101 Pickleball Tips To Take Your Game To The Next Level

Barrett Kincheloe 3rd shot, article, Basics, beginner, dinking, finesse, Gear, improvement, Strategy, Technique 12 Comments

I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks about pickleball, especially over the last year or so. In the past, whenever I learned something new, I would keep it mostly to myself. Well, not anymore. One of the main reasons why I started this website was to teach people what I’m learning about pickleball. This article is all about just that.

What follows are 101 tips to take your pickleball game to the next level. I hope you enjoy, and if you have any questions feel free to comment at the bottom of the article.

1. Don’t scoot up when you serve or before you return serve. I know, it’s hard to do. But whenever you scoot up after you serve or even before you return serve, you’re opening yourself up for disaster. Remember, you can’t volley the return serve or the third shot because of the double bounce rule. So stay back and be patient!

2. Upgrade your paddle. It’s easy to get used to a paddle. But it’s also easy to get used to a subpar paddle or one that doesn’t complement you. If you’re using a $30-50 paddle, consider upgrading to something more substantial. Yes, it will make a huge difference. If you don’t like it, you can always return it and go back to your old one.

3. Play with people better than you. In order to improve in anything, you have to be willing to lose. It will happen a lot and is a normal part of the process. If you’re a beginner or intermediate player, getting obliterated by better players is one of the best ways to learn. They will expose your weaknesses better than anyone else. And through those experiences, you will learn and improve.

4. Have a pre-serve routine. This is extremely important. Having a pre-serve routine will help you in numerous ways. First, a pre-serve routine gets your body in a rhythm. This activates your muscle memory instead of your conscious mind having to do it. In turn, this will help you with serving consistency and confidence. It just gets your body into the flow.

5. Consume everything you can (not just my content). I have tons of content on this site, but so do other people. Devour as much content as you can on the internet. Take it all in. Go to YouTube and scour around as much as you can. The more you learn, the more you can apply when you go to the courts.

6. Network with advanced players. Like I said earlier, if you want to get better, you have to play with people better than you. Instead of playing with advanced players randomly at open play, imagine you could play with them consistently in private games. If you want to do this, you have to network around and hope to get invited. If an opportunity like that comes up, take it!

7. Try new and different paddles. Later on in this list, I’ll talk about sticking with a paddle, but you have to try a bunch of stuff before you do that. Search around as much as you can and try things out. Don’t be afraid to try something different. Know someone that has a paddle made out of acorns and bananas? Try it! The more paddles you have experience with, the more confident your final choice will be.

8. Be willing to accept criticism. Some people can deal with criticism, but I argue that most people can’t. I get it. But accepting criticism of your pickleball game is critical to learning. You have to be willing to admit errors and mistakes, especially if you’re going to be playing competitively. Self-honesty goes a long way in this sport. If you’re the kind of person that gets defensive, try to let that go and realize that people are just trying to help you.

9. Just get it over the net. Sometimes, the best strategy in pickleball is to just get it over the net. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Obviously, it’s not easy at all. But the mantra “get it over the net” really comes in handy when you’re trying to make complicated shots that you don’t need to be making. Instead of doing something fancy and risky, just dink it over!

10. If you’re new, find someone to go with. It can be nerve-wracking going to the pickleball courts for the first time. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. But if you’re nervous, try to find someone that would be willing to go with you. It can really help, especially if that person is experienced. Once you go and play, you’ll feel a lot better and you’ll love it!

11. Stay at the kitchen line. Beginners and intermediate players have a tendency to back off the kitchen line slowly as the point goes on. Don’t do this! Backing off that line means that you’re more likely to get a ball to your feet. And those shots are almost impossible to return. Instead, stay steadfast and stalwart at the kitchen line. It’s your line! Don’t back off!

12. When you’re waiting for a game, watch advanced players. If you’re waiting for your game to start, you might as well make it worth the time. If there’s an advanced game going on, watch it carefully. Stand away from the sitting area so that you’re not distracted. Pay close attention to everything they do. Then, pick out a few things and try them out in your next game.

