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Top 10 Technique & Strategy Flaws Impeding Your Pickleball Progress

We’ve all been there. We exhibit meteoric pickleball improvement and progress during the first several weeks or months of playing — or perhaps, even years — and then, we hit a performance plateau. We just can’t seem to bust through any further.

It’s happened to all of us. When this inevitably occurs, it’s important to put on an “objective hat” and see if any of the following technique and strategy flaws may be impeding your pickleball progress.

Top 10 Technique & Strategy Flaws [that may be] Impeding your Pickleball Progress

  1. [Technique]  You are taking too big of a backswing on volleys at the NVZ line. This is a common mistake, even for the most seasoned of players. For volleys, you want to minimize or eliminate your backswing and always keep your paddle in front of your body.
  2. [Technique]  Your contact point (where your paddle hits the ball) is too far behind your body. This could be relevant for the full repertoire of shots — volleys, dinks, drives and drops. Make sure your contact point is well in front of your body.
  3. [Technique]  Your paddle is “dangling” below your waist after you execute each shot. This is a common mistake, particularly for pickleball newbies. Instead, you want to be in a comfortable ready position. When you are at the NVZ line, make sure your paddle is “up” so that if your opponent decides to blast one at your chest, you can simply block the ball back. With the paddling dangling to your side, you will not have enough time to move the paddle in position on a harder shot.
  4. [Technique]  You are gripping the paddle too tightly for your dink shots and drop shots. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the loosest and 10 being a death grip on the paddle, you want to be at about a 3. Gripping the paddle too tightly will likely result in dinks or drops that go too far and too high — unfortunately, a veritable feast for your opponent.
  5. [Technique]  Footwork – you are crossing over (one leg over the other) when executing volley or dinks. While this may at times be unavoidable because you are in desperation mode to get to the ball, most times you want to avoid crossing over and, instead, slide while leading with your outside leg. Doing so will help you stay square to your opponent and the oncoming ball.
  6. [Technique]  You are running through your shots as you transition from the baseline to the NVZ line. As a result, you are unbalanced and your shots come off the paddle “wildly.” To maintain balance, don’t forget to split step.
  7. [Strategy]  You are not close to the line when capturing the NVZ line — as far as a foot or two away from the line — perhaps even further. Instead, you should be an inch or two behind the line. By being back away from the line, angles are opened up and it is easier to hit the ball at your feet.
  8. [Strategy]  Patience — You are going for too much when the ball is below the net height level. Instead, stay patient (I know, easier said than done) and wait for a ball that you can hit with a descending blow.
  9. [Strategy]  Your returns of serves are too hard and too fast. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. One would think a harder return of serve is better. But, it’s not. Here’s why: The harder return of serve gives you less time after you hit it to get up to the NVZ line. A softer, higher, deeper return of serve may be the better strategic decision.
  10.  [Strategy]  You are dwelling on previous mistakes. Like most sports, pickleball is a mental game.  Play only the next point — not previous points. If you make a mistake forget about it. Again, easier said than done!

I hope you find these pickleball tips helpful. Perhaps there’s one or more that will help you take your game to the next level. Above all else, however, remember to have fun on the courts!  You got this!!!

For more strategy tips be sure to check out our pickleball strategy page.

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Coach Todd
About Todd

Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.

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  1. Once again, an awesome summary. I would also add that many improving players — that progress quickly from 3 to 3.5 but plateau just below 4.0 — never learn a competent overhead slam, let alone a killer one. They shuffle back facing the net and block something back with minimum power or placement. It can easily be exploited by anybody at 3.5 or above.

    1. Hi Robin, That’s an excellent observation. Proper overhead technique and positioning is crucial — not only for safety, but for finishing off points as well!

  2. Thanks for your simple, practical & well organized tips for improving & more importantly, enjoying this wonderful game we’ve all become passionate about.

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