Lessons to Remember from Catherine Parenteau and the Kawamoto Sisters

Don’t forget about defense

Catherine P on the court
Catherine Parenteau (Image credit: Kerry Pittenger)

Check out this revealing clip from a women’s doubles match. On one side of the net, an undefeated team, Anna Leigh Waters and Catherine Parenteau. Their opponents, it is clear to see, are formidable. The action moves fast, pay careful attention.

        

Now, what makes this point compelling?

I knew you’d catch it: defense!  

After watching the video I was astonished. Why? Because in my time as a recreational player I’ve heard endless chatter from others about wanting to spike the ball harder and harder, about wanting to practice more firefights, believing that the only way to score—and the surest way to win—is to rip balls. Rarely if ever have I heard anyone talk about defense. Why such an important aspect of the game has been dismissed altogether I have not the vaguest idea. But maybe, maybe, after more recreational players have watched these videos they will give defense its due attention, improve their games and win more points. 

For me it’s exhilarating to watch Waters and Parenteau play. While having fun together, their communication is seamless, their styles synchronize, and their pacing and attacks are full throttle. Weaknesses? Not one. Did I forget something?

Well…

Catherine Parenteau’s defense. Her ability here to parry high-speed shots from different angles sets up Waters for the put-away. And Waters knows her friend has made that swat possible, which is why, in a show of respect, she points at Catherine after winning the rally. Parenteau’s patience and composure under assault prove that spiked balls and cumbersome angles can be defended and countered. Sturdy defense can stifle an opponent’s ripping game—that is, if it’s their only reliable offense. In other words, defense seems to give life to and fire-up offense.

Another standout example: Remember the finals at the 2023 MLP Dallas by Margaritaville Tournament?

The Kawamotos’ poise against Anna Bright and Rachel Rohrabacher, during the second half of the match in particular, is another example of defense that caught my eye. Sure, because of offense they score points and win the match. But in my opinion as an observer who gets reeled into the back and forth by noticing little characteristics of one sort or another, tough defense—along with calm and control—propel the sisters to victory.  Awestruck I was watching segments of the match live and then footage the day after. Discipline, consistency, and court coverage allow them to endure throughout the match a number of fierce attacks, then reset and score. Keep your eye on the Kawamoto twins!  

Recreational players—defense is not to be shunned. If practiced and refined again and again it will improve your game. When being bombarded I pay extra attention to blocking and deflecting.  Sometimes I get body-bagged or beaten by a clean winner, sometimes the ball whips past me leaving me unable to muster a defense. But, much to my surprise, several times I have protected my side of the net and won some rallies, keeping my team alive when it counted. 

True, I couldn’t handle a pro, couldn’t handle a semi-pro. I would get my butt whipped. Pickled! No question. But with each match I keep practicing what I’ve seen the top players do in MLP and PPA tournaments; I’ve also devised techniques of my own—tweaking and simplifying what has worked while discarding forever what has failed. Defense, fellow players, is essential to my game.  Is it essential to yours?

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