Teresa Tarn is a former D1 College softball player that has become addicted to the fastest-growing sport across the country - pickleball. She travels the country competing as a senior pro, having won many medals in senior pro as well as at the US Open in Naples. Coaching and teaching are part of her DNA, and she enjoys teaching lessons, camps, and clinics. She graduated from Michigan State with a Bachelor of Science teaching degree in Exercise Science with an emphasis in sports psychology and kinesiology, and has since coached basketball, volleyball, softball, and baseball. Her sole athletic focus is now on pickleball.
To improve your forehand volley if it is weaker than your backhand volley, practice and make sure that you have the correct technique. Make sure the tip of your paddle is pointed toward your target at 11 or 12 o'clock and keep your arms away from your body to open up your paddle face and drill to develop a better forehand volley. Transcript: "So what adjustment should I make if my backhand volley is stronger than my forehand volley? The first thing is obviously practice, practice, practice. It comes down to drilling and working on that forehand to make that forehand better than the backhand or at least equal to. And you'll say, well what do I do if my backhand is just better than that? So the next thing I would check is my technique, making sure that your technique is correct. So many people that are backhand heavy that like their backhand and have a stronger backhand generally tend to sit on their backhand, meaning that the paddle face is open and you're waiting for your shots in this position, paddle face open. So what I would do is make sure that your technique is correct. I would take the tip of your paddle and move it out to 11 or 12 o'clock, meaning the tip of my paddle is pointed at my target at 11 or 12. Moving my arms away from my body now is enabling me to open my paddle face up to that forehand side. So now I can take those forehand volleys and backhand volleys, keeping everything very small and compact out front. So A, check your paddle face. B, make sure that you're working on your technique and making sure that your arms are away from your body and you're able to open your paddle face. And C, drilling is the next best way to develop a better forehand volley."
The number one thing that has helped my game the most is slowing down and taking my time. Keeping my paddle out front and staying in balance while I move forward, working my way to the non-volley zone. Transcript: "The number one thing that has significantly helped my game is basically slowing down. I always was in a huge rush. Everybody told me that I needed to get to the non-volley zone as fast as I could. And so sometimes I was not in balance. I was taking balls behind me or late. And so now I've slowed down. I remain at the baseline until I get that drop in that I want to move forward on. I move a few steps forward and then I hit another drop or a mini drive drop. And then basically work my way to the non-volley zone. I keep my paddle out front and I keep my body in balance and then I work my way in. So slowing down, taking your time. You actually have more time than you think. So that's the number one thing that has helped my game the most."
To defend against hard-hitting players, the best way is to reset the ball by keeping it low and neutralizing the pace. Block pushing back to their feet can also be effective. Finally, attacking with a big drive or by angling the ball off the court, mixing up speeds, and hitting to their backhand can help you keep control of the ball. Transcript: "As an intermediate player, how do you defend against hard-hitting players? Block and reset is your number one way. You're trying to neutralize the pace that they're giving you and take all the pace off the ball to reset the ball either into the kitchen or a short ball, keeping it low. The second way is a block push, where you're pushing the block back to their feet and it's more of a longer, linear shot, putting pressure on them. And finally, the last way is attacking, of course. You know that a big drive is coming, you counterattack and drive it back. Again, keeping everything out front is an easier way to keep control of the ball and you can angle it off the court, you can mix up your speeds, you can hit to their back hands, which tend to be the weaker shot."
When playing against a tall person, the best strategy is to make the ball bounce or add spin to the ball. Aim for their backhand and try to catch them off guard. Use body blows and center mass shots to put pressure on them. Finally, keep the ball low and make it bounce at their feet, as this will put more pressure on them. Transcript: "So what is the best strategy when I'm playing against a tall person? Obviously, my number one strategy is to make the ball bounce or add spin to the ball. I generally tend to aim to their back hands to catch them off guard and put pressure on them because generally the back hand is the weaker shot. With third shot drops, it's very difficult so I tend to veer away from taller players when I'm hitting my drop shot just because they have a longer reach and it puts more pressure on my third shot drop to be better. So I tend to try to make the ball bounce on my third shot drops or if I'm driving and it's a taller person in front of me, now I'm going center mass and or at their right hip or right shoulder if they're right handed or their left shoulder or left hip if they're left handed. I also like body blows. Again, aiming at those target spots for a body blow if I'm at the net doing volleys, I aim at them. I think the biggest one for me against a tall opponent is simply to make the ball bounce like I said previously. Keeping the ball low and making the ball bounce in front of them or at their feet is a much more difficult shot for them since they have to bend over and it also puts more pressure on them. So those are my favorite things to do when I'm facing a tall opponent."
A push tank is a linear shot hit across the court in order to put pressure on your opponent and make them feel uncomfortable, forcing them to make a decision on how to respond. Transcript: "So what is a push dink and the application behind it? The push dink is a linear shot generally that goes cross court. And the reason for hitting a push dink is you're attempting to put pressure on your opponent. You want them to feel uncomfortable and you want them to make a decision whether to take that ball in the air or let the ball bounce and take a step back and hit it as a dink. So your main goal is to put pressure on your opponent."
During tournaments, pros eat fresh fruits, energy bars (Cliff bar and Honey Stinger waffle), honey stinger energy chews, peanut butter, bagels, and hydration packets to maintain their energy and keep hydrated. Transcript: "So what do the pros eat during the day when we're at a tournament? It varies from pro to pro, but generally we're eating fresh fruit, bananas, apples, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, you name it, whatever's in the fridge. But a lot of us also like energy bars, so one of my favorites is the Clif Bar and then I also love the Honey Stinger Waffle. That's one of my favorites. We also do Honey Stinger Energy Chews to maintain our energy throughout the day and it's stuff that generally we can swallow very easily and quickly. Peanut butter as a protein, bagels for carbohydrates, those are all some of my favorites that I always carry with me. So we always keep hydration packets as well, so we're always adding hydration packets to our water. So that's how we keep hydrated and fueled for tournament play."