Whether you’re a pickleball beginner, an intermediate player, or an advanced player – you undoubtedly want to improve your pickleball game by leveraging any-and-all pickleball tips and tricks at your disposal.
If you’ve been playing for any length of time, you’ve likely received countless pickleball tips from coaches, instructors, and well-meaning partners. Some of the tips have, no doubt, been helpful – while others have been – let’s just say – “well-intentioned.”
Here are 100 pickleball tips that I think you will find helpful, regardless of your level of play. I have classified the pickleball tips as:
Pickleball Technique Tips
Having proper technique and being fundamentally sound is critical for the consistent execution of various pickleball shots. Here are several pickleball tips as it relates to technique that will give you the greatest opportunity for successful shot execution.
These tips will be particularly helpful for the beginner or intermediate level pickleball player.
- Prior to your opponent hitting their shot, be in the ready position – with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, weight on the balls of your feet and paddle in front of your body.
- 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.
- Minimize your backswing when executing volleys & dinks at the NVZ Line. You’ll have better control and your consistency will be improved.
- Make sure your contact point (where the ball hits the paddle) is well in front of your body when executing your dinks, volleys, drops, and drives.
- Loosen your grip on the paddle – particularly for dinks & drops. On a scale of 1-10, with one being the loosest and 10 being a death grip on the paddle, you want to be at about a 3 or 4 for dinks and drop shots. Gripping the paddle too tightly will likely result in dinks or drops that go too far and too high.
- The continental grip is recommended for volleys (both forehand & backhand) because it provides a relatively strong position on both sides. That is advantageous because there is little time to change grips when volleying.
- When using the continental grip, your hand should be spread out across the grip – with the angle of the knuckles on your hand approximately 45 degrees to that of the handle of your paddle.
- For a consistent drop shot, hit the ball on its downward arc after the initial bounce. This should yield more consistency than if hitting the ball on the rise or short-hopping the ball.
- When executing dinks and drops, make sure you are using a low-to-high “lifting” motion with a very minimal (if at all) backswing.
- Watch the ball and keep your head down thru the shot. Looking up too soon may very well result in an off-center (non-sweet spot) shot.
- If hitting a 2-handed backhand, make sure your dominant hand is on the bottom of the paddle, with your non-dominant hand on top (or overlapping).
- Footwork – Slide while leading with your outside leg when dinking or volleying at the NVZ if possible. Doing so will help you stay square to your opponent and oncoming ball.
- To maintain balance, don’t forget to split-step as you transition from the baseline to the NVZ line.
Staying safe and healthy on the pickleball courts should be of highest priority. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
- Drink water before, during, and after pickleball to prevent dehydration.
- Water, however, may not be enough. Add electrolytes to your water bottle. Check out Jigsaw Health for healthy hydration (and electrolyte) options.
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- Wear moisture-wicking fabric when playing on hot days. This fabric will help keep you cool even as you sweat.
- Add bananas, oranges, apple slices, grapes, blueberries, avocados, Lara Bars, and Clif Bars to a ziplock container(s) for snacking when playing.
- Walnuts, pepita seeds, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, coconut shavings, granola, almonds, cashews, and dates are also effective snacking options.
- When retrieving a lob, never back up (backpedal). You run the risk of falling backwards and injuring yourself. Instead, pivot and run towards the ball.
- When you are playing and someone yells “ball,” or “ball on court,” please stop playing immediately and locate the ball before you start moving your feet.
- Don’t cross the court behind a match until play has stopped. It can be very dangerous.
- If your partner yells, “mine,” give way and let them hit the ball to avoid potential injury.
- Make sure you wear court shoes when you play. Court shoes are much better (and safer) for lateral movement.
- Protect yourself from excessive exposure to the sun with sunscreen, a wide-brim hat, and UV blocking sunglasses.
- When warming up prior to hitting the courts, begin with some walking or light jogging to get your heart pumping. This raises your body temperature and readies your heart and lungs for exercising as well as warms your muscles.
- Adding pickleball to an organization’s wellness program will likely result in a happier, more positive company culture, fewer sick days, higher rates of employee retention and easier talent acquisition efforts.
Pickleball Strategy Tips
You’ve likely heard pickleball likened to the game of chess. There is, indeed, significant truth to that comparison. Success on the pickleball court is often predicated on having – and executing – a sound, patient strategy and thinking several shots ahead.
The following pickleball strategy tips will certainly help you increase your chances of success on the pickleball court.
- Get to the NVZ line every chance you get. That’s the ideal position to win points!
- As a general rule of thumb, if your opponents are back in the court (near the baseline), keep them back.
- Hit the ball at your opponents’ feet – forcing them to hit up on the ball. By doing so, they will be unable to attack the ball.
