Anyone who has played pickleball knows how it feels to be inconsistent.
One day you may play amazing and the next you struggle to get the ball over the net. This can be extremely frustrating.
Today we’re going to cover a few reasons why inconsistency happens and what you can do to stop it. With these tips not only will you be able to eliminate unforced errors but you’ll have a new way to play at a higher level.
One thing that separates good players from great ones is consistency and one of the main reasons why they are so consistent is because they make fewer unforced errors than their opponents. An unforced error is a missed shot or a lost point that is due to your own mistake, not because of your opponent’s skill. The keys to consistency are understanding why you commit unforced errors and building the best mechanics and processes that you can repeat. In this video we’ll start with mindset and then dive into the practical and tactical, so be sure to watch until the end.
Watch the full video here.
Pickleball Tip #1: Mindset – High Percentage NOT Perfection
Whether you’re playing a tournament or a recreation game, it can be tempting to think you have to hit every shot perfectly. But the reality is it’s impossible to be perfect on a repeatable basis. While it’s good to strive for perfection, it’s better to use the 80% rule and choose shots that you can repeat 8 times out of 10. For example, if you have the option of two shots in a rally and one is an 80% success rate and the other is 40%, choose the higher percentage one. Over the course of a game, these decisions will add up and pay off.
Pickleball Tip #2: Patience
Patience is power in pickleball because when you’re patient, you’re less likely to force a shot you shouldn’t take. Not only does patience help cut down on unforced errors but it helps set you up for clear winners. For example, you may be playing against someone who wants to speed up the ball at every chance. Instead of getting sucked into the style of play, reset the ball, slow down and be patient.
If you want to practice being patient, here are a few things you can try the next time you play:
- Only attack balls above your waist
- Learn to relax – take a deep breath and notice your internal chatter – for example
- Have you chosen to lose the game in your mind before the first serve?
- Does one error in a game completely throw you off and send you into a tailspin?
- And lastly, remember to give yourself grace. Nobody is perfect and it takes time to develop your game so give yourself and other people grace.
Pickleball Tip #3: Watch the Ball
One of the most underrated skills in pickleball is the ability to see the ball and anticipate it throughout a point. Many players who struggle with consistency will break eye contact with the ball before making contact. If you struggle with miss hits, timing, or making clean contact, try watching the ball all the way to your paddle to the contact point.
Another way you can improve your focus on the ball at the net is to minimize your head movement. The more you move your head, the more likely your vision will blur.
Pickleball Tip #4: Avoid Unnecessary Movements
Many players who struggle with inconsistency tend to use too much wrist or arm in their shots, or they have extra large backswings. Instead, you want to minimize that unnecessary movement. This means you will have compact swings and use your shoulder as the primary director of motion. By using your shoulder, your swings will be stable, smooth, and controlled and this pendulum swing motion is much easier to repeat consistently.
Pickleball Tip #5: Shrink the Court
Another common temptation that can lead to inconsistency is to aim for the sidelines, the baselines, or try to paint the lines with your shots. Instead, shrink the court and aim 2-3 feet in. You don’t have to go for the lines or the low percentage areas to hit a winner.
Pickleball Tip #6: Clear the Net
In order to be consistent, you must respect the net and give plenty of margin for error in your shots. If you consistently hit the top part of the net, try adding an extra 6 inches or a foot. And if you’re struggling with a particular shot or maybe one day you’re not playing as well, aim higher. An error over the net is better than one in the net.
Pickleball Tip #7: Keep the Ball Out Front
One easy way to hit repeatable, consistent shots is to keep the ball out front in your optimal contact zone. No matter where you are on the court, this is a good habit that leads to easier shots and higher success rates. You’ll want to keep the ball from getting behind you at all costs because it can lead to pop ups or errors.
Pickleball Tip #8: Keep the Ball Out Front
Footwork is critical to consistency, but too many unnecessary steps can throw you off balance and lead to mistakes. One common error I see often is players who move their feet while they swing or (aka running through the ball), especially in the transition zone. Instead, you want to beat the ball to the spot, set your feet, and swing. If you’d like to learn more about smart footwork like the split step, I’ll leave a link in the description.
Similar to the arm movement, many players will take unnecessary steps in the kitchen or in the transition zone, and move their feet while swinging. This movement not only throws you off balance, but it keeps you from setting a strong base for a swing.
Instead you want to beat the ball to the position, set your feet, and swing.
BONUS Pickleball Tip: Drill & Practice
If you want to build consistency, it’s important to learn how to drill and build muscle memory for different shots. One drill that can help highlight unforced errors is to play a game where instead of tracking points, you count the number of unforced errors. The team who gets to 11 unforced errors first, loses.
Were These Pickleball Dinking Tips Helpful?
Which tip was helpful for you? Let me know in the comments.
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