Are you looking to start playing pickleball and don’t know where to start? I’ve put together this list of pickleball tips for beginners – and really for anyone playing pickleball.
We all start playing pickleball at the same level – even if you’ve played tennis before. I remember when I played my first game. Pickleball is an easy enough sport to play but there are some simple tips that can help you improve your game and get the most out of it.
10 Top Pickleball Tips for Beginners
Always get your serve over the net or you are wasting an opportunity
Your most important first play is to nail your serve. Strive for consistency in delivering your serve to the opposing court at least 90% of the time. You don’t need fancy or “trick” serves. Just get your serve in so the game can begin. As you develop consistency in getting a successful serve, then you can begin to develop skills in terms of ball placement, speed and other techniques that impact the effectiveness of your serve. Remember, serving to your opponent’s back hand is an advantage (so, did you notice if your opponent was right or left hand dominant?). A ball served hard and fast will likely come back at you hard and fast. Slowing your ball serve can sometimes mess with your opponent’s timing in hitting the ball back. Your primary goal should first be to get your serve in and second to serve deep,
Ask people you are playing against how you can improve
Often times, players will give you suggestions on how to improve your game. And, you can always ask for feedback. If you notice a particular skill set in another player, ask them about it. Encourage them to explain how they practiced to develop the skill.
Also, remember to critique yourself. If the ball didn’t go where you wanted it to, what would you do differently? Would you loosen your grip? Would you change the angle of your paddle so the ball returned low over the net? Would you direct the ball to the person at the back line instead of the opponent already at the kitchen? Did you get to the kitchen line ASAP or did you lag back in “no man’s land”?
Stay at the kitchen line
The action is fast at the kitchen line and the tendency is to want to stay back and let the ball bounce. Don’t do it. Get to the kitchen line, 80% or more of your opponent’s shots can be returned from the kitchen line.
Letting the ball bounce before you hit gives your opponents an advantage to be prepared for your return. Staying deep gives your opponents the opportunity to put you at a disadvantage with a well placed drop shot or a softly dinked ball.
Try different paddles to see what works best
There is a wide range of paddles and prices. Length, width and weight are important considerations. As you become more experienced, you are going to want a paddle that lends itself well to your style of play.
Take the opportunity to trial paddles from various vendors. Borrow paddles from friends. Each paddle has a “sweet spot” for the perfect contact with the ball. How does the ball respond when it hits that spot? Get a sense of what works best for you.
Wear proper shoes to ensure you can move to the ball
Court shoes are great for playing pickleball. They are made for use on court surfaces and provide the right amount of traction, without sticking and twisting a knee or worse. Court shoes also provide support for the side to side movement common on the court.
Know the Basic Rules of Pickleball
Who gets the point if your ball goes over the net and bounces back over the net to your side and your opponent didn’t touch the ball? Is it a legal hit when the ball goes around the post, without going over the net, into the opponent’s court?
Can you call a ball “out of bounds” after you hit it? Is the serve valid if it lands in the kitchen? Is the serve valid if it lands on any area of the kitchen boundary lines? These are frequent questions encountered during regular play. And, there are rules that answer all of these questions and more.
Watch others play while you wait for your turn
Not only is it fun to watch others play, you can learn from them and about them. The more you know about your opponents the smarter you can play. If you observe a player who does not come up to the kitchen line, now you know where to return your ball.
If you see an opponent who has a great cross court kitchen dink, be ready for it. Observe the play strategies of your opponents and be prepared to play your own smart game. As you watch, identify what you think are the great shots. What made you think it was a great shot? You want to incorporate these learnings into your own playbook.
Watch youtube videos when you have a question
There are more than enough videos out there for you to learn rules, strategies and techniques. Take responsibility for your own learning, don’t depend on the court players to be your only resource. Other players appreciate a self-directed, motivated learner. As you watch and learn, you will see good attributes in other players.
And, you will have the opportunity to improve your own game by putting those learnings into practice. Discuss what you learn with other players and ask for their perspective. Also, learn the drills that will help you improve your game. To really make a difference in your game you need to practice, not just play games.
Learn to dink – the most popular Pickleball technique
Pickleball was intended to be played as a dinking game, playing at the kitchen line. Dinking is a lot of fun (not to be confused with drinking). On the court, you can quickly identify who the ball smashers are.
Often, they fail when it comes to dinking. Dinking requires a soft touch on the paddle and good ball control. Dinking is an effective strategy for getting points from the opposition’s mistakes.
Remember your pickleball etiquette
Good sportsmanship abounds on the court. Make sure you contribute in a positive way. If you are playing with players much better than yourself, thank them for playing with you and giving you a chance to learn.
If you are playing with less experienced players, encourage them, acknowledge a good play. We were all new to the game at one time, don’t forget that. Help and encourage newer, less experienced players. If you are the experienced player, you don’t need to obliterate your opponents, you don’t need to slam their every mistake back at them.
This is a perfect opportunity to practice a skill you want to develop, maybe an improvement on your serve or dinking in the kitchen. When you “pickle” your opponent, your game was over in record time.
Now you leave the court and have to wait until your turn opens up on the next available court. And, what did your opponents learn? A “win at all cost” mentality? Not a reputation you want. So, be a role model for everyone on and off the court.