Pickleball Tips for Beginners | Improvement Guide

No doubt, Pickleball is growing faster than the speed of light, while every American, whether a tennis player or a virgin sports person, is suffering from this new fever. Compared to other racquet sports, imagining yourself as the best National player in pickleball is quite realistic, however, when you know the right tricks. And honestly, it’s not that hard. In fact, today, I’ll teach you the 10 Hot-Top pickleball tips for beginners that’ll not only help you improve, but you’ll win tournaments and step up in your ladder league too. So, the next time the “give-up” thought won’t even come near you. 

Pickleball Tips For Beginners

And how I’m so confident about that? Well, it’s all about my experiences and research. I’m an obsessed pickleball freak and I love playing and spectating the game–you may often see me in my OPD shirt. Lately, I’ve been noticing a majority of players sticking on the 0.5 ranking while a few of them often giving up, and swear nothing breaks my heart more than seeing that. Therefore, I talked to a few coaches, gathered up my pinned notes, and made this guide that’ll help every beginner win his/her first level 1 tournament.

Top 10 Pickleball Tips that Every beginner Should Know:

Before I start out, I want you to have a “relaxed mind”, and that’s all this article is about. Think of pickleball as fun, stress-releasing, and an enjoyable activity rather than a back-breaking task, because it’s really not. Pickleball is nothing like other games where power, pace, and being strong win you titles. Instead, Pickleball sets you free. You just have to have fun and a good time, and that’s it, you’ll win it. Stay light on yourself. You’re not David Beckham and you don’t need to be.

Now, you know what mindset you gotta adopt, let me start “how to play pickleball for beginners” guide straightaway from my first tip that is;

Get the right gears:

Pickleball is the last game on earth which requires a full-fledged equipment set up. It just needs two paddles and a perforated ball. No excessive attires, braces, or anything else. Now, it’s these two gears, so you can at least be wise on their selection, so you don’t blame luck, wind, astrology, and what’s not. Borrowing from friends is acceptable for two or three matches until you’re taking pickleball lessons for beginners, but you’ve to get your own gears to adopt “your” natural game and identify your strengths.

pickleball gears

Your way to success is to get the best pickleball paddle and ball. Even if you’re tight on budget, you can get a quality set for under $50. However, you just need to refrain from the wood paddles. Although you may complete a set with $20 if you go the wood way, the gameplay will be affected. It’s noisy to the max, and most likely causes arm strain and fatigue. This is why I always recommend rookies to start pickleball with a composite or graphite paddle. You’ll not only learn to play pickleball quickly this way but also have the feel for which pickleball is famous for.

Although there’s no requirement of additional accessories, you can have them if you want. Like, you may have pickleball gloves, shirts, and shoes. Still, I don’t recommend spending heavily and going full-packed at the very start. However, shoes are an exception, and there you should be concerned. Despite that, you can wear tennis shoes or any other court shoes. Just don’t play pickleball with your gym or running shoes, and you’ll be good.

Have a warm up exercise or stretching:

exercise or stretching
exercise or stretching example

Just like how every sport requires stretching and warm up exercise before you actually begin the game, pickleball demands the same. It’s good if you stretch and have two-three rounds of your cardiac exercise because this will mentally and physically make you active to play the game. Also, drink water beforehand. You don’t want to be all exhausted after just one-round to 11 points. 

Always stay ready:

It’s very common in pickleball that players go idle, since the time the ball lands in the opposite side’s kitchen, bounces, and then comes over to their paddle, let alone the time they’ll take to hit the ball back, you may feel like thousands of days and nights have passed. And the next thing that happens is the missed shot, and you’re not the only one. Every beginner, especially the one coming from a tennis background, makes this mistake quite often.

Well, pickleball, surely, is slow, but that doesn’t mean you can zone out to what your girlfriend had said last night, how much profit the new project can yield, or what you gotta do of that annoying employee–instead FOCUS on the ball and your opponent. How he’s dealing with every shot, what are his moves, and shot selection? because you never know if the next ball is aged dink or a fire volley. Analyze, learn, and be quick to react to whatever comes your way.