13. Try new shots. It’s true that pickleball has been around for over 50 years, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t try anything new. There’s still plenty of room for experimentation and innovation. Needless to say, you shouldn’t do this in a serious game, but if it’s more casual, then try something new. Why not put some spin on your serve? Or try some passing shots?

14. Serve deep. Out of all the things to be focused on with your serve, this is one of the most important concepts. Serving deep does two things: it keeps your opponent away from the kitchen (which is a good thing) and it makes their return serve shot harder since it’s further away. Try not to worry about power, just focus on getting it as deep as you can.

15. As well as return serves. What I just talked about above also applies to return serves. Return them as deep as possible. Returning them deep makes their third shot drop much more difficult. And making the third shot drop more difficult than it already is will make any pickleball player cringe.

16. Warm up with third shot drops. You should always have a basic warm-up routine before you start playing pickleball. But make sure you include some third shot drops in there. This is especially pertinent if you’re playing at a new location. Third shot drops are hard enough as they are. But introducing a new venue, new net, and even new balls can complicate things. Make sure you warm up with some third shot drops to get used to it.

17. Don’t be a victim of the pickleball panics. It’s easy to lose control over your body when you play pickleball. I understand; I’ve been there too. One of the best ways to stave off the pickleball panics is to focus on your footwork. When you panic in pickleball, your feet tend to just shut down. And when your feet shutdown, well, you know what happens. Try to keep your feet relaxed and you’ll do much better with the pickleball panics.

18. Always be ready. What do infield baseball players look like when the pitch is being thrown? Are they standing straight up with their hands at their sides? Nope! They’re crouching slightly with their glove and hands ready. You should do the same in pickleball. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, but just getting in your stance is important.

19. Don’t get down on yourself. There’s no better way to utterly decimate your team’s momentum on the court than by sulking. If you are visibly getting down on yourself on the court, it doesn’t just affect you. It affects everyone around you. If you’re playing competitively, your opponents will eat that up and use it against you.

20. Use the third shot drive as a tool, not a regular shot. There’s no doubt that the third shot drop is extremely important. Indeed, it’s one of the most important shots to learn and get great at. But that doesn’t mean you have to use it all the time. The third shot drop is always used when both of your opponents are at the kitchen because it’s your only option. However, if your opponents aren’t at the kitchen then you should attempt to hit it to their feet. The last thing you want is for your opponents to get to the kitchen. When they are, the advantages on both sides are equalized. So if your opponent isn’t at the kitchen, don’t do a third shot drop because that will just encourage them to get to the kitchen. Drive it over instead!

21. Make sure you stretch. I’m no doctor, but stretching is very important before doing any kind of athletic activity. It will help to prevent injury, but will also help you on the court. For example, I stretch my leg and groin muscles to give me that extra reach and flexibility that I need.

22. Eat before you play. I understand that some people are nervous about eating before you play pickleball. Whether it’s fears of throwing up or getting cramps, some people avoid it entirely. But having something in your stomach before you play pickleball is important because it keeps you going throughout the pickleball session. It really helps. Now, I’m not saying that you have to eat an entire whale before you go, but there should be something in your stomach at least. Also, you don’t have to eat 5 minutes before you play. Eating an hour before you go is fine, but do what is best for you.

23. Understand the basics of pickleball paddles. A pianist knows a lot about pianos. A carpenter knows a lot about houses. A T-rex knows… ok, you get the point. As a pickleball player, you should know a lot about your tool of the trade, the pickleball paddle. The main benefit of learning about pickleball paddles is that when it’s time to upgrade your paddle, you will have a solid foundation. This will make the process much, much easier for you and will give you peace of mind.

24. Find your preferred paddle weight range. One of the keys to picking the right kind of paddle is to find your weight range, not necessarily a specific weight. Not every model of paddle is the same weight. They can differ by about ~.2 oz. Having a preferred weight range instead of a specific point will help you stay flexible.

25. Use a polymer core paddle. For the most part, there are three different types of pickleball paddle cores. I’ve written an article and produced a video on this subject so I won’t go too in-depth here, but in general, you should choose polymer. It’s what most paddle manufacturers go with and therefore is also what they’re spending most of their time on. All of the cool paddles that are coming out these days use polymer cores.