- Anticipate and play percentages. The net is higher at the post and lower at the center.
- When positioned at the NVZ line, make sure you are only an inch or two away from the line. It will reduce angles for your opponent and make it harder for them to hit the ball at your feet.
- Learn to hit an unattackable dink. It forces your opponent to hit up on the ball to get it over the net.
- If pulled out wide by your opponent’s dink, the best shot may very well be an “around-the-post (ATP)” shot.
- When your opponents pull you wide with a dink – and an around-the-post shot is not available – the best pickleball shot to get yourself back into the rally is a short, lofted dink into the middle of your opponent’s non-volley zone.
- Patience — Stay patient (I know, easier said than done) when at the NVZ and wait for a ball that you can hit with a descending blow.
- Find and exploit your opponents’ weaknesses.
- If your opponents are predictably targeting your [weaker] partner, consider poaching from time-to-time to disrupt and catch your opponents off guard.
- When playing competitively, always have a Plan B and be willing to make in-game adjustments.
- Consider implementing a “stacking” strategy if one player on your team is right-handed and the other is left-handed. It will allow both players to hit shots down the middle with their forehand – presumably both players’ stronger sides.
- Learn to hit a 3rd drop shot, a 5th shot drop and so on.
- If the ball at point of contact is above the net, a drive may be the best shot. If the ball is at or below net level, however, a “drop” is likely the better decision.
- Don’t be afraid to give yourself some margin for error over the net when executing dinks and drops. Make sure, however, that you still land the ball in the NVZ – forcing your opponents to hit up.
- Hitting a drop shot cross-court is the “safer” shot (greater margin for error) because the target area is larger when you hit diagonally. It’s all geometry!
- Talk to your partner. Communicate by calling “mine” or “yours.” Remember, you’re a team!
- Use your opponent’s speed & quickness against them by hitting behind them – particularly effective when playing singles!
- Use the lob sparingly. Instead, learn to hit dinks and drops.
- Move in sync with your partners – as if tethered together by an 8-10 foot rope.
- Don’t forget to split step just as your opponent is ready to hit the ball so that you are in a balanced position for your next shot.
- Don’t worry if you cannot make it all the way from the baseline to the kitchen line before your opponent is ready to strike the ball. Depending on your speed and quickness, it may take you a couple of shots to get all the way in. That’s perfectly fine. Just remember to split step!
- To get “easy” power when hitting a forehand drive, make sure that you are using your body to generate the power and not just your arms.
- Driving the ball hard to your opponent’s paddle side hip or shoulder can be very effective if they are defaulting their ready position to their backhand.
- To frustrate “bangers,” learn to hit block volleys and “reset” the rally on your terms.
- Don’t forget to hit behind the strongest player. This may make them think twice about poaching and taking too much court.
- Serving the ball deep in your opponent’s court makes their return more difficult — and it also makes it more challenging for them to get to their own kitchen line after the return-of-serve.
- If struck well, the short, angled serve may open up significant gaps in the opponent’s court for you to exploit on the third shot with a hard drive.
- Keeping your opponent deep on the serve prevents them (or at least makes it a lot harder) from quickly capturing the non-volley zone line.
- The lob serve is a great change-up serve that forces the returner to generate their own power. This serve also adds variety to your repertoire and can be used to set up future, harder serves.
- In singles, the serve should generally be executed near the centerline so that the server can effectively cover both sides of the court when the serve is returned.
- When returning serve, return it deep and get to the NVZ line. Points are more easily won at the net.
- A softer, higher, deeper return of serve may be the better strategic decision so that you’re better able (have more time) to get to the NVZ Line.
- Half-volley (short hop) deep serves so that you can get to the NVZ line quicker without being pinned to the baseline – or stuck in “no-man’s land.”
- When retrieving a lob over your head, attempt to hit your shot into your opponent’s NVZ – and then work your way back to your own NVZ.
- Play only the next point — not previous points. If you make a mistake forget about it.
Pickleball Tournament Tips
Tournament play is certainly different than rec play. Nerves. Anxiety. Adrenaline. Here are pickleball tournament tips that will help you prepare for pressure-packed matches in a tournament.
- Find a partner who possesses similar tournament goals and expectations.
- Make sure you practice beforehand with the same ball that will be used in the tournament.
- Network and get to know the other competitors before, during and after the tournament.
- Familiarize yourself with the official pickleball rules. Something “controversial” seemingly always comes up.
- Make sure you wear comfortable shoes and socks and have extras. It can be a long day on the courts.
- Plan accordingly for sun, heat, and humidity if playing outdoors.
- Know the tournament format before-hand. You don’t want to be surprised as they call your match.
- Arrive early to check-in, stretch, and warm-up.
- Review any notes you may have previously taken with respect to the venue and/or competitors in your bracket.
