Under-utilized or out-dated?
The tutorials are all pretty similar, right? Each shot carries with it a different goal:
- Serve - Get it in, get it deep
- Return - Return it deep, follow your shot
- 3rd-Shot........that's where things get tricky
Any core player will tell you the 3rd-Shot Drop is the most important shot in the game. Then....you play the game with a few young noobs and they proceed to fire RPG's at you from everywhere on the court ~ and contrary to popular belief, it's working.
A sport that has long been associated with the 55+ crowd has now seen an explosion of younger players entering the Pickleball arena; as you might expect, this changing demographic is also seen in gameplay as "Bangers" work on driving the ball rather than relying on the touch needed to pull off the Holy Grail of Pickleball shots, the sainted 3rd-Shot Drop.
I side somewhere in the middle, and I'll tell you why:
- The touch required to hit an effective 3rd-shot drop relies on a relaxed and minimalist touch ~ all shoulder, no wrist. Much easier to accomplish in a friendly rec game, believe me. Come tournament play, tension and adrenaline can make a drop shot a sitting duck.
- Playing in Texas, you learn to combat the wind. Just like the Texas golfer mastering the knock-down shot, the pickler in Texas knows that a drive shot is more controllable than a looping drop shot.
- Everyone now and then, your opponent needs to fear the SCUD heading his or her way, especially if they are still advancing towards the NVZ. A moving opponent often results in a soft return, setting you up for the kill.
- Gauge your opponent. Most seasoned picklers learned the game from the net backwards - they are dying to get you into a battle at the kitchen line, this is their bread and butter. Making the game strictly a dink-off oftentimes robs you of one of your weapons.
- And finally, the single most important reason to NOT hit a 3rd-shot drop...where is the other team positioned on the court? Did one (or both) get stuck back at the baseline? If so, the worst thing you can do is give them a nice friendly drop shot that allows them to advance. If you have someone pinned deep, keep them there!
So remember that as you hear the glorification of the 3rd-shot drop ~ it's only effective if you are comfortable, practiced, and patient with what is to follow. You can't win the game banging away from the baseline, but you need to mix up your returns to keep your opponent on his/her toes.
What do you think? Let us know and we'll feature your comment in Sluggo's Clubhouse!