A MUST try-new pickleball mini-game called, "7-11" - Marc's recommended fun mini game!
In my last blog, I wrote about my favorite highly impactful drill I call, "Green Light- Red Light." I hope many of you have had a chance to give it a try. In this article, I want to expand that drill to introduce a mini game which turns the drill into a fun and competitive way to improve how players approach the Non-Volley Zone. Please remember getting up to the NVZ is hard in this game and it takes a lot of practice, but it is critically important to players who want to get to the high levels.
The pickleball mini-game, "7-11", turns the "Green Light-Red Light" drill into a competitive and productive experience. To set the stage- this game involves two players. Player A is stationed at the NVZ line on one side of the net and Player B is stationed about two feet behind the baseline on the other side of the net. The game is started by Player A "serving" or hitting the ball deep to Player B. The ball needs to bounce once before Player B hits the drop shot and executes the "Green Light- Red Light" drill to move up to the NVZ line. Player A should try now to return the drop shot to try to "win" the rally (slam it or hit it in a difficult spot) and Player B should use all the skills learned from the "Green Light- Red Light" drill to move up to the NVZ line.
Points are scored as follows (and are incremented by 1)- for each rally- if Player A hits the ball effectively so Player B misses or hits it into the net, then play is stopped and Player A scores 1 point. If Player B successfully makes it up to the NVZ line (after one drop shot or several) then play is stopped and Player B scores 1 point.
NOTE: Player B scores 1 point by making it up to the NVZ line. A point is scored by one of the two players every time Player A "serves" the ball (a new rally is started). After a point is scored by either player, both players reset themselves in their original positions and Player A starts another rally. If Player A scores 11 points before Player B scores 7 points, then Player A wins that game. If player B scores 7 points before Player A scores 11 points, then Player B wins that game. After one game is completed players should switch positions to start a new game. Multiple games are recommended during a practice session so both players get a lot of high pressure reps in at both positions. Player A is learning great game style skills like staying at the NVZ and trying to do something with the ball so that Player B mishits. Player B is learning how to effectively make it up to the NVZ line without hitting the ball too high or into the net.
NOTE: There could be several hits by both players before any rally is over. The better both players get at this game the better all-around players they will become.
By Marc F. Austin, GAMMA Ambassador, PPR Nationally Certified Pro Pickleball Instructor and USA Pickleball Association Ambassador