Here are 24 tips to help you improve your pickleball game.
- If you avoid hitting your weak strokes, you will never master them.
- Keep track of wind speed and direction and learn to play the wind to your advantage.
- Know which shots you can make more than 70% of the time. In competition, hit shots that you feel you have a higher percentage of making. Keep doing what you do well, and practice the shots you haven’t yet mastered.
- Bounce up onto the balls of your feet and get your body moving when your opponent strikes the ball. Take advantage of Newton’s Law; a body in motion tends to stay in motion. That initial motion allows you to react more quickly.
- When both of your opponents’ backhands are in the middle of the court, aim for the middle.
- Hit the ball where your opponents aren’t. Your chance for winning the point increases dramatically when your shot makes your opponent take two or more steps.
- When you can hit the ball in the air, don’t back up to play a dink off the bounce.
- Always try to hit the ball with your weight going towards the net.
- Make contact with the ball at the highest possible point in the air when volleying and waist high on the bounce for your groundstroke. You will complete a higher percentage of your shots and as an added bonus, you will open up more angles or attack with less chance of putting the ball into the net
- When you are facing an opponent with a lightning fast serve, concentrate one hundred percent of your attention on the ball. Keep concentrating on the ball as it is served and as it comes toward you. Your focus on where the ball is will give you the extra time you need to move into position and return a fast serve.
- If you don’t have a chance at a strong offensive shot, your best choice is likely a drop shot or a dink.
- If one or both of your opponents are in the backcourt, keep them there. Hit deep shots with pace. Keep that player on defense. Don’t bring your opponent to the net with a drop shot or dink unless you are sure that they can’t get to the ball.
- Try not to overuse the lob. When used at the wrong time, it lets your opponent take the offense and puts you on the defense. When it is overused, you lose the element of surprise. Try integrating a drop shot for variety.
- Avoid the temptation to try to do too much with a ball that is too far below the level of the net unless you have the skill to come over the top of the ball with enough top spin to keep the ball in bounds.
- Increase your percentages on the return of serve by using a soft floating return to the backcourt.
- Shots hit cross-court at a sharp angle can be highly effective, but are subject to a high error rate. If you are having problems with angle shots, direct more of your shots down the middle. Your error rate will decrease and may confuse your opponents.
- Sometimes the best shot selection is no shot at all. Keep an eye on the ball; if it’s heading out of bounds, let it go.
- When playing a lob, get into position quickly. Take a few quick steps back to get under or slightly behind the ball. Then step into the ball with a full swing. Avoid drifting backward while reaching backward.
- Master the drop shot. Hang back for a moment to be sure the ball is not a setup. When you see the ball is on the right trajectory to be an effective drop shot, move to the line quickly.
- Always try to play a lob in the air. When you let the ball bounce, you have lost the opportunity to hit an overhead smash, and you give your opponents time to move up to the line because they know you will not be hitting an overhead. There are times to let a lob bounce; you lose it in the sun, don’t have time to get under it, or it may bounce out of bounds. Other than that, keep the offensive advantage by hitting the overhead smash.
- Often the best return of serve is a soft floating return that keeps your opponent in the backcourt. You can take advantage of the 2-bounce rule that prohibits the serving team from volleying the return of serve. The soft floater gives you and your partner time to establish your positions at the non-volley line. It is also one of the easiest returns to make and greatly reduces errors.
- If one of your opponents has a tendency to move up too quickly after the serve, consider a hard driving return of service. It can force your opponent to backpedal quickly and force an off-balance shot. Beware; a hard drive return makes it more likely you will hit the net or hit the ball long.
- Note two visual clues that can telegraph where the ball is most likely to go. Watch the speed and angle of the paddle as it strikes the ball. Note the position of your opponent’s feet in your peripheral vision as you keep your eyes on the paddle and ball.
- If you don’t have a chance at a strong offensive shot, then chances are good that the best shot selection is the dink. It is a soft shot hit just hard enough to clear the net, but not so hard your opponent can aggressively volley. Most effective when both of your opponents are at the net.
I hope these tips give you some new ideas on how you can improve your game. It’s not too early to start getting ready for the Huntsman Senior Games coming October 9-21 here in St. George, Utah. See you on the courts.
Written By: Jon Thompson