By The Alaska Club
For Senior Voice 

Quick tips for pickleball improvement


May 1, 2024 | View PDF

© Robert Hills |

Amy Poehler said "Nobody looks stupid when they are having fun". In addition to improving your balance, coordination, cardiovascular health and strength, pickleball is fun and along the way you can make new friends and enjoy some friendly competition. But in addition to all that, who doesn't want to improve their game? Here are some basic tips for doing just that. Pick a couple of these to concentrate on in your next game.

Get your serves in. You can't score any points if your serves land outside the service area. Until you've gained some serve prowess, aim for the middle of the serving area. Once you feel good about your basic serve, start practicing putting some spin on the ball or trying to serve to your opponents back hand. Remember too, the deeper the serve the better.

Work your way up to the kitchen line. Remember, you have more control from that area on the court. When making your way to the kitchen make sure you're not still moving when your opponent is returning the ball. Try to have your feet planted. You want to be able to move to wherever they hit to. If you're moving, it's harder to adjust to any return shot.

Communication. When playing doubles, communicate with your partner. Clear communication can help coordinate movements, cover the court efficiently, and anticipate each other's actions. Generally, if a ball is coming up the middle, the person that has a forehand shot should take it. So if that is you, you can say "mine" or "I go". Likewise, if you don't want to take a middle court shot, let your partner know – "you go" or "yours".

Court awareness. Take into account that your forehand is better and farther reaching than your backhand, so if you are right handed you might want to cheat over a bit to your left. Also, be aware of where you are standing in relation to the baseline. If you are a few feet inside the baseline and your opponent hits a hard shot at chest level, most likely it's going out, so let it go. Also keep tabs on your partner. If they have to run back for a lob and the return is a dink or a drop on their side of the court you might be in a better position to get to it before them. You may want to communicate to them that you intend to stay on that side of the court-"Switch!"

Size up your opponent. Is one of them left handed or not very quick? A shot right up the middle is usually good play. But when that shot up the middle is to both of their back hands, better yet. Do they stay back at the base line? If so, hit deep, driving shots to keep them there. Do they move back into position after going after a line shot? If not, come back at them quickly with a shot to the space they left.

Shot selection. Many times your "shot" is more of a reaction to your opponent's shot, especially when play is at the kitchen. But what if you do have time to decide-do you dink, lob or drive? Consider your skill level. Can you execute a decent drop shot or do you usually put them into the net or set your opponent up for an easy slam? Should you try a shot down the line? Line shots have a greater chance of going out. If you don't have a chance at a strong offensive shot, your best choice is likely a drop shot or a dink.

Where are your opponents on the court? If they are not in position and moving, you can hit a shot that takes advantage of that, like a cross court dink or drive shot at them. You also want to consider court conditions like wind speed and direction. Lobs are much harder to execute even with a slight wind.

Regular practice is key to improvement. Dedicate a little time to practice your skills, whether it's doing drills with a friend, solo practice against a wall, or playing with others. Practice your third shot drop, dinking, lobs – any shots or technique you want to improve upon. You should see results with as little as 30 minutes of practice a week.

Lastly, remember to have fun out there. Pickleball is a social sport that offers great opportunities for exercise, camaraderie and enjoyment. Focus on the positive aspects of the game and celebrate your progress and achievements regardless of skill level.


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