Whether you’re just starting out or have been playing for a while, learning pro pickleball strategy tips are always helpful. You might not be trying to win the Pickleball Olympics or even a pickleball tournament, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play your best game.
Here are ten pro pickleball strategy tips to help you step up your pickleball strategies and start winning more matches when playing doubles.
1. Use the Kitchen to Your Advantage
The kitchen is the seven-foot non-volley zone near the net. If you can keep the ball in this area, then you can dictate the pace of the game. Professional pickleball players use the kitchen to force their opponents into making mistakes and leave themselves open.
Beginners, on the other hand, often find the kitchen and its rules too intimidating and try to play away from it. To use the kitchen to your advantage, position yourself close to the net and hit soft shots, also known as dinks, over the net. Returning dinks is difficult, increasing the likelihood of your opponents making mistakes. You can even hit a lob, which is when you let the ball bounce first before you hit it towards the back of your opponent.
If you’re having trouble with dictating the pace of the game, learning about kitchen strategies will be your best friend.
2. Reposition Back to The Center of The Court
Repositioning back to the center of the court after returning the pickleball is one the most important fundamentals for racket sports that beginners often forget. Professional players reposition all of the time, giving them great court coverage and a strong position to return the next shot.
Players should focus on their footwork by keeping their weight on the balls of their feet. This is the area right below your toes, where your body normally rests when you tiptoe. Doing this consistently and for long periods of time will be extremely exhausting, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. However, once you master proper footwork, you’ll be returning more and more shots with ease.
Another important factor for better footwork is having the right footwear. Look for pickleball shoes that will cushion your feet and provide traction for quick lateral movements.
3. Vary Your Shots
If you hit the same shot repeatedly, your opponent will figure it out and start to anticipate where the ball is going. Keep them guessing by mixing up your shot selection. Hit the ball to different parts of the pickleball court and use a variety of strokes with your pickleball paddle.
A few shots to try in your pickleball strategy tips include:
- The Lob: The lob is a great way to keep your opponent from getting to the ball. It is also an excellent way to set up a point-winning shot. To execute a lob, hit the ball high into the air with your pickleball paddle so it will land behind your opponent. This is best used right after a dink, when your opponent is near the net.
- The Dink: The dink is a short, low shot used to make opponents run to the net. To execute a dink, hit the ball softly and low over the net. When dinking with opponents, aim for their feet. If your opponents are positioned in the transition area, between the non-volley line and the baseline, you should hit the ball at their feet. If they are close to the baseline, pin them back and hit shots at their feet.
- The Drive: The drive is a powerful shot used to win points in a pickleball game. To execute a drive, hit the ball hard and flat across the net. Aim the ball directly at your opponent to pressure them.
- The Smash: The smash is a very powerful shot to finish a point. To execute a smash, hit the ball hard and down into the ground on your opponent’s side of the court. This is best used when an opponent tries to throw a lob at you, but the ball is too short and is within range for a smash.
- The Volley: The volley is a shot used to keep the ball in play and towards your opponent, especially if they’re at the kitchen. A volley is a shot hit without allowing the ball to bounce, generally near the net. Remember: You can’t hit a volley in the kitchen.
4. Stay Calm and Focused
It’s easy point for the other team to get caught up in the heat of the moment, but it’s important to stay calm under pressure. Remember your game plan and focus on it. If you let your emotions get the best of you, it will only lead to mistakes and frustrations, which isn’t what pickleball is about.
If you’re on the edge of your temper, simply calling a quick time out to drink some water or go pee will help calm you down. Additionally, we even recommend pouring a bit of water down your face, especially if you’re playing out in the heat.
5. Relax Your Upper Body
Although pickleball is a beginner-friendly sport, it’s very easy to feel competitive and tense when playing. Finding a way to relax your body, like your shoulders and legs will improve your swinging and footwork.
This helps you move fluidly on the court, react quickly to the ball, and hit it accurately with greater control. If you take a look at professional matches, you’ll often find professional players catch their breath and relax their body just as they’re about to serve the ball. This is when they calm down and try to zero in the rally they’re about to play.
Getting tense and tightening up your muscles will affect your gameplay for the worse. Laughing, stretching, and breathing exercises will help you relax.
6. Time Your Footwork
Racket sports don’t have a lot of downtime. You’re either chasing after a ball or you’re holding on to it while you’re about to serve. This means that you’re constantly running around, covering hundreds of meters in distance, even though you’re in a little pickleball court. Standing on the balls of your feet and being ready to dash around during an entire game requires a lot of athleticism that most pickleball players, and even tennis players, simply don’t have.
This is where you should be timing your footwork. If you’re hitting a lob, chances are you’ll have more time to reposition. So, focus on the ball and your opponent while letting your feet rest. Once you have an idea of where the ball is going, or when you see that your opponent is about to hit the ball, stand up on the balls of your feet and do proper footwork again.
