Pickleball Tip | 1 Skill that Separates Good Players from Great Ones

Written by Adam (HV)

June 9, 2022

pickleball skill, pickleball tip

There are many important skills in pickleball but there is one in particular that separates good players from great ones. This skill is transitioning from the baseline to the non volley zone. It may sound simple, but this is critical because the majority of points are won at the net, and if you can’t get to the net, you can’t win.

Today we’re going to cover the skills you need to master the transition zone so you can stay calm, get to the net with confidence, and win more points. 

Watch the full video here.

What Is the Transition Zone in Pickleball?

The transition zone is the space between the baseline and the non-volley zone. When you’re transitioning, the goal is to neutralize your opponent by hitting an unattackable shot into your opponent’s kitchen, so you can get to the non-volley zone and take control of the net. But this is easier said than done. There are a few important things to remember as you make your way through the transition zone:

5 Important Pickleball Tips for the Transition Zone

  • Number 1. This area is sometimes called no-man’s land, but the reality is, this is the transition zone. You will have to take shots here so it’s best to get comfortable with those shots with the goal of moving to the net.
  • Number 2. You are not trying to win the point here. Especially in competitive play. You are playing defense and seeking to neutralize your opponent with an unattackable shot.
  • Number 3. Earn your way to the net. No one can hit a perfect unattackable 3rd shot every time, in fact, many times you must take a 5th, 7th, 9th or more to get to the non-volley zone, and this is ok. Keep the ball in play, keep it over the net, and earn your way up.
  • Number 4. Do not hit and rush. If you do this, you risk running through the ball, which can cause errors.  
  • Number 5. Stay calm. The transition zone is only 15 feet. If you can stay calm, focus on hitting consistent shots, and get to the net step by step, you can set yourself up for success.

How to Hit Winning Shots in the Transition Zone

For the purpose of this post, let’s say you hit a third shot drop, but it’s too high and your opponent is on the attack and they hit a fast ball at your feet.

  1. First, you want to read your shot. Is it too high? Is your opponent attacking? If so, watch the angle of their paddle face. This can help indicate where their attack is going.
  2. Next, you want to make sure your feet are established before you swing. Try a split step to get your feet in position. You can initiate it just before your opponent hits the ball. If you’d like to learn more about the split step, check out the video I did on footwork. I’ll leave a link in the description. 
  3. Now that your feet are ready, it’s helpful to have your paddle ready and slightly down so you can easily retrieve a hard shot at your feet.
  4. Remember to keep the ball out front and your eye on the ball. Watch it come to your paddle.
  5. Your swing will be efficient and compact. In fact, when you’re closer to the net or if you’re defending a fast ball, your paddle will do a lot of the work for you. When you’re further away from the net, you will need to give some slight push or brush up to the shot.
  6. *Your grip pressure will vary depending on where you are on the court. The further you are from the net, the tighter it will be. But for a good rule of thumb, I would use a grip pressure that is 3-4, similar to a third shot drop.
  7. If possible, hit the ball out of the air. When it bounces there are more variables to deal with. But be sure not to overreach. If you hit it off the bounce, that’s OK too. The goal is to keep the ball in play and return an unattackable shot. 
  8. Lastly, respect the net. Keep the ball over the net and give it plenty of loft.

Pickleball Tip for Drilling Your Transitions: Beat the Feet

If you’d like to work on your shots in the transition zone, you can drill this with a partner. Have your partner stand at the kitchen line and feed hard attacks at your feet. The goal is to reset those hard attacks with an unattackable ball in the kitchen. Eventually you can practice moving to the kitchen. Once you hit consistent resets, have your partner step inside the kitchen to keep it going. This drill is a gamechanger. 

Were These Pickleball Tips Helpful?

Which tip was helpful for you? Let me know in the comments.

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