FOOTWORK - ONE STEP AT A TIME
by Tony Marino
When things go wrong on the paddle court, there’s probably a checklist of stroke corrections that pops into your head. In order to figure a way out of the hole you’ve dug for yourself, it’s best to keep it simple and start at the bottom: with your feet. Better footwork can promote better shot making and carry over into better confidence.
Those of you who have taken lessons have heard the famous words, “move your feet”. That doesn’t just mean get to the ball and hit it, or move just to stay warm. It means move to get in better hitting position and achieve better balance. Simply thinking about moving your feet before and during every point will force you to work harder and stay focused in a game that places a high premium on continuous and efficient movement. Here are a few helpful tips to think about during a match.
SCREENS: Take small steps. Even though you may be able to anticipate where the ball is coming off the screens, there are unexpected bounces that you may need to adjust to. Small steps will allow you to change direction with more precision and quickness. It’s a little more work, but it’s worth it.
OVERHEADS: Make sure your first steps get you sideways to the net and behind the ball. You should be sidestepping and not back-peddling to cover more court and get in good hitting position. Take at least one step further back than you think is necessary to allow you to be moving forward at contact versus hitting off your back foot. Better preparation and positioning translate into better overheads.
SERVE and VOLLEY: There should be no hesitation between the serve and the volley. The toss and the swing should facilitate one continuous motion to the net. After hitting the serve, take big steps to get closer to the net. Just before the receiver hits the ball, shorten your steps (without stopping) to give yourself good balance and allow for any needed lateral movement. Making contact with the volley directly in front of your body will help you hit a more controlled shot and prevent the too familiar “lazy reach” volley.
- Stay on the balls of your feet, not your toes, and keep your weight slightly forward.
- Fast feet, slow hands for screens, lobs, and overheads.
- Get sideways on all shots except volleys.
The best way to refine your footwork is to consult your local P.P.T.A. pro and have them take you through some basic footwork drills. A little hustle goes a long way in this game and can mean the difference between winning and losing a close match.