Pickleball is fun, for sure. It is a game that everyone can enjoy regardless of age or skill level. There are over 4.8 million people playing pickleball today. So whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, there are always ways to improve your game and win more matches. So how can you improve your game?
I’m sharing 15 pickleball tips with you. These pickleball tips I have learned from experience, clinics, and coaching. Some have been drilled into me via clinics and coaching, and some have been learned the hard way on the court.
How do you get better at pickleball? It is through practice and improving your pickleball techniques. I practice these routinely with drills, whether solo with a ball machine, in singles with a partner, or in doubles. Practicing does improve your overall pickleball technique. Even in friendly games, I usually focus on areas I want to improve.
Top 15 Pickleball Tips for Beginners and Intermediate Players
- Get your serves in (always)
- Use different serves
- Mix up your shots
- Get your return of serve in (always)
- Practice your dinks
- Watch your feet – Stay out of the Kitchen
- Communicate with your partner (especially on who is going to cover the middle)
- Watch your position on the court
- Use the whole court
- Practice your footwork (all areas of the court)
- Learn the third shot drop (it is a must)
- Master the lob return (a must)
- Know what shots put your opponents on the defensive
- Soft shots can beat the power game
- Don’t beat yourself
Pickleball Tip #1: Serving
Always, always, always get your serve in. I have repeatedly seen an opponent trying to put some fancy spin shot on the ball or hit it with the force of a ballistic missile, but unfortunately, the success rate on these shots is low.
Keep it simple and get it in. You can lose 11 points in a game just missing your serve.
In addition to getting it in, serve deep and to your opponent’s backhand. This takes some practice. But this is the hardest shot for them to return.
Pickleball Tip #2: Mix Up Your Serves
Keep your opponents off guard. You can serve to their backhand, forehand, or short in mid-court. Remember, get up to the net if you hit a short serve. The probability that they will hit a pop-up or high return shot is very high.
Pickleball Tip #3: Mix Up Your Shots
To win more matches, you must be unpredictable. Mixing up your shots is one of the best ways to do this. Use different angles, pace, and spin to keep your opponents guessing and on their toes. By doing this, you’ll be able to create more opportunities for winners and force your opponents into making errors.
Pickleball Tip #4: Get Your Return Of Serve In
This is just as important as Tip #1. You do not want to miss a return shot. You are always trying to get to the 4th shot in pickleball.
Three things you must do with your return of serve:
- Stay back: You can’t hit the ball out of the air until after the third shot, so stay back and let the ball bounce before you hit it. I have seen countless times when myself or my partner is too far inside the baseline, and we don’t have room to let the ball bounce.
- Return deep: A deep return will keep your opponents back and give you more time to get to the kitchen line. If you return short, be careful not to hit it toward the player at the net.
- Aim for the weaker player: If one of your opponents has a weaker backhand or forehand, aim for that side to put them under pressure.
Pickleball Tip #5: Practice Your Dinks
This sounds easy. We all warm up before a game. So all good, right? That is not enough. You need to practice dinking from all angles; in front, cross court, and from various distances outside the kitchen line.
I have lost more points, not being positioned well for a highly angled cross-court dink. It pulls you wide, and unless you can return cross-court, you stand a good chance of having your opponent send it down the middle.
This is okay if your partner is there covering the middle (moving with you). 9 times out of 10, my partner has not moved with me and we lose the point.
Pickleball Tip #6: Stay Out of the Kitchen
This is a hard one to master, but I see it less and less. You cannot step into the kitchen and return a ball unless the ball has bounced in the Kitchen (Non-Volley Zone)
I have found that the harder pickleball technique to master at the Kitchen is patience. When a ball lands in the kitchen or near the kitchen line, there is an overwhelming desire to hit it quickly. I can feel my body tense up on the shot. This has not proved to be successful. This is mainly because the ball, when it bounced up, wasn’t high enough to hit a hard return. It just goes into the net.
