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Why a character from Animal Crossing can win you more pickleball matches

In the original GameCube version of the Nintendo game Animal Crossing, there was a character called Mr Resetti. If the console detected that you had reset the game without saving (because you didn’t like the outcome of what happened), when you next turned on, Mr Resetti would appear to admonish you for not playing the game properly.

Mr Resetti is mine and my doubles partner Andre’s mascot. More for the name than for the attitude. Mr Resetti hates resetting, we love it. We know it wins us points and matches that we probably wouldn’t win if we hadn’t spent hours on this one skill. It’s part of our pickleball brand, almost our trademark style. Make them play one more shot.

How can you become your very own Mr Resetti and appear when you need to reset a point? It’s about doing some very simple and common sense things plus also doing some things that won’t come naturally. 

What is a reset? It’s where you take the pace off an incoming attack and aim to drop the ball softly in the NVZ to “reset” your position from defence to neutral. When things are getting too hot to handle, it’s time to hit the reset button and release the pressure valve if you can.

The first thing to master resetting both from the NVZ and the transition zone is to minimise the moving parts. Stop any forward momentum, get in a strong athletic position (lower if you are further back: your opponent is targeting your feet) and prepare to take off the pace from the incoming ball. 

A contact point forward of your body is vital with body weight forwards and over the balls of your feet is ideal. If the pace is too much, you might need to contort a bit to keep that frontal contact but it’s worth trying not to lean too far back.  Leaning back is where you generate pop ups by angling the paddle too far upwards.

When resetting, the paddle angle is vital. Typically, we suggest you aim for 45° angle. This allows time for gravity to do its thing, and let the ball land softly in the kitchen. Of course, depending on the power of the incoming ball and the distance you were away from the net, you’ll need to modify this for every shot. If you get it right, the ball can get enough backspin to bounce back towards or even into the net.

If at the NVZ, and hitting the ball as a volley, you need to do very little more than find the ball. Keep your paddle out in front, relax your grip, stay loose and turn your paddle to 45° to meet the incoming ball and hopefully watch the ball land softly into the NVZ. You’ll need to learn the variances of paddle angle, grip strength (maybe 2-3 out of ten but always loose) and arm position for varying incoming ball speeds. If you can get your weight and arm really forward, you can even try the downwards reset block volley from slightly higher speed ups. Here you point the paddle angling downwards and resetting the ball at the opponent’s feet. It doesn’t need extra power as that is provided by the opponent and the extremely low contact point.

The counterintuitive thing to do with resetting, yet is the most important thing of all, is to stay relaxed and loose. In a stress situation, and resetting is almost always played in a stressed part of a rally, humans tend to trigger the instinctual freeze, flight or fight response. The most common of those is the freeze response: this will force your body to get tense and make you contact the ball too hard and not use your body as a shock absorber. If you trigger the fight response, you will tend to over grip your paddle , tense up your forearm and again make too hard a contact with the ball. Whilst working on these instinctual actions, the one I haven’t mentioned is playing dead, so that your aggressor simply ignores you. This isn’t a bad concept to have in your mind when it comes to resetting, you just try to do as little or almost nothing as possible. Try to go loose and limp so that all that power is dissipated.

The core difference between resetting at the NVZ and at midcourt or further back is that you need to do a little more work with your body, most commonly the knees, to control the pace of the incoming ball when it leaves you.  I always suggest to think of your knees as your shock absorbers. They allow you to use to adjust the height of your paddle without moving your arm. When further back, the ball is normally lower so that knee bend helps you get that paddle down and can “ride” the ball upwards to get it to loop gently over the net.

There is one scenario where you can use this soft blocking technique when you aren’t in a defensive, stressed point in a rally but I’ll leave that for you to ponder on and I’ll cover it in my next post…

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