Ready position

And trust me, it’s not that hard. You just have to stay in the present, shoulder-feet width apart and keep your paddle in front of your chest so your paddle will always have contact with the ball. Even if the ball goes in the sidelines, you’ll be quick to make a transition, if the paddle is in front of you, because that is the easiest position to bend your hands without an injury. Also, don’t stand on your feet, transfer the weight on the balls of your legs, and bend your knees slightly. This will automatically keep your body active to react quickly.

Stand at the kitchen or NVZ line:

Well, it’s kinda controversial. There are mixed beliefs about where to stand in pickleball. For me, it’s always the NVZ line that gives you an upper hand. At this line, you can manage dinks, play volleys better, and, most importantly, keep your opponents at the baseline. This way you can control the pace of your game. You’ll have the steering.

Stand at the kitchen or NVZ line

Case reversed, if you’re at the baseline, you’ll miss the dinks or slower strokes, because either you can’t make it to the NVZ line in time or the ball will go dead even before it reaches your paddle. And, in the case of No-man’s-land, you’ll be paralyzed. Neither the dinks will be good, nor you can play lob or volleys. Instead, you’ll give your opponent an easy win. How? They’ll have so many areas open. They can trick you with lobs and dinks and you won’t make a good return in time.

All of these odds make the NVZ position your best bet. However, it’s quite risky too because you may step into the kitchen zone, and boom–a fault. Many beginners aren’t used to it. So, if you think the NVZ line is demanding and gives you less time to react, stay at the baseline and keep the game slow. But more importantly, don’t stop learning to play at the kitchen line.

Control over power:

Pickleball is never about power. Many tennis and volleyball players make this mistake to play power shots. And you know what the results are? Misplaced shots, faults, and the worst–unforced errors. This is because the pickleball court is smaller and shot placement is critical. A beginner should first learn to maneuver the paddle and a lighter ball before you start hitting with power.

Stick to the rules:

Pickleball has a lot of rules. However, to give the game a head start, you don’t need all of them. Hardly 3 to 5 rules are enough to keep in mind while playing. The 5 basic rules for beginners are:

  • Stay out of the NVZ line. Even if you slightly entered with half a foot, you’ll be charged with the fault.
  • Let the ball bounce twice before you start hitting volleys. This is the most common fault among beginners, that they don’t let the ball bounce and hit it. Double bounce rule means that when the game starts, and you receive your first ball, let it bounce, and then return it. Similarly, the opponent will let it bounce and then hit the ball at you back. This way, the two-bounce rule gets completed and now you can start volleying.
  • You’ve to make the serve below the waistline. Your paddle can’t be above the top part of your wrist line when it’s in contact with the ball.
  • Don’t hit the ball out of the bounds. That’s why I don’t recommend rookies to be involved in overheads, because it might instantly cause you a fault.
  • For the scoring, you can play to 11, 15, and 21 points. However, each game is won by 2 points, and until the score is equal on both sides, the rally continues.

Keep the game slow and consistent:

And that’s the core. The more slow and controlled your game is, the faster you’ll learn. Adopting the pace, killing the ball, and smashing it would just cost you faults and you’ll end up frustrated, or maybe you might have. Not for nothing, you’ve been called the banger at the court, because you’ve been trying too hard to be smart.

Keep the game slow and consistent

Slow games rather drain the energy of your opponent. While he may expect you to speed up the game, a slightly slower serve may be unexpected to him, and may cause a fault by losing his tempo. This is what you need to do as a rookie–insist them to cause a fault. Remember, consistency is the key, not in pickleball, but in every sport and in every aspect of your life. The more consistent and patient you’re at something, the positive are your chances of winning it.

Practice dinks:

Keep the shot selection wise. In the early stage, spin, kill shits, drift and drive will most likely cost you a lot. Stick by dinks and drop shots. Not only it’ll help you in stepping up your game, but also help you in the long run in your 5+ games. In fact, dinks and drop shots are one of the game-changing strokes that can even win you a completely lost match.