If you can do this consistently, timing your footwork for when you need it, you’ll be less exhausted than if you were alert the entire game.
7. Concentrate on All Your Shots
Concentrating on each shot before hitting it might seem like an obvious tip. But, it’s often overlooked by beginner players who aren’t deliberately trying to improve. By focusing on each shot, you’ll remember how strong you hit it, what angle, your position, and what muscles you’re activating. Not only does this improve the connection between your body and your mind, this also means that you have all the information you need when reviewing bad shots.
Hit something too hard? Maybe your angle was too blunt, not giving the ball enough spin.
While concentrating might seem easy, this requires mental effort and is actually exhausting. Players who deliberately try and improve at their craft will often find their brains “fried” more so than their bodies. Deliberate, improving practice takes a lot of effort, but the payoff is worth it. Professional players who have reviewed all their shots critically are now hitting pickleballs with world-class accuracy without thinking about it.
8. Take Advantage of Weak Backhands
Backhands are usually the weaker strokes for newer players, but even intermediate players who don’t practice enough can have this weakness.
Take advantage of these players by aiming shots toward their backhand side. You can also use this tactic to condition your opponents to expect your shots towards their backhand side. Once they get used to the tempo, a surprise shot to their forehand area will score you an easy point.
9. Warmups and Stretches Go a Long Way
Warmups and stretches are crucial for any sport, and pickleball is no exception. Before diving into a game, it’s important to get your blood flowing and your muscles warmed up. Stretches improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury.
To begin, start with some light jogging or jumping jacks to get your heart rate up. Then, move onto dynamic stretches that target the muscle groups you’ll be using during the game. This could include lunges, high knees, and arm circles. After your game, don’t forget to do some cool-down stretches to help your body recover for later on. This could include stretches like hamstring stretches, calf stretches, and shoulder stretches.
While warmups and stretches may take some extra time and effort, they are worth it for the long-term health of your body and the improvement of your game.
10. Practice, Practice, and Practice
There’s no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work. The more you play and practice, the better you’ll become at the game. Make sure to set aside time each week to work on your game. Whether it’s doing warm ups against a wall or thinking about how to improve at pickleball whilst doing an automated task. Continuous, deliberate practice, will help you improve.
Not All Practice Is Created Equally. Remember, “practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.”
The best way to practice pickleball is to get out there and play as often as possible. Playing against others is the best way to improve your skills and learn new techniques. However, you can also improve your game by practicing alone. Here are some pickleball strategy tips on how to practice pickleball effectively:
Play Against Better Players:
Playing against players who are better than you or with advanced players will challenge you and force you to up your game. If you can’t find any higher-level players to play against, try playing with a friend who is slightly better than you.
Give importance to your opponent’s body movements and paddle face, in addition to his or her play patterns. For example, a large backswing and a flatter or closed paddle face imply an upcoming drive. Take these hints to anticipate shots on the opposing team.
Work on Your Weaknesses:
We all have weaknesses. Point yours and work on them during your practice sessions. This could be anything from improving your footwork to fine-tuning your backhand strokes.
Use a Practice Partner:
A practice partner can be incredibly helpful in improving your skill level. They can help you with your technique, footwork, and shot selection. It’s essential to find a practice partner who is at a similar level to you so that you can both benefit from the session.
Use a Ball Machine:
A ball machine is a great way to get extra practice. You can set it up to fire balls at you at different speeds and angles, simulating an actual pickleball game situation. This is a great way to work on your reactions and improve your stamina.
Try Different Drills:
There are thousands of pickleball drill options out there. Find some that focus on the areas you want to improve and give them a try. There’s no shortage of drills to choose from, so you’re sure to find ones that suit your needs.
Don’t Attempt a Drop Shot:
Beginners should avoid a drop shot. Don’t try a short drop shot until you have mastered it. Attempting a soft drop shot will often give the other side the edge. A badly executed drop shot will cost you dearly. The drop shot is a basic stroke in pickleball that requires many hours of practice outside of competitive matches.
Make Use of The Third Shot Drop:
For the hard hitters, this is very vital! Dropping the third shot is vital in pickleball. It gives you the opportunity to advance to the kitchen line (where you should earn the most points!). Also, a third shot drop puts your opponent under pressure to arrive at a decision.
A deep return-of-serve offers various benefits. For one, it offers the returner more time to execute the return-of-serve and progress to the non-volley line. It also puts the third shot for the serving team a lengthier shot and significantly more difficult to execute effectively.
By following these pickleball strategy tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better player, whether you play singles or doubles pickleball. Just remember to have fun, enjoy the sport, and keep improving your pickleball technique!