Your Game, Their Words: Pickleball Content Written By Pros.

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What Are the 8 Key Things to Focus on in Pickleball?


Pickleball is not just a physical game; it also requires mental effort and strategy. In fact, strategy in pickleball is sometimes even more crucial than physical prowess.

If you’re seeking winning pickleball tactics, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog, we provide tips and key points to focus on in pickleball to help you dominate on the court, whether you’re playing doubles or singles!

8 Key Things to Focus on in Pickleball to Improve Your Game

The following tips are for when you’re actually in a game, so we won’t be talking about working out at the gym to increase your strength and endurance. Though that’s also important. Never discount the benefits of regular exercise on your overall health!

Moving forward, here are the 8 key things we suggest you focus on in pickleball.

1. Know the rules.

The first step in improving your pickleball game is to familiarize yourself with all the updated rules and regulations. As a sport, pickleball is quite straightforward, but it still has its fair share of complex rules. Being unfamiliar with these rules will greatly affect the result of your matches.

So, start by reading through and familiarizing yourself with all the pickleball guidelines. You can do this with a coach or a friend, and learn together. Knowing the rules will allow you to make more strategic decisions on the court and predict your opponent’s moves more accurately so you can advance to the next level.

2. Get to the kitchen.

Don’t be afraid of the kitchen or non-volley zone. As a new player, the kitchen might frighten you because there are many rules surrounding this area, and it’s something that’s only found in pickleball.

Well, I’m here to tell you that one of the key things to focus on in pickleball is staying on or near the kitchen line. The kitchen stretches seven feet on both sides of the pickleball net.  You’re not allowed to volley in this area (hence the name “non-volley zone”), but as long as your feet are behind the kitchen line, you can hit the ball without letting it bounce.

Returning shots near the kitchen line puts a strain on your opponents and creates new shooting opportunities. So, the moment you see an opening in your game, immediately and safely reach the kitchen.

NOTE: After making a successful dink, go to the kitchen! Stop whenever your opponent is ready to strike the ball, but do not sprint back to attempt to smash it on the bounce. Remember that volleys are winning shots that are struck from the kitchen.

3. Practice dropping your third shot.

If you’re the server, you should learn how to execute and master the third shot drop in pickleball since it restricts your opponent’s capacity to attack the ball.

In pickleball, the third drop shot is a specific type of drop shot that is made on the third shot of a rally—after the initial serve and return. You hit this shot near the baseline, typically in response to a deep return.

Your aim with the third shot drop is to make the ball arch upwards and land softly in the opponent’s kitchen or non-volley zone, making it difficult for your opponent to hit back. Doing this slows down the game and lets you regain control of the net.

It is an especially crucial shot in pickleball doubles as it nullifies the receiving team’s positional advantage and gives the serving team an opportunity to move up to the kitchen line and maintain control of the rally.

Repeatedly practice this shot to increase your chances of reaching the kitchen line.

4. Keep your paddle up.

Keeping your paddle facing up in pickleball provides you with greater shot selection, control, power, spin, defensive positioning, and comfort.

It is a position that improves your performance and provides you with more options to respond to different situations. When your paddle is facing up, you can easily transition between different shots, whether it’s a third shot drop, a drive, a lob, or a dink.

You can also better anticipate and return powerful shots. Bend your knees and keep moving your feet to be prepared for quick, sudden movements.

NOTE: Pickleball has become extremely popular over the years, which means injuries related to the sport are also on the rise. The paddle up position is generally more comfortable and natural for players. It allows for better alignment of the arm, wrist, and paddle, which reduces strain and fatigue during extended play.

5. Streamline shot selection.

Good shot selection, trying to play the higher percentages, and selecting where to place yourself on the court all play a huge role in winning or losing the game.

You shouldn’t attempt many fancy pickleball shots if you’re not yet too familiar with the game. Trying to do these shots might make the game more difficult for you and result in lost points.

Instead, choose basic shots like drop shots and dinks. Any shot that keeps your opponents at a distance will work to your benefit more than attempting risky shots that could easily backfire.

6. Play to your strengths and the weaknesses of your opponents.

Develop strategic awareness because pickleball is both a physical and mental game.

One of the key things to focus on in pickleball strategy is to leverage your strengths and your opponent’s weaknesses. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your opponents, allows you to develop a game plan and make strategic decisions during games.

Here are some examples on how to do this:

  • If you have a fantastic drive and power game, and you notice your opponent is better at soft shots and dinks, you should drive the pickleball more frequently in an attempt to increase its speed.
  • If you have a strong lob and your opponents have a weak overhead or low movement, then showcase your lobs!
  • If your opponents have incredible forehand drives but poor backhand drives, you should aim your shots toward their backhands.

Be honest in assessing and using your pickleball abilities. And be observant so you can identify the vulnerabilities of your opponents and exploit them! You can increase your chances of winning points and, ultimately, the game.

7. Determine if you are on the offensive or defense.

In pickleball, you can have the advantage and quickly lose it throughout a point. You may be on the attack—in charge of the point and putting pressure on your rivals—but the roles can just as easily flip, leaving you racing to keep the ball alive and the point in the play.

It is a typical error for players of all skill levels to push the attack when they ought to be playing more defensively, or to play easy shots when they ought to be pressing their advantage. Determine which team has the edge and adjust your play appropriately.

8. Invest in quality gear.

You typically only need a racket and a ball to play pickleball. But if you want, you can also get a good pair of pickleball glasses and other pickleball gadgets to up your game.

While it’s true that you can make your own pickleball paddle, investing in a quality pickleball racket can greatly improve your performance. Using quality indoor or outdoor pickleball balls, and wearing pickleball-specific shoes can also lead to better performance on the court.

Other Pickleball Tips for Beginners to Focus On

  1. Observe your opponent’s body language, paddle face, and playing patterns. For example, a large backswing and a level or closed paddle face implies an upcoming drive. Utilize these hints to predict shots, especially out balls.
  2. Use your time to your advantage. Take your time, yet rush your opponent. Instead of a hurried volley, let the ball bounce, if necessary, on your side. Strike at their feet to apply pressure and lessen your opponent’s response time.
  3. Hit the serve deep towards the service box, which will force your opponents over the baseline and create for a more challenging, lengthier comeback for your opponents (and, possibly an easier third shot for you and your partner).
  4. Target your opponent’s weaker side—their backhand side. A deep serve is the general rule, but avoid hitting the ball out-of-bounds by leaving too little margin for mistake.
  5. Do not return the serve short. The optimal play is a gentle, deep return to the opponent’s backhand.
  6. You need to go below the ball with your knees bent. You will discover how much simpler it is to dink once you start practicing going low. If you are standing upright, your reaction time to a dink will be slower, and you’ll be an easier target for speedups.

Final Say

We hope that with these key things to focus on in pickleball, you can steadily and surely improve your game. Pickleball at high levels is all about controlled aggressiveness. You must understand when to hit hard and when to strike softly. Above all—practice, practice, practice!