Strategy and tactics.
To be proficient at pickleball, you must be a great strategist. Like a commander on the battlefield, you must have sharp eyes and ears to lead your team to victory. Let me show you how.
First things first
If I sat here and told you how to strategically play pickleball and what tactics to use, I would be doing you a disservice. That would be a huge mistake on my part. Here's the reason:
The strategy you will use for a pickleball match is going to depend on you, your partner, and your opponents.
In other words, it's relative. You can't use the same strategy over and over again expecting the same thing to win your match every time.
It just doesn't work like that.
It's common to hear players say that a proper game of pickleball is a deep serve followed by a deep return followed by a beautiful 3rd shot drop, then the soft dinking game ensues.
At the intermediate level, this rarely happens. If you're looking to play competitively, you shouldn't hope on this. Let's talk about the first point.
The more people you play against, the better you'll get as a strategist. Pickleball is incredibly diverse. You have young folks, older folks, tennis folks, badminton folks and so on. There are so many different types of play that a 3.0 player can beat a 4.0 player if they know how to use their unique style of play to their own advantage.
This is why experience is so important. The more diverse your player and tournament experience is, the better you'll be able to counter your opponents!
Putting it to use
Again, I can't sit here and tell you what to do during a tournament match. There are too many variables for me to know what's going on at all times.
But as long as you know what's going on during the match, you'll be able to strategically outplay your opponent. The way you do this is through adjustment.
You must learn how to adjust in pickleball.
In high level play, if you don't adjust in time during a competitive match, you will lose. It's almost a guarantee. Here are some pointers:
- Be aware. Like I said in the mindset section, self-awareness is critical in this sport. Watch for the patterns. If you just lost 3 points in a row due to a 3rd shot drive down your center line, then that should make you scratch your head.
- If it's a tournament match, use your timeouts! During the timeout, discuss what your opponents are good and bad at with your partner. Also discuss what's not working.
- Adjust! If something isn't working, you have to adjust as quickly as possible. If you don't, you will lose.
What kinds of strategies you use in your game is going to be dependent on your opponents primarily. Don't look at pickleball as being played "properly". Observe, adjust, use trial and error, and do what works!
Top strategies to know
There are some strategies that are going to work regardless of who you're playing against. The most important strategy that you can use is getting to the kitchen line. Being at the kitchen line increases your chance of winning the point by multiple factors.
How do you do this? If you haven't checked out the 3rd shot drop section of my website, now is a good time. This will help you get to the kitchen line. Once you're there, stay there!
What's cool about this strategy is that you can use the opposite concept against your opponent. If it's so important to be at the kitchen line, then you should keep your opponent back as deep as you can. Don't just hit the ball to hit the ball. Hit shots that will force your opponents away from the net!
Another great strategy to use is stacking. This is especially the case in mixed play. I will have some guides out on stacking soon. The general idea here is that assuming both players are right-handed, you want the male player always on the left and the female player on the right. This way the male always has his forehand in the middle for those amazing put-away shots! Stacking can be great if it's done correctly.