We are just two days away from International Spikeball® Day. In honor of the day, we are offering 11 tips on how to get better at Spikeball®. Follow these principles for a month of consistent play and you’ll no doubt be playing at a much higher level:
1. Never be the best player in your games. Sure, it might sound fun to win every game, beat your friends, have some bragging rights, and feel awesome. But, this will not get you better at Spikeball®. Find new players, new games and new types of talent playing at different levels that can show you different perspectives on how to play. If you are the worst player in your game your play quality will rise out of necessity and, if it doesn’t, you’re probably not meant to be a Spikeballer.
2. Challenge your off hand. It’s easy to use that strong hand 95% of the time, and then when you need to finish with the off-hand you end up hitting it like you have a tennis racket in your hand, saying, “man, I need to get better with my left.” Try, well, getting better with you left. It is not as hard as you think. Eat your dinner with your off hand, challenge yourself in pickup games to start finishing drop shots with your off hand and slowly work up to power put-aways. A Spikeballer is only as good as his worst stroke, and if you have a weak off hand you will not strike any fear in your opponents.
3. Practice deception. This one is easy to understand but incredibly tough to master. It’s simple: never do what your opponent thinks you are going to do. If you are on defense and your opponent has an awesome smash, fake a step back to bait them into a drop shot, which of course you’re expecting, and steal a point. If you’re going to drop shot, always have the other hand up showing power. Deception skills are the name of the game and one of the core pillars of an All-Pro Spikeballer.
4. Sacrifice the body, more often. I’ve found that there are dives and then there are dives. There are countless balls that you think you have no chance of getting to, when in reality, you might have the ability to get to 10% of them. Especially on the sand and even on grass, ruin the shorts, embarrass yourself a little, who cares? Get after it and get dirty. Sacrificing the body is a true skill in Spikeball that can make you more of a ‘baller and less a "player of Spikeball®".
5. Hit 100 serves against a wall. This one speaks for itself but when you’re making the transition from gentlemen’s serve to real serves you might start out with a weak serve or one that feels awkward. Repetition is important. Remember – front pockets are OK on the serve, so as I’ve learned over the course of my career, take 10% power of your serve if it can add 10% accuracy to that front pocket. Garage walls work great!
6. Practice placement and touch, not power. Chico Spikeball is the best team in the world. If you’ve ever watched them play or watched their videos, this will make sense. Do you see them hitting gigantic, huge, amazing smashes? Do you see the ball flying incredibly high? Or do you see a lot of violence or loudness in their spikes? Typically, no. That is because they practice the great art of placement. They hit the ball incredibly low, waiting for it at it’s lowest point while they can still pounce. This might be a surprise to some but placement will always beat power in this game.
7. Focus at 110% in the “Fourth Quarter” of all matches. If you have played in a tournament before or if you are going to play in one soon, you’ll know that the end of Spikeball® games are entirely different animals then the beginnings of them. Points are grittier, chippier, and more intense. Teams start focusing on game planning around the better players and taking advantage of teams traits. Skills and more specifically, skill-deficiencies, come to the forefront. Not missing serves, setting perfectly, and being more consistent and focused is crucial if you are a team that is considered an underdog. 12-12 seems like a close game but against a good team, with a lack of focus, that game can finish 21-15 in the blink of an eye, with you on the wrong end._____________
8. Don’t let yourself get typecast. It’s easy to be the guy with the awesome serve or the kid who always drop shots or the lefty. Don’t become any specific type of player. Always be adapting your game and adding skills to your portfolio. If you stay simple and one-dimensional, you won’t get better.
9. Think about the sport more strategically. Have more curiosity about strategy and ask questions of people who are better than you. Spikeball® might seem (and is) a simple game. And it is, in some ways. But it also has incredible nuance, and that leads to nuanced skills that are hard to articulate or practice without the right guidance. Challenge yourself to get better and you’ll get better.
10. Play on all surfaces. Do you think it feels good for Pete Sampras to go to sleep at night knowing he doesn’t have any French Open championships? No, it probably feels really, really crappy. Don’t be a great grass player but a terrible sand player, or vice versa. Play both and learn the small parts of what makes the strategy different on each surface. Also, its just fun to mix it up.
11. Find a partner that wants to get better, too. Nothing feels better than awesome team chemistry in Spikeball®. Find someone that wants to play, and play a lot. Work with them on skills and get Better Together, because if you do that consistently you’ll be making sweeter (Spikeball®) music than Jack Johnson.