26. Block power shots the right way. Sometimes an opponent will send a pickleball screaming over the net at you. Understandably, it can catch people by surprise. But the key to stopping a power shot at you is to not swing at it. Swinging at a power shot can end in failure if you’re not ready for it because the speed of the shot is too fast for the swing. Instead, stick your paddle out and just let it collide. Don’t swing at it!

27. Use court or tennis shoes. If you’re not wearing the proper kind of shoe, then you’re at risk for rolling your ankle, or worse. Don’t risk it. Wear the right type of shoe to protect yourself. There are also benefits that you’ll receive on the court in terms of traction and footwork.

28. The kitchen rule concerns volleys only. One of the most common questions I get is about the kitchen rule. The rules surrounding the kitchen can be confusing, but one way to help you clear it up in your head is to understand that the kitchen rules only concern volleys, not groundstrokes. If the ball has bounced, the kitchen rule is no longer in play!

29. Know the rules. At least the non-obvious ones. For example, did you know that touching the net is a fault? Or that it’s also a fault if you and your partner disagree on a line call on your side of the court? If you’re going to be playing pickleball competitively, it’s important to know these things.

30. If the ball goes out, say it quick! This is not only common courtesy, but it’s actually a rule as well. When you’re judging whether a ball is in or out, you have to make your judgment nearly instant. You can’t sit there and meditate on it. It has to be quick! Also, make sure you say it loud so people can hear you.

31. Don’t be shy. One of the best ways to advance your pickleball game is to get into games with advanced players. I know it’s difficult, but it’s all about networking. If you’re shy, don’t worry about! Most pickleball players are nice and welcoming.

32. Don’t get angry on the court. It’s so easy to fall in love and become super passionate about pickleball. But sometimes, players let that passion turn south. When the anger and frustration come bursting out of you, a few negative outcomes can happen. First, it doesn’t help you any. Second, it lets your opponents know what your weaknesses are, and thus will exploit you further. Third, it makes everyone around you uncomfortable, especially if it’s at rec play. I understand, but if you’re quick to anger, remember these things the next time you play.

33. If you’re sedentary, don’t overdo it. I was in a pretty bad sedentary lifestyle before I started playing pickleball. One of the mistakes that I made early on was that I got into it way too aggressively. I didn’t give my body time to rest and I paid for it in the form of injuries. If you’re sedentary and you’re getting into pickleball for the first time, make sure you give your body time to rest between sessions.

34. Don’t forget to laugh. For a lot of consistent pickleball enthusiasts, the sport has become a serious passion. Some high-ranked players take the sport very seriously to where they no longer seem to be having fun on the court. It’s all about winning. Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking the sport seriously, but it’s important to not let it get in the way with what’s important. Pickleball is in a special place. It has the effect of bringing people together for community-building and go old-fashioned fun. Have fun!

35. Regrip your paddle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve regripped someone’s paddle. I’ve lost count. I’m kind of a stickler about it. I get this queasy feeling in my gut whenever I grab someone’s paddle and it feels closer to a steel rod dipped in a delicious butter sauce. I regrip it immediately and they fall in love with it. You want your grip to be tacky, but it’s easy to not notice it getting smooth. I highly recommend regripping it. You can watch my video tutorial here to learn how.

36. Hit to their feet. In the wonderful world of pickleball, nothing is more difficult than returning a ball hit to your feet. Have you had that happen to you? It’s next to impossible. So if you have the opportunity, aim for the feet!

37. Play to your percentages. The big point to understand what it means to “play your percentages” is to only use the shots that you’re the most comfortable with. For example, the success rate of a crazy spin shot that’s aimed for the kitchen sideline maybe 10%. But a simple dink up the middle is probably around 85%. Which one should you do? I know that fancy shots are fun to try, but if you want to win, go for high percentage.

38. Think causally. A lot of people in professions and hobbies all over the world advise people to “learn from your mistakes”. This is so true, but it’s a bit different for us. One way to do this in pickleball is to understand what led up to the mistake. For example, if you missed an opponent’s overhead smash, don’t think that you should have done better to get the smash. Think instead what you should have done to not have allowed your opponent to smash the ball in the first place.

