I sent out an all-points bulletin this A.M., hoping for a game. The fact that I announced it 5 minutes before the start time could be a factor in why when I got to the court I was completely alone. More notice next time. Even so, after a five minute lesson in how not to move a pickleball net, since the middle base fell off, came apart, got tangled with the net, and then pulling the whole thing from the end pulled the pipes apart, I decided to do some solo drills.

I improvised some ball control units using a set of small soccer goals and hit a bunch of serves, forehand and backhand. All good.

Then I decided to work on those third ball drop (into the kitchen) shots. I pulled the soccer goals up to sit on the line of the no volley  zone/kitchen. In the photo on the left the yellow tape is the east sideline. The blue pipe of the soccer goal is sitting on the NVZ line. The red tape is the center line of the pickleball court.

To drill my third shot into the kitchen I counted out 50 balls, and then dropped the balls one by one and hit them into the kitchen. If the ball hit the back wall or the blue pipe of the soccer net I considered that an “out”, because it probably could have been volleyed by my opponent.

I gave myself a zero for any ball that did not clear the pickleball net, or one that hit the soccer net (or the pipe), or did not bounce between the center and sidelines.

On my first try I only got 39 out of 50 self-fed forehands on target. Not 4.0 material. Then I moved the soccer nets over to the West side of the Pickleball court. On the west side I improved to 45 out of 50. Not bad, barely 4.0 quality (need 9 out of 10). Then I switched to backhand shots, and took a pretty big drop, all the way down to 28 out of 50. Finally I moved the soccer nets back to the East side again, and hit backhand kitchen shots to that side, improving to 31 out of 50.

I was in a bit of a hurry to get to an appointment, and so was a bit rushed to finish the drill, but now I have a baseline level of success from which to improve: forehand to east kitchen, forehand to west kitchen, backhand to west kitchen, backhand to east kitchen: 39, 45, 28, 31.

It can only get better. On the backhand I think I did a little better by applying Mark Renneson’s “soft hands” advice.

You might think that this drill has little value because the toss is always in the same place, unlike in actual game situations. In fact it’s hard to toss the ball in exactly the same place every time, and I also got bored with hitting the ball to the same place in the kitchen all the time, and tended to move my target around.

The best advice in my view is to cultivate a standardized kitchen shot where your upper body, the paddle and the ball have as much as possible the same relationship to each other every time you hit, and then use your lower body to move that configuration around the court, side to side, up or back, in order to let your standardized shot unfold with the same setup each time, from the waist up.

This drill would certainly be better with someone to feed serve returns to you, so you could practice the 3rd ball kitchen shot with a ball that is coming toward you rather than simply dropped. But solo pickle is better than no pickle at all. And sometimes practicing by yourself you can put attention on basic form issues that affect your success in getting that 3rd shot in the kitchen, rather than the living room, or way out on the porch and out of play.