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Pickleball Education | Mar 06, 2024

By Athena Trouillot

Improve your reaction time with the split step

Athena Trouillot shares the secrets to improving your pickleball footwork.

It’s common knowledge that in pickleball, the goal is to work your way to the kitchen line to help win a point. 

However, many new players often make one simple mistake when trying to get to the kitchen line: charging forward after the third shot. 

Not only can this come back to bite you if you or your partner execute an improper third shot, but sprinting forward at the wrong time can also keep you from being in a set position for your opponent’s next shot. 

In this episode of her “Impactful Efficiency in Pickleball” course on Selkirk TV, professional pickleball manager and coach Athena Trouillot shares tips for proper footwork and highlights the proper time to advance to the kitchen line. 

Know when to stop your feet

The biggest mistake players make is not knowing when exactly to stop their feet as they’re advancing toward the kitchen line. This keeps them from being stable and ready to receive their opponent’s next shot. 

It’s important to not be anxious about getting to the kitchen line. Instead, methodically work your way toward it. 

The ultimate goal, of course, is to reach the kitchen line, but you shouldn’t sacrifice a good shot to do so. 

That is why it’s important to learn to stop your feet with a split step. A split step is a small jump with both feet that squares your hips square to the net. Performing this split step allows you to maintain balance and better react to the next shot. 

You should perform a split step right before your opponent makes contact with the ball. So, after you hit a third shot, start moving toward the kitchen. As soon as you see your opponent begin their swing patch, perform your split step and prepare to receive the ball. 

You may only have made it one or two steps forward — that is OK. Hit your next shot and repeat the process, inching forward as you’re able. 

Put the split step into practice

To help you better grasp the concept, have your drilling partner stand at the kitchen line and position yourself at the baseline. 

Execute a third shot drop and sprint toward the kitchen line without stopping. Take note — was your partner able to beat you by sending a ball at your feet? Were you able to hit the ball? If so, was it a good shot? 

Now, start over and try stopping your feet as your partner makes contact with the ball. This time, you may have been able to make contact with the shot, but was your return solid? 

Finally, perform the exercise again, this time stopping your feet right before your partner makes contact. How did that feel? Were you better prepared for the shot? Did you execute a solid reset? 

Play through the point with the ultimate goal of reaching the kitchen. Take note of how quickly you’re stopping as you do.

Download the Selkirk TV app HERE to watch the complete episode and many other Selkirk TV original shows, podcasts, lesson series from the pros, and much more. 

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