39. Take a video of yourself playing. If you’ve never taken a video of yourself playing, you got to try it! Sports can be a strange endeavor because we perform different movements and techniques with our bodies, yet we can’t see what’s actually going on. Taking a video of yourself is a great way to do it and you can just do it on your phone.

40. Stay aligned with your partner. Don’t leave your partner behind! When you and your partner are trying to get to the kitchen, make sure you that you stick together. This doesn’t mean that you should stand right next to them, rather, make sure that you’re on the same plane, similar to the way it was on the baseline. If you’re further up the court than your partner, then your opponent can hit to the gap that’s created.

41. Don’t teach people unless it’s solicited. There’s nothing worse than getting instruction from someone that shouldn’t be doing so. I include myself in this category. Even as someone who has written over a hundred thousand words about pickleball, I still never give someone a lesson unless they absolutely want it. There’s nothing wrong with teaching someone about the kitchen rules or something like that. But you don’t know what kind of instruction the player has received before. It can put people in an awkward situation where they’re hearing two different things from two different people.

42. Don’t just hit it. This is the #1 mistake that I see beginners make. I see this the most often with the third shot drop. Most times, a player should be using a drop shot on the third shot of the point, but often what I see is that they’ll hit it as hard as they can and up into the air. I totally understand, but this is going to lead to disaster. I recently taught a new player to control their third shot instead and try to be softer with it. It changed her game entirely and she’s now getting significantly better at pickleball.

43. Control your smashes. A smash is only good if it makes it over the net. How many times have you seen someone wind up a huge overhead smash to only see it go into the net? I know; I’ve done it. Overall, the harder you smash, the less control you have over the shot. Instead, try to dial down the power a bit in favor of more control. This way you at least get the ball over. Even if it’s not as powerful as your “super smash”, it’s still probably good enough to win the point.

44. Dink to the backhand. The vast majority of people are going to be weaker in their backhand than they are in their forehand. When you’re dinking at the net, make it as hard for the opponent as possible and hit to their backhand.

45. Work on your footwork. Another key to playing pickleball well is having good footwork. Pickleball is a very frantic sport. Getting competent with the way your feet work is a huge key to success. Make sure you’re wearing the right kinds of shoes and that you stretch properly before playing.

46. Use USAPA approved balls. If you’re looking to play competitively or semi-competitively, it’s important to only play with USAPA approved balls. The reason is that when the time comes around to compete, you’ll only be able to use those balls. Also, keep track of which balls are the most popular. For example, at the time of this writing (June 2018) the ball of choice for outdoors is the Dura Fast 40.

47. Hit against a brick wall. I figured out this tip after I was warming up before pickleball one day. I was outside doing some stretching when I randomly decided to hit the ball up against a wall. The wall was brick though and it would deflect in unpredictable directions. At first, it was annoying, but then I realized that there was more to it than that. It ended up being a decent drill at getting warm with reaction times. It helps you get in the zone. Try it out if you can!

48. Play in a tournament. If you want to truly test your skills in the pickleball arena, then participating in a tournament, especially if it’s USAPA sanctioned, will do that for you. Just like any other sport, playing in a tournament and playing in a recreational game is like night and day.

49. Play with a set partner. Pickleball is all about consistency. And if you want more consistency then you should try to play with a consistent partner. This is obviously next to impossible at open play. However, for invite-only games, playing with a set partner is a good idea. This is even truer if you’re going to be playing with that partner in a tournament.

50. Try popcorn with Sriracha. Alright look, I’m halfway through this thing and I need a snack badly. Have you ever had popcorn dipped in a little Sriracha? It’s insanely good. Don’t get the buttered popcorn. Just get the regular stuff. I’m not even into spicy foods and I still think it’s great. Alright, I’m sated, let’s continue.

