Tips to build a foundation and improve your pickleball game

1) Always Be in a Ready Position

·      Keep feet shoulder-width apart and keep knees bent slightly.

·      Keep weight on the balls of your feet, not your heels.

·      Relax your shoulders & upper body.

·      Keep your arms and the pickleball paddle out in front of your body and pointed slightly up. 

2) Learn How to Dink Early On

Dink Shot: In Pickleball: a soft, short drop shot that originates from near the non-volley line, goes over the net, and then drops into the opposing non-volley zone. It’s similar to a short drop shot at the net in tennis. The dink is a key part of the pickleball slow game.

When beginner players start to play pickleball, they first learn to hit longer shots to get used to the paddle and learn the basic strokes. But many stay back at the baseline and rely on the power game. It’s not until much later do they evolve into an all-around player combining power with a strategic soft game. Some players are also understandably intimidated by approaching the non-volley zone. This is a HUGE disadvantage against any experienced player that knows how to dink. 

3) Perfect Your “3rd Shot”

What is the 3rd shot in Pickleball? The 3rd shot of any point is also the serving team’s second shot of the point.

1st Shot: Serve | 2nd Shot: Receiving team returns serve. 3rd Shot: Serving team’s second shot

IMPORTANT: Don’t just automatically approach the non-volley zone on every third shot. It’s easy to get in the habit of rushing to the net on every 3rd shot, but the conditions also have to be right. You need to learn to read the other team. if they have you beat and are in position at the net, you may get caught out of position if you immediately rush the net and get set up for an easy lob over your head. Also, if you hit the ball too high and they can slam the ball back at you. Stay back and try to set up the approach on the next shot. Patience will win points.


4) Sync Movement with Your Partner

One of the easiest ways to take advantage of your opponent is to find the gaps and spaces on their side of the court. One player positioned at the net and the other at the baseline creates a big cross-court target for you to place your shot. Whenever they are spread out, you’ll see more game-winning opportunities. Don’t let this happen on your side of the court!


5) Communicate with Your Partner

Just as you need to move in sync and stay within 6 to 8 feet of each other. But don’t get too close, or you may leave your side unprotected.

Call your shot: get used to calling out “Mine” or “Yours”. Too many midcourt shots are missed because players get caught in limbo, unsure if their partner is going for the shot. The shot is either completely missed or rushed at the end.

Help with Line Calls: It’s hard to keep one eye on the court lines and set up your next. Take some pressure off your partner by making the hard IN/OUT calls for them. Keep your eye on the ball and court lines as soon as it’s clearly going to be in, or outcall it out loud so your partner can just concentrate on the shot. When it’s your shot, they do the same for you. This tip can win games.


6) Simplify Shot Selection

If you are new to pickleball, you may be wanting to try out lots of different shots you’ve seen other, more advanced players use on the court. Or maybe shots that friends have taught you or that you've even learned in private pickleball lessons. But mixing all these shots randomly during a game can be a quick way to lose a lot of points.

Limit the Lob: The lob shot is the most over-used shot in pickleball. Using it too often takes away the most important aspect- the element of surprise- and lobbing too often will allow your opponent to anticipate it and crush you with it. Reserve this shot and use it sparingly to win points.

Stick to the “D’s”: Dinks and Dropshots are your safest bets. Although it’s tempting to try to play a carefully placed lob shot or smash, a smooth drop-shot over the net will win more points.

High % Return: The safest serve return is the soft floating return deep to the baseline. It’s probably the easiest serve return to make. Forget about style and flair for now; keep it simple and get it over the net! Keep Them Deep: If both players on the opposing team are in the backcourt, try to keep them there with deep, hard-driving shots and keep the pace of play up. You want to keep them away from the non-volley line where they can take advantage. Steady returns will keep them at bay and hopefully force an error or give you an opportunity to take control of the net.


7) Keep Out Of “No-Man’s Land”

Your strongest offensive position in pickleball is at the net when both you and your partner are at the “no-volley” line. Both of you are evenly set up with feet just behind the line, perfect positioning to return the volley (without letting the ball hit the ground) and play an extended slow game. You should be just behind the line, in the ready position with feet set to quickly pivot from side to side.