4 Pickleball Tips I WISH I Knew Earlier

Written by Adam (HV)

December 22, 2023

pickleball tips

It’s that time of year when I do some reflection and a year-end-review on my life.

In the spirit of looking back, I wanted to share with you the pickleball tips, tactics, strategies, and wisdom that I wish I knew when I first started.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re an advanced player, there’s something in this video that can help you improve your game right now.

There are some pickleball tips and concepts that are just evergreen. You’ve probably heard them:

  • Hit the ball at your opponents feet
  • Always keep your paddle up in ready position when you’re at the kitchen
  • Keep your eye on the ball

These are the classic pickleball tips. Instead for this video, I wanted to share some pickleball tips that could help you succeed immediately but also set you up for success over the long run. 

Pickleball Tip #1: Don’t Rush

Alright, this may sound simplistic but rushing on the court often gets players in trouble.

Maybe you’re in a rush to serve, so you hit it into the net. Maybe You’re in a rush to hit a third shot, so you creep up after you serve and get pushed back off balance popping up the ball. Maybe You’re in a rush to get to the net, so you crash the transition zone only to hit a pop up and get smacked with the ball. 

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t rush your shots, but for the sake of this article, here is the biggest:

When you rush, you’re more susceptible to unforced errors. In other words, you lose control.  

Let’s take a look at a scenario where i’m in a hurry to get from the baseline to the net and I rush my shot. I want you to take a look and make a note of all the things happening here and then I’ll point them out afterward

pickleball tips

Ok, so this is obviously for dramatic effect, but what did you see?

When we rush, we lose focus of our mechanics, we lose control, and we commit unforced errors.

  • I’m not setting my feet, 
  • I’m running through the ball,
  • I’m making awkward contact, outside of my optimal contact zone 
  • I’m taking my eyes off the ball, 

Instead, when you’re calm and not rushing, you have the time and focus to perform a solid sequence of mechanics that help you hit a good shot. You:

  • I set my feet before swinging
  • I’m balanced
  • I watch the ball all the way through
  • I wait until the ball is at its peak
  • I make contact in my optimal zone

This cadence of mechanics, repeated over and over again is a building block to consistency. 

When was the last time you saw the Johns brothers in a hurry to get from the baseline to the net? Or rush to dink? In fact, if you really watch their movements, they’re getting everything right and at the very last second, they’re making contact with the ball.

If you’re struggling with consistency or if you’re struggling with getting to the net, consider slowing down. You have more time than you think you do. When you avoid rushing, you can focus on the important things, like your contact point and the sequence I just mentioned. Getting those mechanics right will lead to better accuracy, consistency, and control.  

Pickleball Tip #2: Hit High Percentage Shots

Choosing high percentage shots is like picking the right tool from a toolbox. You wouldn’t choose a screwdriver to drive a nail. In the same way a craftsman selects the right tool for the job at hand, you must choose the most effective shot for the situation. But how can you know which shots have the highest percentage of being successful? 

Choosing high percentage shots means that instead of reacting in the moment, you’re intentionally taking shots that give you the best chance of winning the rally. 

Example 1 – The Red Zone

When you’re at the net, don’t attack balls in the red zone – this is the area between your feet and your knees. This is a low percentage shot because in order to attack these balls and clear the net, you have to hit up on the ball and if you’re hitting up and adding pace and your opponent sees it coming, they will let it go out.

pickleball tips for the red zone

Example 2 – Yellow Zone

Next, let’s say you get a ball that bounces a little high in your yellow zone – should you attack down on the ball? If you can successfully attack this ball 8 times out of 10 without hitting into the net or going out, then I would say yes, go for it. But if not, I would say reset the ball and wait for a ball that you can attack successfully 80% of the time.

pickleball tip for the yellow zone

Example 3 – Placement

The last way to think about high percentage shots is your placement of the ball. No matter where you are on the court, where you’re hitting the ball to has a certain percentage of success. For example, if you’re here and you get a pop up – which of the two options are the highest percentage? I would argue that this is the highest percentage for a few reasons. There’s obviously more court, but the net is shorter by 2 inches here and if you were to miss-hit you have a lot more court to work with. Every shot will be more nuanced based on your skill set, who you’re playing, and what is most strategic, but generally speaking, where there’s more court, there’s more margin for error and more percentage of success.

Pickleball Tip #3: Transition in the Transition Zone

When I first started out, I spent a lot of my time attacking balls that were at my feet in the transition zone to try and hit my way out of trouble. At the time I didn’t know that in order to take control of the point, I had to get to the net. But I learned an easier way through this pickleball tip: Instead of attacking balls at your feet and trying to hit your way out of the situation, it’s easier and faster to hit an unattackable reset shot that lands in your opponents kitchen. When your shot is unattackable, they must return a neutral shot and this gives you time to get to the kitchen. 

Here’s why it’s a bad idea to always attack: If you’re in the transition zone and you’re attacking balls at your feet, you’re hitting up on those balls. And your opponent who is at the net has time to react and they have better position to hit down on the ball with more court as a target. 

