The Changing Game of Pickleball from a US Open Champ-Part 2

Everything changes, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. The game of pickleball is no exception.

Over the past few years, I’ve seen several changes. The pace, players fitness levels, the number of injuries, and without a doubt player’s ages. I’ve got to admit I’m not the nostalgic kind. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a change just to change kind of person, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with shaking things up a bit and seeing what happens. In my mind, that applies to the game of pickleball as well.

That’s why I couldn’t wait to ask four-time US Open Champion Laura Fenton Kovanda about the changes she sees in pickleball. Not just the changes in the game but differences in how we play once we get past 50.

Laura, the game is growing leaps and bounds, and there’s a lot of players from other sports, specifically racket sports coming into pickleball. How is that changing the game of pickleball?

CJ, pickleball is not going to change in regards to senior citizens being able to play a sport. To me, that’s the absolute best thing about pickleball. Anybody can play the game, and I think that’s what makes the game so great.

As far as racquetball, tennis players, badminton, table tennis, the younger ones coming in, I see a higher level of player because money is coming into the sport. That’s what’s changed in the game. Being televised, having money, the sponsors are now giving more expenses to some of those players. And so there’s a bigger view of a wide variety of styles of this game. So I think that’s what’s changing.

There’s not just one way of playing the game. 25, 30, 40, 50 years ago, everything was a drop shot. Everything was a dink shot. It was a much slower game. The whole influx of tennis players especially has changed it with the fast-paced games. And younger people have faster reaction times and quicker reflexes. So it’s exciting to watch. And singles is the same way. They’re quick, fast, and strong.

So there are two or three different styles to the game. It doesn’t mean one’s right or wrong. I think that’s what makes it exciting.

What makes your style of playing and teaching unique?

You know, CJ, I think what makes me unique is not only my educational background but also my tennis and racquetball backgrounds. I see the court very differently. So we look at heights and angles and speeds.

We also learn how to read our opponents cause our opponents are what actually us what shot to hit next. When I teach, I teach the basics, but there’s also a lot of added dimensions in there that sometimes people don’t even think about.

What changes can a newer player make to play better pickleball?

What I find most CJ is that proper footwork is not natural with most people. So I would say their footwork how to get to balls and be more consistent. Getting to balls and hitting consistent shots is number one.

Number two is blocking because they have a fear of being at the kitchen line and getting hit.

What changes can a more experienced player make to play better pickleball?

Again, I’m going to answer with two of those. I think resetting balls, especially in the middle of the court and at the kitchen line, but mostly in the middle of the court. The biggest, probably the greatest, or toughest skill is resetting a ball at your feet or directly at your body and changing to the mindset of reset, reset, reset instead of wanting to swing hard at it.

The second is learning how to hit a topspin volley when you’re at the kitchen line.

When looking for a coach to help you make changes, what should players consider?

Every person is different. They have strengths, weaknesses; they might have physical ailments; they might have areas that they don’t realize they can improve on or things that may have not even crossed their minds. Some of them may not know the difference between a slice and a topspin or how to cover a lob. Where should my paddle be at all times? You know, I never teach every person the same way.


It’s an illusion to think that things aren’t changing. My belief is that if I’m not adjusting, I’m losing ground.  It doesn’t matter if it’s pickleball or your health and fitness, what worked yesterday may not work as well tomorrow. If you want to get better commit to becoming a student of the game of pickleball, become fitter and practice a little more than you play. It won’t be long before you’re playing better pickleball.


Want to take a camp from Laura?

Laura is offering two camps in Lake Tahoe in 2019. A 3-day camp August 28-30 and a 1 ½ day camp September 2-3. One of the best parts about taking a pickleball camp in Lake Tahoe is when you’re not on the pickleball courts. You can be hiking, mountain biking or laying on the beach. If you’d like more information on Laura’s upcoming camp, click this link.

If you’re an experienced tournament player or would like to give it a try stay for the Tahoe Peak Pickleball Challenge Sept 5-8, 2019.

In your opinion, what is the most significant change in the game of pickleball? Put it in the comments below.

Better Pickleball CJ Johnson


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1 Comment

  1. Harry A Mitchell on August 5, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    I find that the game has changed in that more people are hitting the ball harder and they have improved their serves to the point that many are illegal. I find the game is 20% dinkers, but 80% hard hitters. This from an 80 year old.