Athletic Pickleball Stance
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Basketball Fundamentals and Pickleball

Whenever I’m on the court instructing a student for the first time, I will almost always ask that new student what – if any – sport(s) they have played previously. After all, most sports (including non-paddle sports) have technique and strategy nuggets that can also be transferred over and leveraged on the pickleball court.

You see, if I’m able to draw a parallel between pickleball and the sport with which they’re familiar, it will make the learning process so much quicker and easier.

While I’ve recently talked about opening the paddle face (and golf club face) and minimizing the backswing when dinking and dropping (and putting) – much like is encouraged on the golf course – in this post, I wanted to explore how one can leverage learned, man-to-man defensive fundamentals from the sport of basketball and apply them to the game of pickleball.

Specifically, I want to draw a parallel between getting in a good defensive stance in basketball and getting into a good, athletic position while positioned at the non-volley line.

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The good defensive basketball stance and the good athletic ready position in pickleball are all too often overlooked in their respective sport. In both sports, the “ready position” is critically important for enhanced balance and for quick lateral movements.

Tips for a Good Defensive Basketball Stance and a Good, Athletic-Ready Position in Pickleball

When putting the defensive clamps on your opponent in basketball – and when getting into a good ready position in pickleball – it’s important to adhere to the following three fundamentals.

These three fundamentals will help keep you between your offensive opponent and the hoop on the basketball court and will help get you ready and engaged for the next shot on the pickleball court.

1.  Make Sure your Feet are Slightly Wider than Shoulder-Width Apart

Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. If your feet are too close together, you will likely be too upright in your stance – and as a result, unbalanced. On the other hand, a stance that is too wide will limit your explosiveness as you take that first step. Balance and explosiveness are needed in both sports.

2.  Stand on the Balls of your Feet

With your feet just a bit more than shoulder-width apart, balance the majority of your weight on the balls of your feet – with your heels making contact with the court, and your weight slightly forward.

3.  Bend your Knees and Keep your Back Straight

In both sports, it’s important to bend your knees and get your butt down. Make sure, however, that after getting your butt down you’re not bending forward at the waist. Instead, focus on keeping your back straight and your chest puffed out. This will further help with balance and explosiveness.

athletic stance video
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Final Thoughts

Few would argue that pickleball is a game of patience. And to be patient requires a solid foundation of footwork.

If these tips sound similar to the core, defensive fundamentals executed by Ben Wallace and the 2004 Detroit Pistons (a defense-minded NBA Championship Team), then you are right! After all, there’s much that can be applied to pickleball from good defensive principles in basketball.

See you on the courts.

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Coach Todd
About Todd

Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.

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  1. Great analogy Todd! I wonder 🤔 if you & I could make any analogies with my juggling 🤹‍♀️ and pickleball.

  2. Disagree getting in these fix athletic positions is counterproductive. Watch the best, sometimes it looks like they are just standing in a neutral position uncaring that is the only way you can react fast enough. Nobody is trying to push you out of the way except a ball that weighs 1 oz. That why the best players are loose, and really do not look like Callie Smith! Ben Johns an athletic position?

    1. Hi Don, I agree to an extent with you. One doesn’t want to be rigid and stiff in the ready position. But, it’s tough to argue with feet that are approximately shoulder-width apart, weight on the balls of one’s feet and knees that are slightly bent.

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