You invest in your shoes, paddles, balls, and even socks, but how much do you invest in your footwork and getting in a position to hit the ball cleanly?
Your footwork on the court is the key to improving your game and making great shots. Hitting a successful reset, an ATP, or even an Erne, requires you to be in the right spot, with your eyes on the ball and your stroke smooth and clean. Watch the pros do it. You will see they get to the ball early, plant their feet, and execute shots repeatedly.
So how do you improve your footwork? Footwork drills of course!
So let’s take a look at some easy drills to up your game and improve your overall play on the court.
More Resources: Pickleball Drills You Can Do At Home
What Is Pickleball Footwork?
Footwork, in pickleball, and most other sports, is a big topic. It starts with your first step, toward the ball, and your final foot placement, as you strike it back over the net. In between are the steps you take to set up your shot. That is footwork
Footwork is key to players of all levels and allows you to get your body in position to hit the ball without flaying or mishitting.
Why is Pickleball Footwork Important?
In the game of pickleball, you spend a lot of energy and effort moving around the court, as you try to position yourself to make the best shot possible. There will be points when you have all the time in the world to set yourself up and hit the ball exactly where you want it to go. Footwork is easy for these shots.
But, how about when you are caught with a floater at the net or you misjudge a drive and have to scramble for the ball? Footwork here is critical for you to stay in the point and not set up your opponent for an easy put-away.
Top tips to Improve Pickleball Footwork
Great players try to read their opponents to get a jump on their next shot. Calculating where the ball will land will help you set up your first step toward the ball. That first step is one of the most important factors in covering the court and hitting consistent shots.
Taking that first quick step will buy you time and improve your game dramatically. Quick first steps will help eliminate the need to rush your shots. So, how does a player improve their first step and footwork? Practice, practice, practice.
Here are three footwork drills to help you improve your on-court game:
Drill #1 – Ready Pickleball Player One
The Ready Position is the starting point for all good footwork. The ready position will allow you to move to the ball quickly and hit your shot. What is the ready position you ask?
The ready position is set up with your legs shoulder width apart, your weight equally distributed on both toes, and your paddle up and in front of you. Your hips and knees should be slightly bent, allowing you to pivot or move laterally, as needed.
The ready position is an athletic stance, that allows a player to move quickly in any direction on the court.
This should be your default stance during a point so that you can anticipate and move to your opponent’s next shot.
For this drill, start by standing just behind the baseline, in the ready position. Have your drill partner or ball machine send balls just to your left and right. From the ready position, you should step out, hit the ball back, and return to your spot behind the baseline, waiting for the next shot
Pay attention to your feet’s positioning, and lean forward to place the weight on your toes.
Drill #2 – Pickleball Shuffle
To the right, to the right, to the right, to the right.To the left, to the left, to the left, to the left
Now kick, now kick… Wait. This is pickleball footwork.
So, you’re at the non-volley zone and you want to be able to reach the ball, keeping it out in front with your feet under you, all while balancing your weight. The shuffle step will help you move quickly and keep your shoulders square to the net.
The shuffle step also helps you get back to your proper position on the court after your shot. It’s called the shuffle step because it requires you to take small, quick steps. So, to shuffle step to the right, take a short quick step with your right foot and follow it with the same quick step with your left. All the time, staying in the ready position and your toes.
The shuffle step helps you avoid being off balance and lunging at the ball and one of the keys to the shuffle step is to stay in the ready position as much as possible.
When playing doubles, as you use the shuffle step, follow the ball and slide with your partner as they follow the ball. One way to do this is to imagine there’s a rope tied between you and your partner. This will help you move together and cover the court.
For this drill, start by standing at the non-volley zone line, in the ready position. Have your drill partner dink balls about 2 feet to your right. Take short, shuffle steps to the ball, just catching it with your right hand. Repeat that same drill on the left side, focusing on taking short quick steps as you go for the ball.
Next, grab your paddle and have your partner dink the ball again, but this time, shuffle step and dink it back over the net. Always remembering to shuffle back to your original spot, in the ready position (paddle up!). Your return dinks should be hit in this sequence – crosscourt, middle court, and straight ahead and you should try and place each dink in the non-volley zone on the other side of the net.
Next, have your partner dink balls 2 feet to your left and follow the same return and reposition sequence. Typically, 15 – 20 balls per side will help keep you from being bored, but also help create a repeatable stroke and body motion.
Remember, shuffling is just short, choppy steps, and remember to pick up your feet or you may end up falling on the court.
Drill #3 Pickleball Double Dutch
So, you have read through the first two drills and you either don’t have a drill partner or trip over your own feet regularly. Well, that’s OK, because this drill will quickly help you improve your footwork, coordination, and athleticism. As that improves, you will find a lot of people wanted to drill with you!
Using a jump rope is one of the best ways to improve your quickness, coordination, and agility, as well as smooth out your footwork. Also, picking up a jump rope and using it regularly will help build muscles in your legs and help get into the practice of staying on your toes.
Many Pickleball and other racquet sports professionals, use jump rope as a way to improve reaction time, heighten reflexes, and enhance their footwork.
For this drill, get yourself a jump rope and begin skipping. Plan to skip in intervals of between 30 and 45 seconds, depending on your level of fitness. After each skipping session, stop for 20 seconds and rest. As your strength and confidence increase, you should increase your skipping time.
Footwork is a fundamental skill needed in pickleball. If you are not getting to the ball in time, you typically, won’t be hitting your best shot, but that can change. Following the above three footwork drills: Ready Position, Shuffle Step, and Jump Rope will add speed and quickness to your game. These drills will also add consistency and confidence when you are on the court. Allowing your body to use muscle memory for balance and motion, which you will gain from the practice.