If I just take a breath, the ball bounces up, and you can get a much better return shot if you wait that split second. You can read the ball better. If it bounces low, then a soft dink shot is best. If it bounces higher than the net, use your put-away shot!
Pickleball Tip #7: Communicate With Your Partner
In one word, Talk! Talk! Talk! This is one of the most important pickleball tips for beginners.
The number one item to discuss is who will take the middle. It happens repeatedly, the confusion on when a ball is hit down the middle who will return it. This happens on drives and at the net. This should be discussed in advance. Here are tips on items to discuss with your partner:
- Who takes the middle shots (and make sure you agree a distance over the mid-court line)
- How you are going to return a lob shot – who goes back for it and when
- At the net, who is going to get a down-the-middle shot
- How you want to handle being pulled wide – partner positioning in this instance
Pickleball Tip #8: Watch Your Position On The Court
Proper position on the court is crucial to winning more points. This sounds easy but can be difficult. I make sure always to be aware of my position on the court and in relation to my partner.
Key Pickleball Tips for Court Position:
- If you return a shot short, make sure you move up toward the net.
- Don’t get caught in the middle (between the kitchen and the baseline) of the court. It is always best to take the ball out of the air. This is an offensive short. Every time you let the ball bounce, you are playing defensively.
- If your partner gets pulled out to the side, either getting an angled shot or dink, move over closer to them (within 6 feet) so you can cover shots between them where you are vulnerable.
- Try to stay in the middle of your court. This allows you to cover the court better by moving from side to side. Sometimes there is a tendency to edge toward the center of the court. This leaves your open on your outside baseline.
Pickleball Tip #9: Use The Whole Court
I always try to hit shots that force my opponents to move around the court. This allows me to take advantage of any weaknesses in their game and create openings for winning shots.
Pickleball Tip # 10: Practice Your Footwork
This is a must-practice pickleball technique. Moving around the court efficiently is critical to a winning game. Footwork drills can help with this. There are basics on not crossing over when moving side to side, the proper placement when hitting a forehand or backhand drive, and going back to return a lob.
Pickleball Tip #11: Learn The Third Shot Drop
This is an absolute must. I don’t know any other way to say it; you have to spend time drilling on this shot. You can’t win without this shot as you advance from 3.0 players to higher levels. When both opponents are at the net, you only have two options. The first is a lob, and the second is a 3rd shot drop to put them on the defensive. Lobs are a low-priority shot. So learn the 3rd shot drop.
Pickleball Tip #12: Master The Lob Return
You have to figure this out. This has been one of the most challenging skills I have learned. But you need to learn to read a lob, move immediately (don’t hesitate), and agree with your partner upfront about who is going for the lob based on position.
This is a skill that also requires proper footwork. Not using proper footwork can risk falls and injury.
Pickleball Tip #13: Know What Shots Put Your Opponents on The Defensive
This is key.
- Hitting to your opponent’s backhand
- Returning the ball to your opponent’s feet
- Volleying to your opponent’s body/backhand
- Hitting angled shots to pull your opponents offside
- Hitting soft shots vs. power shots gives a high probability of a pop-up by your opponent
All of these are examples of shots putting your opponents on the defensive.
Pickleball Tip #14: Soft Shots Can Beat The Power Game
There is a tendency always to want to make a hard drive return. Hit it with power. There is definitely a place for this, and you will win points. My experience playing against power players, to diffuse their attacks, hit a soft return shot. This means one without a lot of pace on it.
What does this do for you? First, hitting a shot without a lot of pace generally makes the shot shorter. This forces them to hit the shot up, which allows you to put it away, or they must hit a dink, which changes the game’s tempo.
Aim for the corners or the middle of the court to force your opponent to move and create openings. Practice both techniques in drills and games to find the right balance for your playing style.
Pickleball Tip #15: Don’t Beat Yourself
There are times when the points are not going your way. You are making unforced errors and getting upset with yourself. You feel like you are letting your partner down, and you are getting frustrated.