51. Watch the spinny stuff. Similar to what I said earlier about shot percentages, using fancy spin shots is one of the worst. Spin shots are low-percentage, unpredictable and inconsistent. I know they’re fun, but if you’re trying to get better then you have to remove most of them from your repertoire. If you’re going to use spin shots, the best time to use it is on the return-serve. This way the shot becomes much more consistent considering that the return-serve is very simple.

52. Play outdoors. If you’re an indoor only player, trying playing outdoors. Playing pickleball on tennis courts instead of indoor gymnasium will give you a completely different experience and how pickleball was originally designed. Also, there’s something beautiful about playing outdoors when the sun is going down. Try it out sometime!

53. Have an advanced player watch you. If you’re a beginner or intermediate player, nothing is more educating than having someone much better than you critique your play. An advanced player has more time on the courts than you do and can see things that you can’t see quite yet. There’s nothing wrong with that, but having them watch you can be great for your game.

54. Stay out of no man’s land. This is another super common beginner mistake and one that even advanced players make every now and then. No man’s land is the area of the court that’s in between the baseline and the kitchen. You don’t want to be idly standing there because it encourages the opponent to hit to your feet. Shots to your feet almost always end in disaster.

55. Stand your ground. When I’m teaching beginners how to play, I will often stand on the sideline and watch them from the kitchen. A common behavior pattern I notice is that when a smash is coming their way, they begin to shuffle backward. This won’t help you much unless you can get so far back that you’ll be able to return the bounce of the smash. You’re better off standing still and focusing on the ball.

56. Cross-court dink for setups. Hitting cross-court dinks can be a great way to set up some fun for your partner. If your opponent isn’t expecting it, they can pop it up into the air for your partner to smash. But be careful, if you’re playing against advanced players, a cross-court dink that has too much angle on it can lead to your opponent hitting an “around the post” shot.

57. Dink in a triangle. My mind was slightly blown when I learned this strategy. When you’re in a dinking battle with someone in front of you, try imagining that they’re standing in a triangle and aim for those points. Example: hit a dink to their left side, then their right side, then their center.

58. Stay calm and collected. It may not seem like it, but there is a huge mental and mindset game in pickleball. Half of what makes a good pickleball player is mindset. If you’re jittery and anxious, you may make poor decisions during the most critical times. The calmer and more centered you are, the better you’ll play.

59. Don’t lob behind mobility-limited people. This is just my opinion, but lobbing behind immobile or mobility-limited people in recreational play is very disrespectful. It’s a “cheap shot” you could say. There’s nothing that the player can do to get the ball and is an easy point for you. And that’s just not fun for anyone.

60. Don’t just lob the ball randomly. Speaking of lobbing, let’s talk about the panic lob. Sometimes when players don’t know what to do, they lob the ball. It’s just instinct. Not only that but lobbing the ball all the time doesn’t do much for your pickleball game. Lobbing isn’t used that much in high-level play and is considered a niche tool and not a regular shot.

61. Master the third shot drop. The third shot drop is the most important shot to learn in pickleball. The reason is that the third shot drop allows the serving team to get to the net. As I’ve said before, getting to the net is what equalizes the chances of winning the point and the third shot drop is your ticket.

62. But don’t be afraid to pull out the big guns. My co-host Jana and I talk about this quite often on our podcast. Pickleball is known for being a gentle sport about control and finesse. But that doesn’t mean power isn’t a factor. It absolutely is, and you shouldn’t be afraid of using it if it’s the right time to do so.

63. Hit your third shot drop to the player running. Remember that whole “hit to the feet thing”? Well, what better way to put it into action than with a drop shot? When you use the third shot drop, there will be one opponent at the net and the other will be running up. Try hitting your third shot drop to the one running up. You could hit it to their feet and possibly score a point.

64. Return serve to the middle. Have you ever seen two players watch the ball casually bounce past them on a return serve? Hilarious, isn’t it? A breakdown in communication in pickleball often leads to mistakes. Might as well take advantage of it and hit it down the middle. Also, this keeps your opponent from getting passing shots on you.

65. Think about your game in the shower. I know, it sounds weird. But have you ever heard of a “shower thought”? There are online communities of people built around just shower thoughts. For some reason, people come up with brilliant thoughts while in the shower. Try it sometime, you may be surprised what your brain comes up with.

