You’ve heard about it in your older brother’s pledgeship horror stories. You’ve seen it performed on a scantily dressed Kevin Bacon in Animal House by the Omegas. The revered sound of *Whooosh…CRACK* is a noise that echoes throughout the chapter house, reverberating lessons of humility and tones of fear throughout the souls of damned pledges nationwide. Gentlemen, the tradition of paddling is as ancient as the first house ever conceived, and it is one that has been passed down pledge class to pledge class by hell-bent actives with an insatiable thirst for vengeance that a bottle of blue label couldn’t quench.
Whether you paddle to punish or belt to build ties, it is always important to maintain proper form in your stroke as you would with any aspect of life. If it’s the first time you are fortunate enough to be opposite the business end of the paddle, you are probably a JI and there are a few things you need to know so you don’t look like a Fire Island fairy in the eyes of your on looking brotherhood. The ever-equalizing piece of wood that rests in your hand deserves careful attention to technique similar to that of a tee-shot on an uphill par 5. Walking up and simply taking a whack at the ball (the term which will now be substituted for “ass”) will not do a lick of good. You must be in control at all times, and this process starts well before the back swing.
The first step in perfecting your swing is all about the way you address the…ball. Before you even think about making your approach, make sure you are in the right state of mind. Are you drunk? Good. Now take another shot and imagine that “Freebird” got cut off from the jukebox mid-solo because the guido fraternity wanted to hear their “jam” from back in South Beach. At this point you should be able to feel the fire coming off of your breath and a rise in blood pressure. It is time to step up to the plate.
When aligning your feet, make sure you are facing a direction perpendicular to the…ball. Wait just a minute! Before you start that backswing, I must ask if you’ve even taken a look at your feet. Unless you just got railed out by Thad Castle, there is no reason why they should be bowed out. Keep them straight and planted, this ensures that your weight will be evenly distributed during your stroke. As for where the ball should be in your stance, this is a matter that is truly up to you. I like to place the ball between the middle of my stance and my leading foot; it allows the paddle to reach full inertia without losing any momentum in your follow through.
Once you have addressed the ball properly, it is time to initiate the swing. Like Chubbs always said to Happy Gilmore: “It’s all in the hips.” When taking the paddle back, turn your hips to your back foot and raise your holding hand as high as you would if you were motioning to table the bill every house’s oblivious brother likes to propose when chapter is running long. Now, shifting your weight from front-to-back through your hips, guide the paddle to the ball with enough force to ensure it screams off the tee. However, unlike a golf ball, you shouldn’t follow through. You don’t want to push the ball over, that allows for more give, so end your swing with a prompt snap of the wrist. If done correctly, those within earshot would believe you decided to take up tanning rawhide by whip in your spare time.
If the phrase “thank you sir may I have another?” manages to be uttered in that god-awful, sarcastic pledge backtalk, it is simply because you are not taking the proper precautions and you have hopelessly failed. Remember, the art of paddling is one that must not be half-assed. You cannot simply swing for the fences in hopes of the stars aligning for the perfect swat. With precision and practice, incorporating these tips into your swing will ensure a positive result and a lesson learned…for the ball.