Mastering the Quintessential Northwest Sport Suddenly Gaining Popularity

Pickleball has some major steam. Here are some tips before picking up the paddle for the first time.
| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
Wicked headband not required.

Every Seattleite should try playing pickleball, a racquet sport similar to tennis that’s played on a small, badminton-size court using a wooden paddle and a ball similar to that used in whiffle ball. The game was invented on Bainbridge Island by dads Bill Bell, Barney McCallum and Joel Pritchard (who had a long career in politics and eventually served as Washington state Lieutenant Governor). These tips from lifelong player Andy Nelson, who grew up playing on his parents’ pickleball court and now runs the Auburn-based Pickleball Experts, will help you master the game. 

1. Learn how to spin.
The right spin added to your shots can make the ball stay low to the ground after bouncing, change direction in unexpected ways or stop on a dime. 

2. Embrace finesse.
It can be tempting to rely on powerful strokes, but the game is less about flashy offensive shots and more about consistent, precise shots that cause your opponents to make the first mistake.

3. Master the soft shot “dink.
Hit the ball just hard enough to clear the net, so your opponent can’t slam or volley it back at you. Use it when you don’t have a good opportunity to hit an offensive shot and your opponents are at the net. 

4. Exploit your opponent’s weakness.
For many players, that weakness is their backhand. Hit to their backhand whenever possible and you’ll gain a significant advantage in the game.

5. Own the net.
One of the biggest factors determining who will win a point is which team gets to the net first. Make it your goal to get to the net as quickly as possible, and prevent the other team from getting there by choosing the right shots.

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