66. Take a break. Back when I was a graphic designer, I would work on a project all day, then the next day I wouldn’t work on it at all. I did this on purpose because on the third day I would have fresh and refocused eyes to see the work in a new light. Pickleball can be the same way. If you’re playing every day, try taking a few days off to reflect on your game.

67. Support your partner. Pickleball is hard. It’s even harder when you’re the only one on the court making all the mistakes. If this is happening to your partner, make sure you support them with encouraging words. Some common ones you hear are “You got this!” or “Nice try!” or even “Hey, that was the right idea!”. It will help them to feel a bit more confident.

68. Try stacking. Stacking is where throughout a game of pickleball, each player will always stay on one side of the court. There are a few reasons for this, but the big one is when you’re playing in a competitive mixed doubles game. Men have more upper body strength than women do. In order to exploit this, mixed doubles teams will “stack” the man on the left side of the court (assuming he’s right-handed). This makes it to where every shot up the middle will be met by a forehand smash by the man.

69. Remember how to keep track of the score. Everyone loves that one pickleball player that knows the score at all times. It can be confusing, which is why I wrote an entire article about it. But the general idea is that whichever player starts on the right side at the beginner of the game, will always have an even score when they’re on that side.

70. Have someone count your mistakes. There’s nothing more humbling than figuring out how terrible you are at something. It really tests how stubborn the ego is. But can also be very enlightening. For clarification, I don’t mean to count every mistake and come up with a final number, but instead count categories of mistakes and come up with those numbers. For example, you could have a serving mistake category and third shot drop categories and count how many mistakes happened in each. Or you can video yourself and review it later for reflection!

71. Remember to split step. This is another common mistake that I see beginners make. Split stepping simply means spreading out your feet and planting your stance. We do this in racket sports because it gets our entire body planted and ready for the ball. It’s also very difficult hitting a ball and moving forward at the same time. Split stepping solves this problem.

72. Be patient. This is how a lot of mistakes are made in pickleball. Sometimes we want to act quickly and not think about it. But that can get us into trouble. For example, if you attempt to smash the ball that’s too low, you’ll hit it into the net. However, if you wait for it to bounce, then you’ll not make that mistake. Be patient, and wait for the next opportunity that’s even better than that one.

73. Don’t worry about powerful serves. If you see someone ripping their serves at mach speed while your serves look more like tossing a piece of gum to a co-worker, try not to worry about it. Power plays a role in pickleball, but it’s not everything. Especially for serving. You’re better off focusing on serving deep than serving powerfully.

74. But do get more topspin. If you can’t get more power on your serves that’s fine. But try to get more topspin. It can be just as brutal as serving with force. A topspin serve will have a steeper drop to the backcourt and will make it awkward for your opponent to return.

75. Only poach if your partner is fine with it. I wrote a detailed article about poaching and whether you should do it or not. One of the things I talk about is to only do it in recreational play if your partner is fine with it. Poaching can be extremely annoying. If your partner is just playing for fun, it could infuriate them.

76. Remember your etiquette. Pickleball isn’t like golf in terms of etiquette, but it’s not like the stone age either. There are certain etiquette principles in pickleball that you should be aware of. Some examples are not lobbing behind immobile players and not getting angry on the court. You can go here for more details.

77. Take center shots as the forehand player. This is huge. One of the most important things to communicate on the court is who will take shots in the middle. Having two players attack a floater in the middle will almost always lead to disaster. To make it easy, decide on one person to take the shots in the middle. To make it even easier than that, assign the forehand player to be the one.

78. Sprint to the kitchen. Or at least get there as quickly as possible. Whoever controls the kitchen, controls the game. So once the double bounce rule as been cleared, get up there! Keep in mind that this won’t always be the case as sometimes you’ll hit third shot drops too high and so on. But you get the idea.

79. Don’t be afraid to play defensively. So much of pickleball is about survival and letting your opponent make the mistakes. It’s typically advised to play defensively in pickleball so that you’re not the one making the mistakes. The longer you last on the court, the more likely it is that your opponent will make a mistake.