Simple advice, DON’T get into your own head. Take each point individually. Maintain focus, and shake off the last point. I have been down 0-7 or 0-9 and have come back to win the game. It is all about not beating yourself mentally and playing each point.
These 15 tips and strategies will help you up your game and win more in pickleball. By consistently serving deep, returning deep, and getting to the kitchen, you can control the game and put pressure on your opponents. Additionally, by practicing smart and being pickleball ready, you’ll be able to make quick decisions and commit to your shots.
It’s important to remember that pickleball is a game of strategy and tactics, and by keeping the ball low and in play, you’ll be able to force your opponents to make mistakes. By attacking with your dinks and being aware of your opponent’s weaker shots, you can take advantage of their weaknesses and win more points.
Finally, it’s important to have fun and enjoy the game of pickleball. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced player, these pickleball tips and strategies will help you improve your game and win more matches. So get out there, practice, and have fun playing pickleball!
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some advanced serving tips for pickleball?
As an experienced pickleball player, I have found that the best way to improve your serving is by practicing different types of serves. Some advanced serving techniques include the spin serve, the lob serve, and the power serve. The spin serve is a great way to throw off your opponent’s timing, while the lob serve can be used to catch them off guard. The power serve is a high-speed serve that can be difficult to return.
What are some common mistakes to avoid in pickleball strategy?
One common mistake that many players make is not being patient enough. It’s important to wait for the right opportunity to make a shot instead of trying to force a shot. Another mistake is not being aware of your opponent’s position on the court. It’s important to know where your opponent is so that you can make strategic shots.
How can I improve my footwork in pickleball?
Improving your footwork is crucial to becoming a better pickleball player. One way to do this is by practicing your footwork drills. Another way is to focus on your balance and agility. Make sure that you are always on the balls of your feet, and try to move quickly and smoothly around the court.
What are some practical ways to return a hard serve in pickleball?
When returning a hard serve, it’s important to be prepared and focused. One effective way to do this is by anticipating where the serve will go. Try to read your opponent’s body language and watch their racquet to get a sense of where the ball is going to go. Another way to return a hard serve is by using a soft block shot. This can help you to control the ball and place it where you want it to go.
What key skills are needed to become a better pickleball player?
To become a better pickleball player, focus on your shot placement and footwork. A key pickleball tip is to make sure that you are hitting the ball where you want it to go and try to move quickly and smoothly around the court. Communication with your partner is also very important, as it can help you anticipate your opponent’s moves and make strategic shots.
How can I prepare better mentally and physically for my pickleball games?
Pickleball requires quick movements and agility. To stay agile, I recommend incorporating some of these exercises and warmups into your routine:
- Lateral shuffles: This exercise can help improve your lateral movement and footwork. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then shuffle to the right and left as quickly as possible.
- Jumping jacks: Jumping jacks are a great way to get your heart pumping and improve your coordination. Try doing them for 30 seconds to a minute at a time.
- Squats: Squats can help improve your leg strength and balance. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then bend your knees and lower your body as if sitting in a chair.
Keeping a Positive Attitude
Pickleball can be a mentally challenging game, and it’s important to stay positive and focused. Here are some tips to help you maintain a positive attitude:
- Visualize success: Before a game, take a few minutes to visualize yourself playing well and winning. This can help boost your confidence and reduce anxiety.
- Stay present: It’s easy to get distracted by past mistakes or future worries. Instead, focus on the present moment and what you can do right now to improve your game. There are so many times when I see players beat themselves. Shake it off and move on.
- Celebrate small successes: Even if you don’t win every point, it’s important to celebrate small successes and improvements. This can help keep you motivated and positive.
What three skills are must-haves to be successful in pickleball?
- third shot drop
- dink effectively
- consistent serve
What pickleball paddle does Tyson McGuffin use?
What pickleball paddle does Anna Leigh Waters use?
Who is Anna Bright?
Anna Bright is an accomplished Pro on the Professional Pickleball Tour. Learn more about her.