. If you need aerial footage of pickleball courts or other beautiful drone shots, please check it out. More to come soon.
Unfortunately I pulled my back pretty bad playing pickleball yesterday, but on the bright side, I made the shot and got the point. And maybe I'll get around to uploading more drone clips while giving my back a day or two to recuperate!
Happy Pickling from Arizona!
P.S. Five pickleball lessons with pros down, and seven to go. If you're enjoying my lesson summaries, please SUBSCRIBE and share my blog with your friends and pickleball groups. Thanks!