Third shot drop:

Third shot drops are one of the hardest shots in pickleball that might mess up your game, but it’s the most powerful one. It means, on the third shot, you approach towards the net, and drop the shot in the kitchen of your opponents. This will grant you extra time and also won’t let your opponents play that shot. However, it’s not necessary to always drop the shot on the third shot. Your best time for the drop shot is when the opponent is near the NVZ. It’s when you can benefit from this shot. 

And how the third shot drop may mess your game, you may wonder. Well, players–even the advanced ones, accidentally make a “let shot” after which the shot is replayed, hence no use. Instead, you’ll get pressurized. The ball hits the nets or simply won’t land in the kitchen, so you gotta practice a lot to land it correctly. If you’re a banger player, I suggest you transfer all your energy in practicing and getting perfect in this shot. And of course, make wise use of this shot. If you’re in a competitive game and not good enough in this, simply start with volleying. You don’t need to rely on luck, though. Drop shots can wait in the backyard lawn for you.  

Avoid unforced errors:

Pickleball is easy and fun, but what wins the game is the unforced errors made by the opposite side. Unforced errors are the results when you try too hard and end up making a fault that could’ve been saved. It’s hitting in the next–that’s what you do if you smash the ball; and landing the ball out of the bounds–when your lob becomes a horrible overhead. 

This is why I keep suggesting beginners to develop a soft game, practice consistent strokes, and stay on dinks only. I know it’s hard to resist the urge to smash and bang your game up, but once you control the pace and learn to place the shot at the right place, you can begin your volley battles with little to no errors. 

Focus on your mistakes:

Well, practice will get you better, only if you know your drawbacks and are improving them. You can be practicing for like hours and hours, and see no change to your game. This is because you don’t know your mistakes yet, and that will get you nowhere. If you’re confused about where you get wrong, hire a coach, ask your friend to watch you, and if nothing is possible, record yourself. 

From the video, see your standing position, your timing, how focused you’re, how you react to the ball, where you place your paddle, what’s your grips style, what leads you to make faults/ unforced errors. Go to as much depth as you can. Identify and observe everything. Once you identify your mistake, accept them, and just try to fix them. You won’t need anything else.

Tips for serving for Beginners:

You learnt pickleball basics. What’s now? Well, the “serve”. Here comes down everything, and this is where every beginner makes mistakes. No, I won’t take you to a 5 page guide from here on how to serve. You just need to memorize these 5 pointers, and you’ll ace each of your serve.

  • Keep volleys and dinks in your arsenal until you get perfect and consistent with them. Don’t try spin, lob, and overheads at the start.
  • You can hit the ball slow, but hit it deep and at your opponent’s feet.
  • If you’re aiming high to low, hit the ball hard with speed. Similarly, when you go low to high, keep the hit gentle and slow.
  • Whenever possible, hit backhand. Avoid hitting at the opponent’s prominent hand, he can react more strongly.
  • Finally, try aiming at the open areas in your opponent’s court, and avoid the sidelines. This is where your opponent will least expect, and that’s how 80% matches are won.

Conclusion:

So, that’s the wrap. In the end, I might just say, give it time. Relax yourself out and don’t force anything. Wherever and whichever level you’re on, be patient and enjoy it. Don’t rush to be all professional and think of yourself as an expert in just a day. Once you start having fun in pickleball, you’ll start to develop a more natural game and the game will roll out itself to you.

 I hope you enjoyed my pickleball tips for beginners. Do let me know in the comments which one you liked the most, and how you plan to improve your game. Remember, winning isn’t necessary when you’ve just started playing pickleball. Don’t let two or three losses rule over you to give everything up. Try “learning”, even if you lose your 10 matches, make sure you learnt 10 great things and make your 11th one a great hit. Till then, good luck. See you soon.

Robby Anderson

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