When I started playing Pickleball, I made so many mistakes. As an example, when I played racquetball, it wasn’t an unusual strategy to go for an ace even when playing doubles! But, in Pickleball, it’s just not a good strategy since you only get one serve. To help those just starting to play Pickleball, here’s a list of mistakes I made when I began or ones I’ve seen others make. Along with trying to avoid these 8 things, I’ll also discuss a solution for each situation.
Mistake #1: Trying to Hit an Ace on the Serve
In Pickleball you only get one serve. And you don’t want to miss it! If you are playing doubles in Pickleball, it is very difficult to hit an ace especially as you start playing better players. So, get in the habit of hitting the ball in the court on a consistent basis. You should never really miss a serve. Aim to get the ball deep in the court on your serve. If your opponent, doesn’t like to come to the net, then place the ball just past the kitchen line. With that being said, the real key is to just get the ball in play on your serve.
Mistake #2: Moving into the Court After You Serve
You want to avoid moving into the court after you serve. Remember Pickleball has the double bounce rule. So, you must let the ball bounce before hitting the third shot in the rally. If you creep into the court after serving, you risk hitting the ball in the air. If this happens, you lose the point. I remember playing with a woman who was new to Pickleball but had played a lot of tennis. She kept moving into the court after serving and then hitting the ball in the air. The best way to avoid doing this is to remain behind the baseline after serving.
Mistake #3: Going for a Winner on the Serve Return
You may be tempted to go for a winner on the serve return. However, the serve and return are two shots you should never miss. On the serve return, your opponent is deep in the court so there is no pressure to hit a winner. Hit the ball deep and move up to the net. You now have the advantage in the rally as the serving team must stay back until they hit the third shot. Once you are at the net, you will have much better opportunities to go for a winner than on the serve return.
Mistake #4: Staying at the Baseline
This is the mistake I see the most often when people start to play Pickleball. Players stay at the baseline after a serve or serve return. A few months ago, I taught my best friend from childhood how to play Pickleball. She had been playing tennis a couple of times per week so it wasn’t natural for her to move up to near the non-volley-zone. I reminded her, however, that a Pickleball rally is not won from the baseline. So, after the first game, she started moving up to the kitchen line on a regular basis (and we didn’t lose a game after that on her first day of Pickleball).
Mistake #5: Relying Solely on Power
Hitting the ball hard all of the time in Pickleball isn’t the best strategy. However, I often see this from people who have played other racquet sports like tennis or racquetball. The problem with this strategy is it will only take you so far in Pickleball. More advanced players can easily handle the power and if you hit a high shot, your opponent will win the rally. While power can be effective, you should mix in softer shots like dinks and third shot drops. Knowing how to hit these will help you improve your game much faster.
Mistake #6: Hitting Low Percentage Shots
Trying to hit a serve return near the sideline or on a sharp angle are low percentage shots in Pickleball. If you move up to the kitchen line, you will be in a much better position to win the point when you get a high ball. Another example of a low percentage shot is when you try to attack a ball that you hit below the height of the net. Even advanced players avoid this shot because it is such a risk. So, be patient in your rallies because you will get a much better opportunity.
Mistake #7: Letting Your Paddle Drop Down After Hitting a Shot
When you are at the kitchen line, remember to keep your paddle up. The action is very fast when all players are just behind the non-volley-zone. If you drop your paddle after you hit a shot, you’re not going to be ready for the next one.
Mistake #8: Hitting Pop Ups
If the face of your paddle is pointing upward, more than likely you will pop the ball up so it is high going over the net. The result of this is that your opponent can attack. You want to keep the ball as low as possible going over the net. So, be careful with the angle of your paddle when hitting shots.
Above you’ve read about the most common mistakes when starting out with Pickleball. I know I’ve made almost all of these mistakes when learning the game. The key is to minimize them going forward so you can improve your game.