If there is something that I’m horrible at, it’s reacting to the ball going on my bad side (the side opposite of my mallet arm). I’ll either make a bad reach for it, or I’ll complain about being left handed, or I’ll just watch the ball sail past and I’ll look at the person who passed it to me with the there-is-nothing-I-can-do face.
But you know me by now, dear reader–I’m always looking for ways to make my lackings into your gains!
So here’s my suggested drill for learning how to respond to the ball no-matter how it approaches you: find yourself a wall.
Yessir. That’s it.
Move along now…
oh, you’re still here–okay.
If your court has a good wall to it, line yourself up across from that wall. Now take a full force swing while pedaling slowly. The ball should come back to you (or at least hit the ball and reverse direction. Move to the ball if you need to, and hit it again. Keep doing this until you’ve pedalled up to that wall you’re hitting. Don’t try to trap the ball (stop it’s movement with your mallet) before shooting. Treat every bounceback as a one-timer shot.
Now turn around and do the same thing to the opposite wall.
I generally get 3 or 4 shots before I need to turn around, though I think I could make that stretch out a bit more. But what happens (and what makes this drill pretty great) is that the ball isn’t going to come back the same way with every shot. Sometimes it will be slow-sometimes fast, and sometimes it will be on your bad side. You’re training yourself to respond to unpredictability, which is really the name of our game anyway, isn’t it.
I have found that when I practice this drill a few times before a pickup day that I’m more ready for weird passes. It also helps you get over the impulse to always trap the ball with your mallet before taking a shot. Two skills for the price of one!