80. But be opportunistic. I just talked about playing defensively, but there are also times where you have to take opportunities when they come. If you see a floater coming to you, smash it! Take the opportunity. But things calm down again and become normalized, then go back to that defensive mode.

81. Believe in yourself. I know it’s cliche as anything, but it’s so true. If you don’t have a solid foundation in belief about yourself and your abilities then you’re not going to get anywhere. It’s normal to doubt yourself when you’re playing with people significantly better than you, but it’s not normal to doubt yourself all the time. Go here to read a bit more about this.

82. Mind the wind. There are many variables when it comes to playing outdoors. One of the most considerable ones is wind. And yes, wind can make a huge difference in the flight of a ball. It’s true that outdoor pickleballs are designed to be wind resistant, but they’re not windproof. If you’re playing in a windy area, reconsider hitting shots on the line due to the wind.

83. Stop hitting low percentage shots. We all have trouble with this, even advanced players. If you’re unfamiliar, low percentage shots have a small chance of succeeding. These are shots like the third shot drive (on a low bounce) or a powerful, topspin on the centerline. Keeping these shots out of your repertoire will make a huge difference in your success rates.

84. Drill, drill and drill some more. So much of pickleball is about muscle memory. If you want to learn a specific kind of shot or get better at something, you have to drill it. Don’t expect to get better at pickleball without doing some drills first.

85. Make sure you’re holding the paddle correctly. Believe it or not, a lot of consistent pickleball troubles can come from not holding the paddle correctly. If you’ve never played a racket sport before, then you may feel a bit lost about this. It’s pretty easy. Just shake hands with the handle. Go here to read more.

86. Watch (if you can) your opponent’s feet. People break the kitchen rules without knowing all the time. The problem is that in recreational play, no one is looking.  Try to keep an eye on their feet sometimes to catch the faults.

87. Wear comfortable clothing. I know that sports apparel companies like to brand their clothes as if they’ll play the sport for you, but sports clothing really is great! Wearing clothes that don’t fit, are scratchy or don’t absorb sweat will just lead to distraction. And you know where that leads!

88. Don’t get too wrapped up in paddle choice. I know I harp on paddle choice a lot, but once you’ve gone through the paddle picking process, you’ll eventually have to settle down with one. When you find one you really like, settle with it and don’t change until something much better (not just a little bit better) comes around.

89. You’re going to have off days. Pickleball is not a “shoot to the stars” endeavor. The key is to stay calm, stay collected and realize that bad days are going to happen. It’s a part of the journey!

90. For soft kitchen volleys, crouch down. Volleying balls at the kitchen line is more art than science. Volleyed balls explode off the face more than groundstrokes and thus players have to be careful to not pop up the balls and not push them into the net. One thing that can help is to crouch down as you’re hitting the ball. This will help you get your paddle underneath the ball for more control.

91. Permanent and portable nets are noticeably different. If you don’t have a balanced indoor to outdoor pickleball ratio, getting used to the opposite may take some time to get used to. If you play outdoors for the first time, expect the top of the net to be like steel. Nothing will go over. On the other hand, if you’ve never played indoors on portable nets, expect the top of the net to be like jello.

92. Make your own court. A true pickleball acolyte dreams about having their own court. And assuming you have the room for it, your own court can make playing and practicing pickleball much easier. I will have guides published all about DIY and temporary court setups eventually so check back later for those.

93. If you lack reach, try an elongated paddle. Elongated or “blade” paddles are great for people who need more reach. If you lack mobility or you’re short, using one of these paddles can be great. But beware that elongated paddles also have shorter handles.

94. Let your partner get lobs behind you. Assuming that you’re both equally as agile of course. You’re probably aware of the dangers of running backward. I’ve seen people fall when doing this and it’s not pretty. The better choice is to let your partner get lobs behind you. The reason is that it’s an easier angle for them to turn to, instead of you having to turn 180 degrees around.

