If you want to play a good game of pickleball and give it your all then do your best to be ready. For a fun, safe and exciting game of pickleball you must know how to get the most out of every game day. You need to understand when to move forward and when to let your partner take the shot. It is important to understand strategy and technique for in game situations. Even if you are playing just for fun, you want to be at your best. When you’re prepared for your opponent’s best shot then you are sure to be a tough out on the court.
By knowing how to warm up for a game and how to recognize the other player’s tendencies and habits, you are adding an element to your game that makes you very competitive. There is a lot that goes on during a game, so being well versed and playing on your toes will keep you in the game and hopefully victorious. While knowing what to do and when to do it comes with experience, go ahead, and keep reading for some tips on how to improve your skills.
Proper Warm Up
Warming up your muscles, tendons and joints is critical for any athletic endeavor. Pickleball is similar to tennis with constant side to side lateral and forward movement. It is important to have your hips, knees and ankles warmed up and loose. You can start with a dynamic warm up, meaning moving about versus a static still stretch routine.
Start with some light jogging in place or around the court for a few minutes to get your body warmed up a bit.
Next perform some light side lunges back and forth, moving side to side to stretch out the inside of your legs for those reaching shots you are sure to go for.
Now go ahead and do some forward lunges on each side to keep you ready for the return soft shot that lands in the kitchen.
To round out your warm up you can do some arm circles to warm up your shoulders and loosen up your arms for sending and returning shots.
Finally go into some light lateral shuffles while staying on the balls of your feet as this is the position you will most likely find yourself in during a game. A good warm up helps prevent injuries and keeps on the pickleball court for more of the action.
Placement Of Serve
Because of pickleball having an underhand serve it is easier to track the ball for a return shot. A serve in pickleball compared to tennis is much slower. Unlike tennis where you have two chances at your serve, you only get one serve in pickleball – so make it a good one! The aim of your serve should be to make a return shot as difficult as possible for your opponent. One proven way to make the return shot more difficult to reach is by serving to your opponent’s backhand. A player is more likely to make an error on their backhand versus their forehand shot. Most players’ weaker side is their backhand. Another technique for a lower percentage return is to serve the ball deeper near the baseline. A deep service makes the return longer and more difficult, especially when there are windy conditions if you happen to be playing outdoors.
Topspin And Backspin
A very sneaky and effective tool is mastering the spin of the ball. It’s a valuable skill to possess the ability to place a tricky topspin or backspin on the ball either for a serve or during a return shot. You can really throw the other team for a loop when you make the ball bounce in an unexpected and surprising way.
For a good topspin and backspin, it is best to practice when you are not in a game situation. On your own time practice a topspin by hitting up on the ball at an angle, all while putting enough on it to make it over the net. You have to find the sweet spot between the middle and top of the ball to really get the topspin to work. When a ball that has topspin lands it bounces forward at an accelerated pace and messes up the timing of the returning player. Not to mention the opposing player feels a little foolish for getting tricked.
To perform a backspin, it is essentially the opposite of the topspin technique. Instead of slicing over the top of the ball you give it a good cut in a downward motion. Picture slicing the ball from the middle through the bottom all while using just enough force to make it to the other team’s side of the court. A good backspin will give a return player fits for sure. When a backspin ball lands it literally bounces back in the opposite direction it was traveling. It almost behaves as if it were on an invisible string, and it gets pulled backward instead of bouncing forward like a normal shot. Once again this is a great way to get inside your opponent’s head. Use these shots when it matters most, they are quite valuable in the right game situations.
Get To The Kitchen
The kitchen also known as the no volley zone is where most points are won in pickleball. A good method of ensuring you make it to the kitchen in time is to lob your return shot. When you return a shot, you try to send the ball deep towards the baseline and arc it higher so you have a little more time to make it to the kitchen just outside the no volley zone. By positioning yourself at the kitchen you will be able to push the pace and smash the ball into your opponent’s side of the court thus making it hard for them to react in time for their own return shot. This is a very popular and proven way of scoring in pickleball.
Most points in pickleball are scored from forced errors. You can practice this by running drills with your partner before a match. You can each take turns sending the ball deep and high and really dial in how much time you need to rush towards the kitchen line. A little practice before a game could really pay off during the game.
Low Ball Shots
Sending a return shot high allows your opponent to get behind the ball and really send an aggressive and fast shot back. When the ball bounces up high a player has the ability to drive down fast and hard for a shot that is very, very difficult to return.
When you send back a low shot, the opposing player is forced to get under the ball which in turn makes the ball arc up and bounce high allowing you to crush it fast and hard. Be sure to control the angle of your paddle to achieve an effective low shot. Instead of facing your paddle at an upwards angle, go ahead and face it at more of a parallel almost downward direction to send it low. Your opponent will have to reach for their shot and most likely return the ball slower and higher, setting you up for an aggressive put away.
Putting It All Together
Remember pickleball is fun and gets you moving while staying competitive in a friendly manner. Other components for a good game are to always be ready with a bent knee stance. A pickleball could land anywhere and you need to be ready to react. Good communication between double partners is very important. Always communicate strategy during games about who gets which shot, if a ball looks like it will go out of bounds and most of all stay positive with each other with words of encouragement. Pickleball can be light and fun or serious and intense, knowing the way to get the most out of your game will make you enjoy pickle that much more. Have fun with it, play smart and find ways to improve to keep you motivated.