Lots of people ask us about improving their reaction time, and it can be done. You can improve speed of the neural pathways needed to recognize the flight of the ball, move your paddle into place and execute a stroke. But, there are many other factors that go into successfully handling an attack. Perhaps the most important is the ability to accurately predict where the ball is going and prepare as, or even before, the ball is struck.
In the video, you can see Joe tracking the ball from his partner’s paddle as it moves cross court to the opponent facing him. Just about the time the ball crosses the net, he has a pretty good idea of where it’s going and he shifts his focus to his opponent’s set up. He’s able to make a judgement on where the ball will be played before the ball even bounces. He moves his paddle into place in anticipation of a shot up the middle and when that shot is hit, he’s in a perfect position to aggressively attack the ball.
So, how did I get to the place where I am able to anticipate what’s coming, and then hit that shot? It starts with the work I put in off the court; mobility (especially neck mobility in this case), vision training, and hand-eye coordination drills, similar to the training we offer at NeuroPickleball. Additionally, on-court, whenever I can I make it a point to study my opponent’s body and paddle position and predict the shot that’s coming next. Over time, my ability to predict and anticipate has improved.