95. Face your opponent when cross-court dinking. Back when I was first starting out in pickleball, I thought that you had to have both feet on the kitchen line and face forward. I laugh at this now. If you’re cross-court dinking with someone, make sure that you’re facing in their general direction. This will give you more time to react to shots.

96. If something hurts, see your doctor. Don’t think for even a half second that pickleball isn’t hard on your body. I’m not saying that it absolutely is, but it certainly can be. Personally, I’ve dealt with shin splints, knee problems, and a minor wrist sprain. And I know several people who have tennis elbow. If your body is trying to tell you something, don’t ignore it!

97. Respect the net. It can be tempting to hit your dinks as low as possible over the net. But it’s flirting with danger! If you’re a player that likes to keep their dinks really low, remember that raising them up a bit won’t destroy your game and you’ll keep more balls out of the net.

98. Watch for broken pickleballs. Pickleballs aren’t like a phone book from the 1990s. They are easily destructible. But they’re also hard to spot. You could be playing with a cracked ball this whole time! Every time you serve, check the ball for cracks.

99. Shuffle your feet, don’t turn and run. When you’re going for a shot off to your side, make sure you shuffle your feet from side to side. This is the proper way to do footwork. You should never cross your foot over the other to run sideways unless it’s your only option. This is much slower and increases your chance of falling.

100. Go to clinics. Pickleball teachers love putting on clinics. They’re great for instructors because it’s a great way to get lots of people to learn the game efficiently. But it’s also great for you. By going to a pickleball clinic, you’ll get to not only learn pickleball, but you’ll be able to meet new people to play with.

101. Yell loudly for shots going out. This is one of the line-calling rules in pickleball. If a ball is out on your side, you have to say so instantly and loudly. Not saying it loud enough can leave your opponents confused and they may challenge your call since they didn’t hear anything.

I hope that helped you and thank you so much for reading!

Comments 12

  1. Love all the suggestions. This is the most complete list I have found. One question: You didn’t talk too much about lobbing and it sounds like lobbing is somewhat discouraged. However I have found it to be an very effective tool when engaged in a long ongoing dinking game with all 4 players hanging over the NVZ line. Particularly when I can roll my lob up and over their backhand shoulder.. Again, I look at it as just another tool to assist in winning those long dinking games. Thoughts??
    Thanks again for all the great tips.

  2. I’m new to this game although I’ve played tennis competitively up through college, competitively after that badminton, table tennis, squash and then racketball in my 50’s. I can’t handle the physical demands of racketball anymore so I’ve been recently introduced to pickleball. What fun!!

    I’ve been scouring the web, have been watching all types of videos and trying to learn as much as I can. Your site and help are just what I’ve been needing.

    Since I’m a student of any game that I play I hope to improve and have fun at this new sport (for me)

  3. It seems that the term no man’s land has had a falling out. The accepted term seems to be the transition zone. By calling it the transition zone you are reminding your student that are on defence and need transition to or back to offence; or at least to a position of equality.

  4. How do i get more topspin on my serve and what is the double bounce rule?
    Thanks for all your very informative articles.
    David

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  5. if I am playing at a level 2.5 and play 6 games in a round robin. what should I base my score on to move up. we are a self evaluating pickleball group. Very new, but we have 350 members.
    If my total score is 50, am I plaint at the right level. Or if I score 66, maybe I need to move up a level.
    any guidance would help.
    Dennis

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      Hey Dennis,

      Interesting question, I’ve never been asked this before. I think the way most people evaluate their skill level is if they’re able to consistently beat players at a certain skill level. So if you’re playing with a group of 3.5 players and you notice yourself doing fine against them and winning and losing at an even rate, then you’re probably around a 3.5 level. Does that make sense? Skill ratings are a bit difficult because they can be relative and subjective.

      1. yes thank you .the hard thing is that we all evaluate ourselves so you might play a person who says they are a 3 and they are probably a 2.5.

  6. Thanks Barrett!!! Great information and a great read! Will work on your tips while playing! I have had many paddles..by Selkirk, Engage, Paddletek, Prolite, Pickleball Central, Head and Onix…and my favorite so far is the Tempest Wave…Thinking about buying a spare one! Thank so much for all your Pickleball help!

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