With that being said, if your opponent can’t handle pace, then use pace, but ultimately, your goal should be to neutralize your opponent, transition, and advance to the kitchen.

Pickleball Tip #4: Use Compact Swings

When it comes to your swing in pickleball, less is more. It may feel like you need to take a big backswing, but this often gets players in trouble because those big unnecessary swings can throw off your timing and result in a poor contact point and an error. 

To help demonstrate this, we’re going to look at a pro point, slow it down, and look at their swing path for multiple shots, and then I’ll share some tips at the end to help connect it to your game.

To start it off, we’ve got the serve – notice here that Collin stops at his shoulder, he’s not lifting the paddle any higher. 

Next is a ground stroke – where you see the swing really start further down, this is a nice smooth, compact swing.

Next is a punch volley – notice here just how little of a swing. This is a spot where many players feel like they have to take a big swing, but really this is just out front, making contact, and probably no more than a foot of movement.

Here is a really nice topspin dink – he applies a lot of top spin, but it’s still very minimal in his paddle movement. You’ll also notice here what Wilson is setting up for this point in just a second.

Collin returns with a volley, very compact and minimal – takes the ball out of the air.

And like I was saying, Wilson gets what he was looking for with that topspin dink. He let’s the ball bounce to its peak, and speeds it up down the middle. This is really incredible point construction. But look how little movement he shows in the speed up. 

To finish it off, we’ve got a dink that bounces high, and Wilson speeds it up down the middle. Look how little movement he shows in the speed up. There’s a few reasons here – one is you want to disguise the shot, but the other is you don’t really need a big back swing. He’s generating speed with his wrist here.

So what are the big pickleball tip takeaways?

  • Less is more. You don’t need a lot of paddle movement to execute a shot that is well paced and well placed – any extra backswing can lead to errors
  • Always ready – Since the court is small, the ball can come back to you very quickly, so short, compact swings can get you back into a ready position with your paddle up, ready to receive any shots from your opponents
  • Smooth – Rarely do you see jerky movements or start and stop motions. Their movements are nice and smooth. This smoothness helps maximize the accuracy, consistency, and control. 
  • Stable – on many shots, the secret to stability is that their movement is coming from their shoulder for many shots and this helps with maintaining control because it requires less movement from your shoulder than your forearm or wrist to execute a shot. 

The only caveat to this is when you get an overhead. In those moments, that may require a full swing to put it away, but the majority of shots will be short and compact.

Pickleball Tip #5: Play with People Who Are Better & Then Drill Intentionally

Through a lot of trial and error, I have learned that one of the fastest ways to progress your game is by combining two things:

First, pickleball tip 1 is by playing people who are better than you. Players who are better than you can be like spotlights to your game. They can shine light on the areas that need the most improvement. Take note during those games. Sure, you may lose, but those losses should be seen as lessons.

Next, pickleball tip 2 is if you then find ways to drill around those areas of improvement and get quality reps in, your game can improve quickly. And by quality reps, I mean focused, intentional, and high intensity.

By pairing newfound illumination with quality drilling, you can reach a higher potential faster.

Pickleball Tips and Questions People Ask

How do I get better at pickleball?

In pickleball, achieving success hinges on the ability to make precise and measured shots. As you’re starting out, it’s wise to concentrate on the placement of your shots, aiming them deep into the court and towards the corners to challenge your opponents with tough returns. Prioritize maintaining a steady rhythm in your play rather than seeking to overpower your shots, which often leads to avoidable mistakes due to low-success, complex shots.

What is the golden rule of pickleball?

Essential Pickleball Principle #1 – Total Body Involvement

Total body involvement in pickleball signifies the importance of dynamic movement. This involves not just getting to the ball with quick, efficient steps but also maintaining continuous motion before and after each shot. It’s about the agility in your approach, the readiness of your stance, and the fluidity in transitioning from one position to the next.

What are 3 skills needed to play pickleball?

Three crucial skills for pickleball include: To excel in pickleball, it’s crucial to sharpen your hand-eye coordination, refine your footwork, and enhance your agility. These three skills are the cornerstones of a solid pickleball skill set. Engaging in specialized practice sessions and drills that target these areas can significantly elevate your overall gameplay and assist you in climbing the ranks of the sport.

What is the beginner strategy for pickleball?

For beginners, a solid strategy is to keep the ball in play by aiming for consistent and controlled shots rather than power. Work on keeping serves and returns deep, which makes it harder for opponents to attack. Additionally, beginners should practice approaching the net after the serve and return to control the game from the non-volley zone, setting up for more offensive shots.

These answers provide an overview, and as you play more, you’ll find that experience and strategic understanding naturally improve your game. For a deeper dive into techniques and strategies, it would be beneficial to watch instructional videos, take lessons from a professional, or join local pickleball clinics and workshops.

What pickleball tips do you wish someone told you earlier? Let me know in the comments. Maybe your pickleball tips could help someone out.

path to better pickleball

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