- Volunteer if able. The tournament director will greatly appreciate your efforts and willingness to help.
Pickleball Practice Tips
Practice time needs to mimic the focus, intention, and purpose of a “real game” — all while adding in a layer of mental pressure — pressure that you’re sure to encounter in a “real” game.
Here are several tips that you can incorporate into your pickleball practice sessions that will help you refine your technique, build muscle memory and help you successfully transition from the practice court to the “real” courts.
- Consider videoing yourself on the practice court. Then objectively review the video to identify areas for improvement.
- Incorporate targets into your practice routine. With instant feedback, you will then be able to tweak the mechanics of the shot as you rally or drill. Remember, you should always practice with purpose.
- If you get to the courts and only 3 people are there, don’t fret. There are several drills you can do with just three people, including my favorite – King of the Hill!
- Take lessons. It’s critical to have proper technique and fundamentals. A qualified instructor will help.
- Add skinny singles to your drill routine. Skinny singles closely mimics the variety of shots that would be executed in a “real” game.
- If you don’t have a drilling partner, consider using a wall and do pickleball wall drills to get in repetitions and commit shots to muscle memory.
Many pickleball players belong to an organized pickleball “club.” If you don’t, you’re missing out. The following pickleball tips for local pickleball clubs will help keep things fresh and exciting for players/members.
- If courts are crowded and people are waiting to play, winners-stay-and-split is a great way to mix people up in rec play. I would recommend instituting a “rule,” however, that one person cannot play more than 2 or 3 games in a row.
- A dry erase board is, perhaps, the most effective tool for rotating players in-and-out when there are people waiting to play.
- Ladder leagues and shootouts are fun, organized complements for any pickleball club. Both allow for a mix of social & competitive play.
- To mix things up at your club, consider a round-robin or luck-of-the-draw “tournament.” They’re fun and allow players of different skill levels to play together.
- Try rally scoring. One of the primary benefits of rally scoring in pickleball is that games end more quickly (approximately 20% quicker), allowing for quicker rotations on crowded courts.
- Consider an end-of-season potluck get-together to get to know your fellow club members better – and to reminisce about the outdoor season that was.
Miscellaneous Pickleball Tips
- Don’t play keep away from the best player on the other team during rec play just so you can win – they want to play too!
- If you will be going out-of-town and wanting to play pickleball while traveling, contact the local ambassador a couple of weeks in advance. They will be able to suggest appropriate locations and times for your particular skill level.
- When flying, pack your paddle(s) in your carry-on luggage. It’s currently permissible – and if your checked luggage gets “lost,” you’ll still have your paddles!
- Not sure what to do with your broken pickleballs? Use broken pickleballs and garland to create a Christmas wreath to show off your holiday cheer and love of the game.
- Use a 3” diameter PVC pipe and secure a bungee cord (or zip ties) on the bottom to create a ball picker-upper. Your back will thank you.
- Rolls of corrugated cardboard make for great ball barriers at indoor venues to keep balls from going on other courts.
- At outdoor venues, ball barriers can be made from PVC pipe and garden/snow fencing to keep balls from going on other courts.
- If you are a member of USA Pickleball, you can access your 2-digit and 4-digit USAPA Tournament Player Ratings (UTPR) in your USA Pickleball member profile.
- The free-to-download “Places2Play” app – available for download in the Apple App Store – will list pickleball “places to play” near you.
- Facebook groups are another great source for finding places to play pickleball.
- Seek out a “mentor” and absorb as much knowledge as you can from them.
- Become familiar with pickleball “rules” of etiquette.
- Maximize your “Picklebility” and receive tips, strategies, and other news about all things pickleball by subscribing to the PickleballMAX newsletter.
- The Pickleball Planner makes for a great gift idea for the pickleball addict. More gift ideas can be found in this pickleball gift guide.
- Have fun! Remember, it’s only a game!
What are your Favorite Pickleball Tips?
So, that’s 100 of my favorite tips. Now, I would love to hear your thoughts. In the comments below, please list any pickleball tips that I may have missed and that you feel are helpful.
See you on the courts!
David Hiteshew says
A health & safety tip is to buy a heat & massage Lazy Boy or similar chair to use before & after play.
Of course. How could I forget?
David Hiteshew says
Great tips Todd! Here some more.
1. Bend your knees on low shots.
2. Be prepared to get your butt down amp; paddle up when at NVZ.
3. Practice between the legs & behind the back shots so you’re ready to use them when needed.
I’m with you on the first two. Not sure about tip #3, however! 😉
David Frey says
Serve and stay – don’t wander past the baseline right after you or your partner serves.
Yup. That’s a good one, David!
Bernadette Montgomery says
Great tips ! Thank you.