Top 5 Pickleball Drills At Home

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Are you looking for effective pickleball drills at home?

pickleball court with paddles

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Pickleball rose to prominence during the largest pandemic we have personally experienced in our lives. 

As we now return to some normalcy, we can take lessons from the best players and coaches and apply them to our at-home days during winter, rain, or when we just don’t have the opportunity to make it to the pickleball courts.

These five at-home pickleball drills will help pickleball players at all levels. 

Whether you are new to the sport or an advanced tournament player, your willingness to work during limited time and space can greatly give you an advantage the next time you stand across the net from your opponents.

In order of difficulty, these are the best pickleball drills at home we recommend:

#1: Eyes On The Prize

Rule number one in ALL ball sports is, “keep your eye on the ball.”

Whether we are trying to hit a baseball, catch a football, bend a game winner into the upper corner of the goal, or drive the ball so it carries past both the water hazard and sand trap, our most fundamental key is to watch the ball at the point of contact.

In pickleball, this is easily practiced in the comfort of any room in your house.

The Drill

Paddles taps: Simply bounce the ball off the same side of your paddle 100 times.

See the ball hit the paddle every time. As you are watching it, get a feel for the middle of the sweet spot. Soon you will notice when the ball touches just outside the sweet spot of your paddle.

As your skill increases, start to hit the ball higher each time.

This may require you to move around the room just a little bit, and will ensure you watch it all the way to the sweet spot on your paddle…lest it shoots off the edge into your houseplant, or worse yet, your collectible ceramic ware.

Once you have completed 100 taps on the same side, start alternating sides.

This will take a little more practice to reach 100 repetitions, but again, it will improve both your focus and your feel.

This is often more difficult with taps that are kept low, forcing you to switch paddle faces and find the sweet spot quickly.

Finally, the most difficult of these drills is edge taps.

While this won’t help with your sweet spot recognition, it is a great way to enhance hand/eye coordination.

We recommend starting with one tap, then stop. Next is two, and again, stop.

Do this all the way up to ten taps. Once you have mastered ten taps, you can start pushing yourself to see how many you can do.

You can also alternate edge taps with paddle taps. This forces you to move your paddle face to position it correctly to the ball’s trajectory.

It’s a simple pickleball drill at home. However, it will keep you occupied and you’ll see an improvement when you step back onto the courts.

#2: The Overhead Toss

If winning a hands battle is the most satisfying result in pickleball, punishing an overhead is a close second.

This at home pickleball drill requires a little outdoor space…or high ceilings in any given room you are willing to swing away.

For many players I know, the most frustrating ball we hit in pickleball is the overhead that either sails so long it threatens the players on another court, or the one we bury in the bottom of the net. How Do We Fix That?

The Drill

We like to start with an 8-10 foot toss and hit it toward the garage door, the side of the house, or even into sofa cushions.

Though it is unlikely you have a room where you can swing away inside your house, we have found we can pull off some pickleball drills at home in tight spaces by using soft practice rubber golf balls (more on these later).

The apex height of an overhead can vary from 10 to 30 feet. I will sometimes go to my driveway and toss a pickleball high in the air and watch it all the way to my paddle before taking a crack at it.

One way to easily track the ball is to point at it with your off hand. Literally find the ball with your eyes, point at it at its apex, and track it with your eyes from that position.

If you are having trouble with the motion of striking an effective overhead, pick up a volleyball and hit it into the floor about ten feet away from you several times.

You will find your best results occur when you draw your swinging elbow back as far as possible. This is key in generating power in many sports, pickleball overheads included.

It is important to remember that you are hitting a light, plastic ball with 40 holes in it – meaning you will rarely be able to hit it hard enough to ensure it doesn’t come back to you.

After you have enough practice pointing at the ball, getting your elbow back, tracking and seeing the ball contact your paddle, and following through in the direction you swing, you can practice quickly finding your opponents before you find the ball so you know exactly where you want to hit it.

Using angles to get the ball off the court increases the risk of the shot but also can make it unreturnable. 

It is important to remember that you are hitting a light, plastic ball with 40 holes in it – meaning you will rarely be able to hit it hard enough to ensure it doesn’t come back to you.

After you have enough practice pointing at the ball, getting your elbow back, tracking and seeing the ball contact your paddle, and following through in the direction you swing, you can practice quickly finding your opponents before you find the ball so you know exactly where you want to hit it.

Using angles to get the ball off the court increases the risk of the shot but also can make it unreturnable. 

#3: Volley With A Partner

Yes, this one is as simple as it seems, both conceptually and in practice.

While this pickleball drill requires a partner, it does not require any bounceable surface, making this an easy drill to do at a park, on a carpeted floor, etc. It doesn’t have to be a pickleball drill at home.

Some coaches and pros insist of 14 feet between partners, but we have found by closing the gap, you can improve both your reaction time, focus and your footwork.

The Drill

It is important to bend your knees slightly, keep your feet at a minimum of shoulder width apart (many pros and coaches suggest a much wider base), and on the other end of spectrum, keep your hands small – that is to say, stay compact with motion and movement.

