I recently reached out to a few certified instructors to find out their number one tip for beginners. While many of them to give tips on pickleball mechanics, a few were philosophical. For example, Steve Paranto from Hillsboro, Oregon said his number one tip is less is more. Keep the strokes as short and simple as possible with very little wrist movement.
Here’ what the others had to say.
This is great advice and something to remember even during competitive situations. I admit that if Pickleball wasn’t fun, I would not be playing it. So, I try not to take it too seriously but just enjoy the great sport that Pickleball is.
Regarding your question for beginners, I try not to overwhelm them at the very start. I teach them some simple skills, give them some understanding of the game and with heavy emphasis on having fun. I do this by creating games that improve their skill set, competitive and fun.
My goal when they leave my lesson or a clinic is for them to want pickleball to make up a big part of their life as it is with mine.
Lift the Ball
This is a common theme for a couple of instructors and Kevin Stanley provided a great video so you can visualize what it means to lift the ball.
Since a lot of players come from some kind of racquet sport background, and even if they don’t, my number one tip is to strike the ball out in front instead of striking it from the side like some other sports do. This way the person can get under the pickleball and lift it up so that it does not go into the net. Sometimes I see beginners striking from the side or trying to run behind, and even if they can return the ball over the net, it is not optimal for them.
Take time to understand and learn the mechanics of when to to LIFT the ball rather than PUSH the ball and why. 90 %of your shots during a game, require you to lift the ball rather than push the ball. It’s counter intuitive but it’s essential in executing an un-attackable shot. If you find that your opponent is able to attack many of your shots in a downward angle, it is likely because you are pushing the ball too hard. If you push, the balls momentum does not allow it to drop in the safe zone just over the net, but rather flies all the way to your opponents paddle.
When you lift the ball and create a higher arch, (pull the apex of the arch back towards you) the ball has a better chance of landing in the safe zone in front of your opponent. Remember that the ball is designed so that from a vertical drop of 6ft, that it will not bounce above the net. There is room to lift your shot!!!
Here is a sample practice video.
I wouldn’t say this is the number one tip for beginners, but it is one that seems to help players understand and execute the soft game. This tip is under the category of consistency wins more points than great attacking shots. It is natural to focus on the top of the net, especially when dinking. This usually results in many net errors. STOP THAT! Instead focus on the apex of your intended shot, which in dinking, is approximately a foot before and a foot above the net. The ball easily clears the net and is dropping when it crosses the net. Congratulate yourself when it easily clears the net rather than just makes it over.
Failure is the key to success
As a sport psychologist, I love this tip! Don’t worry about failure. Embrace it and learn from it.
The advice I shared with the players was very simple: Failure is the key to success. “You must have a good relationship with Failure if you are to be successful learning this game at any level.” You must become uncomfortably comfortable with Failure and here is why:
Fail Early: Start tapping into your courage to learn new skills at each early stage of your game. Start drilling and then incorporating your new skills into your game during open play. Know that you will fail early and that is OK.
Fail Often: When you start mastering a skill then add another one to the list. Start working through the next skill to master it as well. When you do this it will seem like you are failing often.
Fail Forward: Each time you take a chance and fail you will learn something. You will learn what doesn’t work for you BUT then you will learn what does work for you and your game. This is also called failing forward.
Finally, don’t let another player dictate how you are going to learn the game. Remember that they were once a beginner and someone had to extend some grace their way as well. You could remind them of this fact or find a better group to play with.
Come find me. I will play with you anytime.
I hope this Pickleball Tip is helpful and it adds some value to your game.