Isolating a Skill
The Pickleball TopspinPro allows you to practice an isolated skill, which in this case is topspin. Isolating topspin, with no incoming ball, allows you to repeat the correct technique enough times to establish good muscle memory. This is the key to fast progression. Learning the same skill in a pressure situation, such as a match, will take significantly longer to grasp and you will likely never master it. Whenever you are learning something new, no matter what it is, you should slow it down and isolate. And the more complex the skill, the more you need to do this. Once you have built enough muscle memory using isolation it's then important to expose yourself to gradually more difficult situtations. Many people make the mistake of practicing on the Pickleball TopspinPro and then head straight on court for a game and wonder why they struggle to apply their topspin. Like with any skill you have to practice under increasingly demanding conditions before you enter the toughest arena.
The training progressions below will guide you through to matchplay from getting started on the Topspinpro. try to transition through all phases for the fastest and most effective improvement.
Stages of Practice
STAGE 1 - Building muscle memory on Pickleball TopspinPro
This is the most important phase for building the foundation of your topspin shape. This is where you should spend the most time and really embed the muscle memory. Repetitions are key and it’s crucial not to move past this without having mastered the basic topspin shape. Don't rush into taking full swings immediately. First, try rolling your hand up the back of the ball to get a feel for the topspin action. Then try with your paddle and see if you can get a good amount of revolutions on the ball just by moving up slowly. If you can roll your paddle up the the ball without touching the rest of device then you have made a good start! Keep the paddle face parallel to the screens like the pictures below. If you are still struggling to strike the ball without touching any other part of the TopspinPro then go back to using your hand or slow down the speed of the movement. Once you are comfortable you can begin taking larger swings, still trying to make contact with only the ball.
Head to our YouTube Channel by clicking the link below for a selection of great at home practice videos you can try:
STAGE 2 - Static hits with ball
Once you feel you have built up enough muscle memory you can move away from the Pickleball TopspinPro and add in a ball.
- Drop feeds - You can do two types of drop feed. You can let it bounce and play it like a groundstroke or drop and strike out of the air like a serve or volley. Try practicing both as you will need to apply topspin in both situations. For both ensure you drop the ball far enough in front of your body to help generate a good contact point. You may even need to toss it slightly upward first to help the ball bounce a little higher off the ground or give you more time to take it out of the air. Expect the ball to go downwards into the net to begin with, this is normal. Topspin makes the ball drop sooner than if it is hit flat. To counter this ensure your swing finishes up high and that you begin with your paddle below the ball. Try alternating on and then one off the TopspinPro for extra muscle memory build up.
- Slow ball static hits - have a friend, family member or coach throw some slow balls right to you (so you can hit without moving your feet). This is harder than a drop feed and you want to build your confidence here and be able to apply topspin to that incoming ball. Once you feel comfortable with this ask your partner to feed the balls a little faster and from further away.
STAGE 3 - Adding in movement
Once you reach this stage you should be confident at consistently applying topspin to the ball. If you are struggling under more pressure then go back a stage or try using the TopspinPro in between sets to reinforce you technique.
- Slow ball feeds with movement - have your feeder send the ball away from you so that you have to move to make contact. Again this increases the difficulty and pressure of the shot. Aim to get a good percentage of your shots over and in the court using topspin.
- Mix up the practice - try to practice all topspin shots. To allow for this position yourself on different areas of the court and have your feedethrow you a slection of shots.
- Faster ball feeds/ball machine - As above but with a faster ball. A great way to practice this is with a ball machine. A ball machine can also give you a better consistency of feed at pace.
STAGE 4 - Rallying
This is the toughest stage of all. The variety of incoming balls now increases significantly. It requires extra footwork to adapt to the constant changes in height, depth, and pace of the ball. You also have to change your own pace, placement, and spin levels on each shot you hit. Here is where you want to spend the most practice time. Getting used to the larger variation of incoming balls takes time and repetition, so expect to struggle at first. Keep a good variety of practice here, including your volleys, dinks, and groundstrokes and use your topspin serve to start of the rally. To increase the difficulty, try rallying with targets or aim to control the ball into distinctive areas.
STAGE 5 - Practice points
Once you are feeling consistent with your rallies, it’s time to really put the topspin to the test. The ideal first practice would be to play some skinny singles (both straight line and crosscourt). This allows you to hit a higher volume of balls than you would be playing doubles and also forces you to be more accurate. Don’t panic if you have a setback. At this point, your muscle memory should be fairly ingrained, so stay relaxed and trust your technique. Once you are feeling competent with your topspin in singles, then it's time to add it to a doubles game. Here expect the unexpected! It's all about being on your toes and being ready and relaxed. Trust your technique!
STAGE 6 - Matchplay
The final and most rewarding phase - using it in a real game! By this point (so to speak) you should be very comfortable hitting topspin from all areas of the court. As in stage 5, trust your technique and muscle memory. In this phase it should come down to shot selection. You'll have both fun and frustrating moments - it's all part of the thrill of the game. If it doesn’t work out how you planned see if you can figure out why and add in some more practice sessions before your next match.
Summary - Don't rush the process
Remember not to rush through this process. One of the most common things people say to me is that they "want to play against better players." You can learn a lot from playing with more advanced players, but the downside is that they generally hit a much faster ball. This means less time for you to react and get your shape right. When trying to develop a specific skill like topspin, it's best to build it up gradually. That way, your technique stays solid and doesn't break down under pressure. Even the pros practice with drop feeds and slower hitters sometimes. Ironically you'll end up improving much faster this way and feel ready for the bigger moments!
Where can I get more videos about how to use my Pickleball TopspinPro?
Head to our YouTube Channel to get some great tips on using your TopspinPro and other technical and tactical tips here:
Where Can I Find More Coaching Articles?
You can head to our main blog page here to get more coaching tips.
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