At first, simply volley back and forth with your partner, simply keeping the ball in the air and focusing on your body control.

As you improve, you can begin to be more precise in your volleys: going forehand to forehand and then backhand to backhand.

Eventually, you can try Figure 8s – your forehand to his backhand, his backhand to your backhand, your backhand to his forehand, his forehand to your forehand.

And repeat. This drill will take some practice, but if you are able to do it effectively, you will notice marked improvement in the precision of your volleys.

We encourage you to begin these drills at a comfortable distance from your partner.

As your skills improve however, both close the gap for a bit, and increase the distance. Doing this add the ability to enhance your reaction time and your accuracy with your volleys.

Before you know it, you will be on the winning side of most hand battles.

#4: Balls To The Wall (Part 1)

If you don’t have a partner for this pickleball drill at home, you can always use a wall.

I have seen people drill off an exterior home wall, off a wall in the basement, or off the wall of a garage. These drills are much the same as volleying with a partner, but with the ability to do these alone, you can practice for as often and as long as you want.

red pickleball paddle next to a cement wall with a pickleball resting on top.

The simplest exercise off the wall is volleying forehand to backhand to forehand to…you understand.

If you don’t have a partner for this pickleball drill at home, you can always use a wall.

I have seen people drill off an exterior home wall, off a wall in the basement, or off the wall of a garage. These drills are much the same as volleying with a partner, but with the ability to do these alone, you can practice for as often and as long as you want.

The simplest exercise off the wall is volleying forehand to backhand to forehand to…you understand.

The Drill

Find a comfortable distance and repeat the exercise from there until you have mastered it.

Though it seems easy enough to start, muscle fatigue will occur more quickly than one might expect. However, as with many athletic movements, muscle memory will soon become the norm.

Once you have gained skill at a comfortable distance, change the distance you stand from the wall to improve both speed and accuracy.

You will find a healthy challenge if you make dramatic adjustments to your distance from the wall. And let’s face it, we here at The Pickle Sports like a challenge.

This is a good opportunity to discuss the benefit of using the aforementioned rubber limited-flight practice golf balls for many drills. The size of these balls demand increased focus.

Though they don’t play quite as fast off a wall as a pickleball, when working with a partner, you can put a lot of zip on the ball.

Though we don’t endorse any specific brand, we have used the SKLZ Impact yellow and black limited flight rubber balls. They don’t damage items around the house, garage, or yard, yet they are nearly indestructible and practical to have as a training tool.

SKLZ black and yellow practice pickleball balls

We have used the training balls in multiple settings: volleying with a partner, volleying off the wall, dinking with a partner, and bouncing the ball off our paddle to really fine tune hand/eye coordination with the paddle taps we mention in the first section above.

#5: Balls To The Wall (Part 2)

These pickleball drills at home require a garage or basement space with room to practice.

Additionally, they require something many of us lack on top of space – a great amount of focus, practice, and patience.

As much as one can improve at home, mastering these four hands drills will accomplish it.

The Drill

You will need a line taped at 34” (inches) on the wall to simulate the height of the net and a line taped on the floor at 7’ (feet) from the wall to give you the proper distance for the non-volley zone.

We call the first drill, “2 Bounces.”

The sequence goes as follows: Dink just over the tape on the wall, let the ball bounce back to you, tap it up in the air with your paddle, let it bounce again, then dink it back against the wall.

Sound confusing?? It is! But it is a fantastic drill. Again, it is dink, bounce, tap, bounce, dink. 

Sequence number two is called, “1 Bounce Slow.” Begin by dinking the ball just over the tape.

Allow the ball to bounce back to you, tap it up into the air, then dink again against the wall.

In this series, we are removing the second bounce. Drill two goes: dink, bounce, tap, dink. Easy enough!

Our third drill is called, “1 Bounce Fast.” It goes like this: hard dink off the wall, tap the ball into the air off the volley, let it bounce, then hard dink again.

You are cutting out the dink bounce, which means you must put more pace on your first touch such that it rebounds off the wall to your paddle for a volley tap.

Shortened, the sequence would be: dink hard, tap, bounce, dink hard. Good luck! You are really moving now.

Finally, we end with, “No Bounce.” It is similar to simply drilling off the wall, but we add a paddle tap in between volleys.

This paddle tap serves to do two things: it slows the ball down to encourage resets, and it forces us to focus on this specific drill – no mindlessly whacking the ball off wall.

The series is hard dink, tap up in the air, hard dink off the wall. So it goes: hard dink, tap, hard dink.

Do these drills on the forehand side for one minute and then switch to the backhand.

Though it may sound quick and painless, we are confident you will stop to catch your breath when you are done…and you might need to clear your brain from the focus required. 

Recap: Pickleball Drills at Home

By adopting these at-home drills and exercises, you will find yourself in better position at the net the next time you play pickleball.

And though we won’t guarantee you a spot on the pro tour, you will see improvement in your game. Your friends and opponents will wonder what you have been doing while they were watching reruns. Play hard! Have fun! And thanks for reading…

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