In this article, I’m going to talk about controlling the direction on ground strokes. This is really important because the difference between hitting a shot that is an unforced error and goes just out or hitting a winning shot. There are some myths out there about what actually controls the direction of ground strokes.
I’m going to show two things today first is to explore some of those myths and explode them explain why they’re wrong. And secondly, lead you on the right path towards understanding what controls the direction.
First Myth: Follow through towards your target
The first myth and the most common one I hear is people say “it’s really important that you follow through towards your target”. “If you follow through towards your target that’s where the ball is going to go.”
Try to follow through towards your target and you will see that ball will go somewhere else most of the time. Believe me, you will lose a lot of matches when you listen to this advice.
The follow through is what happens after the ball has already left the paddle. The ball is already on its way somewhere: to the side mostly, or somewhere else. What you do with your paddle after the ball has left can’t affect where it’s going. It’s already on its way. So what you do with the follow-through doesn’t actually control where the ball goes.
Tip: Having a hard time choosing a paddle? Take a look at our pickleball paddle guide here.
Second Myth: Shoulders, feet or hips control the direction
The second myth that you hear is that “it’s important to line up your feet or sometimes your hips or your shoulders towards your target and that’s going to make the ball go where you want.” Well, try hitting the ball and you will immediately see that the ball will not go to your target.
It could go there sometimes but it can also go somewhere else. Again, it’s not your feet or your hips or your shoulders that are sending the ball. To prove my point, you could be lined up in a really strange position or maybe even backwards and you can send the ball whenever you want because it’s not the hips, shoulders and feet that send the ball.
So those are the two myths. If you hear them from people saying, “follow through to your target” or “line up your hips”: you now know that they are on the wrong path.
So what’s the right thing to do?
What actually controls the direction of your ground strokes? Well, the main thing that controls it is the angle of the paddle at the moment you make a contact.
So for example, if you was hitting the ball towards your opponent, if your racket face is pointing straight towards the opponent, that’s where the ball is going to go. If the angle is pointed to the side, away from the opponent when you hit, it’s going to go that way.
And if the paddle is tilted right or left side it goes the on that way. So regardless of what position my body is in, it’s the angle of the paddle at the impact that controls the direction.
This principle also applies to backhand shots as well. Again, regardless of what position you’re in, it’s going to be the angle of the paddle at impact that controls where the ball goes.
So the next time you’re out playing some pickleball and your partner says “hey, how do I hit a good down the line?” How do I hit a good cross court?”. You know it’s not your feet. It’s not your follow through. It is the angle of the pickleball paddle at impact.