Go to any pickleball dealer website – or listen for just a couple of minutes to a pickleball paddle brand “ambassador” – and you’ll likely hear them extol the virtues of their brand’s latest paddle technology: A graphite core. A polymer core. A Nomex core. Edgeless. Oversized. An “innovative paddle that promises to reduce vibration and impact.” A paddle that offers “softer play with a thicker core for increased power and touch.” A paddle that “offers maximum power with a soft feel.” A paddle that “features a proprietary skin and 6 powerful layers.” A paddle created with “sound-absorbing polymer and a strong carbon fiber face that creates the ultimate blend of control and top performance.”
Holy moly. After reading these marketing declarations, how could one not be stoked enough to hop online and drop that $100 – $150 on the one that most promises to match our desired playing style. Right? Afterall, who doesn’t want to harness both power and control? Sold!!!
How Helpful is the Latest-and-Greatest Paddle Technology?
But before doing that, however, let me ask a rhetorical question: Does pickleball paddle technology matter? I mean does it really matter? Will having the latest technology make you the next Kyle Yates or Anna Leigh Waters? Or more realistically, will it, at least, help you pulverize your long-time nemesis at the YMCA or local, Community Center?
The answer – as you have probably guessed – is “yes.” And “no.”
If you have bad habits – poor technique, impatience, inconsistency – then putting a Band-Aid over these habits in the form of a new paddle with the latest-and-greatest technology will not help. It will only leave you confused, frustrated and disappointed with your purchase.
Jonas and the Tennis Spoon
As I was contemplating the role that paddle technology may plan in performance, I couldn’t help but be drawn to a couple of tennis videos that have been recently shared across social media. One in particular caught my eye. It was that of a young kid playing/training with a wooden “spoon” in lieu of his normal mid-sized tennis racket.
It was unbelievable. His technique and footwork were amazing. He was making solid contact virtually every time. It was obvious that he could – using a wooden spoon – dispose of most kids his age that were playing with their expensive, $200 graphite composite rackets.
PickleballMAX and the Non-Stick Frying Pan
That’s tennis. What about pickleball? It was time for an experiment of my own. So my wife and I went to a local consignment ship and I purchased my make-shift pickleball paddle for just 99 cents — a used non-stick frying pan — “perfect for eggs, delicate fish and for a quick and easy cleanup.”
The next morning while my friend and I were patiently waiting for the rest of our group to arrive at the courts, I challenged him to a dinking game (to 4 points) from the NVZ line. I used the frying pan as my weapon of choice and he played with his own paddle that promised “an ultimate blend of power and control.”
Watch the video below to see if technology won out – or if having the proper fundamentals – including technique (making contact in front, minimal/no backswing) and patience wins the day.
If not the Paddle, then What?
So — as the video suggest — if the paddle isn’t necessarily the answer what does one do to keep improving and competing at the highest levels? The answer is simple. And, yet, difficult. It takes time. And dedication. It takes a willingness to forgo rec games and get out there and practice — with intention and a purpose. Try spending 20% – 40% of your pickleball time drilling and practicing. Work on your dinking game so your dinks cannot be attacked. Practice your drops so you can hit 75% successfully into the kitchen. Practice patience. And more patience.
Track your Progress
And then, very importantly, track your progress — perhaps with the PickleballMAX Pickleball Planner. In it, record your practice and drilling sessions. Write down your goals and steps to accomplish your goals. Track your tournament results. Keep track of your opponents’ tendencies. Any type of notes to give you an advantage.
It’s not the technology. It really isn’t. Just ask my friend.