You’ve caught the pickleball bug and it seems the competition may have the upper hand…for now. Whether you just picked up a paddle or have been playing for years, we all could benefit from some new tricks on the court! You can have fun on the court without counting your wins and losses but with this pickleball strategy guide, we hope that your wins are more frequent so that you can become the king or queen of the court! Start playing like a champ today and don’t be bested by the savvy veteran who caught the bug years ago. Below, is a list of 10 pickleball strategies that are proven to improve your game!
1. Be Consistent
A pickleball wise man once said, “the best pickleball strategy is to keep the ball in play.” Whether it's serving, toes on the kitchen line, lobs, or slams, having consistent play will keep you in the game and ultimately, keep you on the court. There are lots of tricks out on the pickleball court, but leave those to magicians. Being consistent with your play is one, if not the best, pickleball strategy to take to your court!
2. Master Your Third Shot Drop
You’ve just made a masterful serve to your opponent's backhand, but their return is well played. So what’s next? A key strategy and skill to conquering any court is the third shot drop. Instead of driving a ball hard directly at your opponents while they wait at the kitchen line, the third shot drop will set you up for success on the pickleball court.
The pickleball strategy behind a third shot drop? Get you and your partner to the kitchen line. Games are won and lost at the kitchen and without a third shot drop against a skilled opponent, you’ll never get the chance to utilize the kitchen. A third shot drop is a ball that is gently hit into the opponent's kitchen, grazing the net with a slight arc. The slow pace and low shot angle make it very difficult for any opponent to make an aggressive or offensive return shot. Mastering your third shot drop will increase your time at the kitchen line and ultimately give you and your partners easier putaway shots.
3. Practice Patience
Many of us were told as children to practice patience. Who knew that in our later years it would come into play on the pickleball court? Now more than ever, patience is a key strategy to winning on the court. We’ve all played with an impatient player (and if you haven’t, sorry to say this, you’re most likely the impatient player). Knowing when to attack and when to lay back will make your time on the court filled with wins. Slow the game down and simply start with getting the pickleball over the net and in play. You will soon find the game coming to you, instead of you attacking the game.
4. Keep Your Eyes on the Ball
No…we aren’t your Little League coaches, even though it may sound like it. Although some may think this is an obvious strategy for pickleball success, even the best of us have wandering eyes. Some days our eyes seem to be glued to the pickleball and on others, let's say we have “trouble focusing.” When your game starts out in the gutter, keep it simple and focus on one thing, that little green ball with holes on it. You’d be surprised how much your game improves just by focusing on one thing, the pickleball. Keep your eyes on the ball and you’ll be staying on the court.
5. Be in a Ready Position
In pickleball, there is a good rule of thumb to follow - if you don’t think the ball is going to come back to you, be ready for it anyways. The pickleball is always coming back, so have your paddle ready in a ‘’neutral’’ position. “Neutral’’ means the paddle is in front of your chest with the edge of the paddle facing your opponents. In this position, you are ready for any shot that comes at you and you can choose between a forehand or backhand without overcommitting to a certain shot. Even though you might have hit the best ATP of your life, the ball can come back and if you’re ready for it, you can finish your opponents.
6. Play to Your Strengths
“If it's not broke, don’t fix it.” Pickleball is a game for everyone and everyone’s pickleball strategy can be different so it’s important to emphasize what you have had success with. Don’t overthink it! If you’re having success with a certain shot, don’t stop until you're not. We tend to follow the crowd, but stay true to your game (if you’re winning)!
On the flip side, let’s not forget about weaknesses (those of our opponents and our own). The best pickleballers find their opponent's weakness and expose that. Go after your opponent's backhand, slow the game down or speed it up. If winning is what you want to do, find your opponent's weakness and use it as your biggest pickleball strength on the court.
7. Stick With Your Shot
If you’ve stepped on a pickleball court, you’ve most likely experienced doubt right before striking the pickleball. You intend to hit a specific shot and just as you’re about to make contact with the ball, something in your brain tells you to do something different. Trust your gut and go to the court with confidence. Indecision is your worst enemy on the court! Any time you see a ball come to your side of the court, trust your instincts and go with the shot you intended to go with from the beginning.
8. Middle, Middle, Middle, and More Middle
After a loss, most players will relive all of their unforced errors, where their opponents didn’t have to do anything to win the point. A pickleball strategy used by many is to keep the ball in the middle. There’s no need to make the game fancy or harder than it needs to be. Keep the ball in the middle of the court and wait for your opponents to lose the game with unforced errors.
9. Let It Go Out
If you knew the ball was going to be out, would you still hit it? I would hope most of us would answer “no,” but when you’re on the courts, sometimes it’s not that easy. While it may seem like a no-brainer, letting the ball go in the heat of a game can be much more difficult than watching from the sidelines. Ultimately, this takes reps on the court. The more you play, the better you become at determining which balls will be in and which will be out. Good Rule of Thumb - If the ball is above your shoulders with pace (speed or hit hard), let that yellow little thing go by you.
10. Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
Perhaps the most important and most forgotten pickleball strategy…teamwork. It might seem obvious but we’ve all played with someone who is solely focused on getting THEIR shot, and typically the game ends with frustration. Work together to conquer your court! Communicate on all shots, play to each other's strengths, and play with zero egos. Unless you’re playing singles, you’re only as good as the team!
Everyone has their own pickleball strategies and keys to success on the court. The above pickleball strategy guide should be a good start for players at all skill levels. From first-timers to seasoned vets, hopefully, you can implement one of these tips the next time you hit the court!
Don’t forget that all the pickleball strategies in the world can’t help if you don’t have the right gear for the court. Use your wooden paddle for decoration and get the pickleball paddle that fits your game today at JustPaddles. Our Paddle Experts are standing by to help answer any questions you may have and would love to help you find the paddle of your dreams. They can be reached via phone at 866-382-3465, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can click here to live chat. We're JustPaddles and we'll be here for you from Click To Court!