Go From GOOD to ADVANCED
If you’re searching for “How to Get Better At Pickleball,” I know what you’re going through. I had a streak where I lost EVERY SINGLE GAME. I couldn’t hit a good shot to save my life.
I took a step back to reassess everything and was surprised with what helped and how big of an impact it made.
This is assuming that you have a firm grasp of the game. You are at a high skill level and have a good knowledge of the basic rules and fundamentals.
If you’re an intermediate or advanced pickleball player like I am, you may benefit from what I learned. If you’re a beginner we have a beginner’s guide to improvement.
Here are my processes to reset and get better at pickleball.
Steps For Improving Your Pickleball Game
Stay In The Game
One of the biggest revelations for improving at pickleball was that I was taking myself out of the game once the other team had a commanding lead.
GUESS WHAT you still have some pickleball left to be played. So turn it on and focus. Just because you’re down by 5 points doesn’t mean you can’t come back and win.
Those victories are the best! Stay in the game and battle until the last point. If you lose then you can take a minute and see what you were doing wrong. This brings me to my next tip.
“Whatever is measured will improve” If you really want to improve at anything you have to measure the progress. Now, this can be hard if you’re playing pickleball competitively, so give yourself some casual games to take mental notes.
Are your long shots or short shots hurting more? Are you missing forehands or backhands? Are you missing to the left or right? Long or short?
If your backhand is suffering then grab a pickleball machine or a partner and dial in your weaknesses to make whatever shot was hurting you more consistent.
I would always give up shots that were hit at my body so I made it strength by
- Getting my partner to hit those shots at me repetitively.
- Got creative and figured out how to get out of the way to give myself a proper swing.
- Repeated that motion until I could so I could do it in a game.
Play Casually More Often
It’s hard to make any real improvement at pickleball for an intermediate/advanced player if you play in tournaments or competitive games. You can’t challenge your creativity or try new shots.
I was playing competitively about 4-5 times a week and now I only really play competitively twice a week. The other three days, me and 1-3 of my friends go down and just practice shots.
It’s like watching a comedian BOMB in a small comedy venue, then they go on tour and kill it.
You have to know what works and what doesn’t, what you can get away with, and what you absolutely cannot.
Play YOUR game
When you get better at pickleball and think you can pull off incredible shots to the corners, you stop playing the strengths that got you to that intermediate or advanced level in the first place.
It’s like if you’re a pitcher and you have this amazing curveball that got you all the way to the MLB, and then you decide to work on your fastball, change-up, slider, sinker, etc. you lose that amazing curveball.
You have to just keep practicing what you can do and be one of the best at it. If you have incredible touch at dinking, improve that and see how tight you can get to the corners or how you can place where no one can get to it.
If you have a hard topspin shot that pinpoints the opponent’s feet, focus on that and be able to hit it exactly where you intend to every time. Once you master that shot, you have that to fall back on if all else fails.
Physically Warm up
In order to get better at pickleball, or any sport for that matter, sometimes it’s all about how you prepare before you play.
Everyone knows the first game is a “Warm-up game,” but why lose the first game when you could come in winning and with a spark of confidence.
Having a warm-up in place is important for any athlete. As a beginner, you can stretch out a little and you’re good to go. For advanced and intermediate players, it’s far more important to get in the zone FAST.
I’ve found the best way to warm up is by imitating what you’re going to see on the court.
Just stretching or going for a light jog is not going to do it.
I personally like lateral movement drills that are just as intense or more intense than the movements you make on the court.
I like it more intensely because in the actual game it seems like nothing. It’s like a sprinter running uphill for practice so level ground feels easy.
Here are some of my favorite drills shown by The Pickleball Doctor
NOTE: stretch afterward. Warm muscles are loose muscles so stretching it will increase recovery.
Mentally Warm Up
Just like having a physical warm-up, having a mental warm-up in place is vital to getting good at pickleball.
Think about it, you can play a different team on a different court, in different conditions on a different day. Everything is different so having a mental warm-up keeps some similarities.
The Recommended warm-up
I like just a little short game practice. When I do this I’m focusing on the timing of the paddle hitting the ball and the feeling of the court or the conditions.
At this point, I’m already stretched and loose so I’m only worried about getting my mind in the zone to play. I’m thinking about when I took inventory of my game and maybe hitting a few last-minute shots I’ve been working on.
Now I’m ready to play my game.
Pre Shot Routine
Every elite-level athlete has a pre-shot routine. Even if you’re not a pro (yet), you still want to play well right?
Especially in pickleball where you don’t have much time to let go and forget about the bad cross-court shot you had, or the game-winner that you hit long.
You need a routine in place to cancel out those thoughts.
Like Ted Lasso says, “be a goldfish” and have a short memory.
Recommended Pre-Shot routine
I like the routine on the serve and once I serve, my mind is cleared. It’s really simple.
- Bounce once
- Announce the score
- Bounce again
- Breathe in
- Breathe out
6 steps and the last rally is out of my mind. I’m focused on this one.
It gets easy to overthink this sport or any sport and think that there’s something physical you’re doing wrong, or you don’t have the right equipment. I can assure you that most of the time the reason you’re not playing your best can be because of what you’re doing before you even announce a 0-0 2.
Try these tips if you’re in a rut or just want to try something new and from all of us here at ThePickleSports, we hope we can help.