Many times, beginner pickleball players are told to keep the paddle at the 12:00 position (imagine a clock) straight at the net and then transition to 9:00 for backhand shots. Although this works for many players, it can create some weakness that opponents can easily take advantage of. Many players get into trouble when the to ball comes over their weak side shoulder (left side for right handed players) and they flip or turn the paddle into weird positions rather than hitting a solid backhand.
Another problem on the 9:00 position is the elbow comes out from their torso and up ("chicken wing"). Simone recommends adjusting the ready position to 10 and 2 o'clock with elbows tucked, hands in and belly button high. This body positioning enables Simone to cover 75% of her shots and easily transition from forehand to backhand shots and eliminates the awkward "chicken wing". Great video and great advice Simone! Watch the full video here.
Sarah Ansboury introduces a concept she calls "Paddle Tracking" to use the pickleball paddle to track the ball while it's in play. She likes to think of her paddle as a heat seeking missile. I really liked that description, I've tried this out in practice and find the visualization really does help keep me on the ball better.
Sarah points out that one of the keys is good body positioning, keeping your body high (not bent over) and pickleball paddle held high and out in front of you while constantly pointing the paddle at the ball and shifting your body weight as the ball moves around the court. Maximize use of your shoulder, not elbow and wrist! This helps you keep engaged in the game and brain and body connected. This is also a great strategy for poaching as it helps you get in position and anticipate the shots! "Poach Like A Pro"!
Lastly we have this video from Mark Renneson at Third Shot Sports who offers his opinion and reasons why he feels the "Paddle Up" mantra that is repeated so often by many coaches to beginner pickleball players is not necessarily good advice ...and may actually be creating bad habits that are detrimental to your pickleball game!
The video does a great job showing many examples of top level players who do NOT keep their paddle up high. In fact, some of the clips show them consistently holding the paddle at waist height or even below -down near their thighs while in the ready position waiting to return the next shot. Mark also explains that keeping your paddle too high will elevates your center of gravity which makes it difficult to move quickly.
It may be a matter of compromise, some players are willing to give up some paddle readiness to have a lower center of gravity and move better on the court.
As Mark say: MOVING MATTERS in Pickleball!
The video also shows balanced examples of top players who DO use the high paddle position, including Simone Jardim (from the video above). So, ultimately the decision is yours and most likely will be the strategy that best matches your playing style or may be a slight modification of one of these or combination of strategies that best fit you.
We hope this combination helped you a bit with pickleball body positioning, paddle tracking and some options to think about and practice to find the best ready position for you. Big thanks to Simone Jardim, Pickleball Channel, Sarah Ansboury and Third Shot Sports for the great content!