We have compiled our favorite pickleball tips for beginners that we wish we knew before starting.
Have you caught on to the craze hurtling through America faster than an overhead smash? You are not alone! People of all ages, genders, sizes and abilities are flocking to the courts to play America’s fastest-growing sport.
Resources: Pickleball Statistics You Need To Know
Our team of experts put our heads together and came up with all the pickleball tips for beginners we wish that someone had told us when we were just getting started and compiled them for you below.
So, whether you are a full-blown addict, have played a few times and want to improve, or are simply pickle curious, we’ve got you covered with a robust guide that is sure to get you dinking your way to glory in no time.
Table of Contents
- Get A Decent Pickleball Paddle
- Don’t get caught up in winning and losing
- Play with a variety of players
- Work on different shot types
- Watch the Pros
- Communicate with your Partner
- Keep It in Play
- Plant your Feet
- Make Friends with the Kitchen Line
- Practice your third shot
- Get Familiar With The Rules
- Wear Proper Shoes
- Reduce Unforced Errors
- Play to Your Strengths
- Don’t Worry About Power
- Meet People
Get A Decent Pickleball Paddle
No, you do not have to sell all the gas in your tank to buy a fancy $333 Selkirk paddle. Honestly, don’t get caught up in the hype, there will be plenty of time for that later.
For now, ditch the $10 wooden paddle you got as a Secret Santa, and buy something used in good condition (Facebook Buy and Sell Groups, Pickleball Central, etc) or on sale for 50 bucks, give or take.
With a decent paddle, you will be able to immediately start understanding the essence of the game and catapult yourself ahead on the path to pickleball mastery.
Don’t get caught up in winning and losing
We get it, you are competitive, and so are we. There is nothing wrong with that. But as you are learning the game, if you get too caught up with your record, you run the risk of missing opportunities to try new things and improve your game.
For now, you don’t need a huge win streak, what you need is repetitions of every shot and every situation there is so that eventually it will all feel like second nature.
Play with a variety of players
Mix genders, play with better players when you can, and play with worse players (as you improve). Pickleball is a tremendously social and accommodating sport.
Take advantage of the opportunity to diversify your experience and you will not only have more fun, but you will also get better quickly.
Work on different shot types
Spin, Power, and control are three elements that are absolutely crucial to the game. As you warm up, practice and play games notice how you can manipulate the ball with spin and find your power stroke on drives.
But don’t overlook the importance of playing defense and hitting the ball with finesse.
As you start to play more set aside 20 minutes or so every few times you play to work on drills whether they’re at-home drills, or out on the court.
Playing games is great, but drilling allows you to get reps where you need them the most, mess up until you get it right, and find that muscle memory groove that will help you build consistency. There are a plethora of online resources demonstrating drills.
Here’s one that we love for beginners:
Watch the Pros
The number one ranked pickleball player in the world, Ben Johns, often points out that pickleball is still an unsolved game.
That may be true, but it seems pretty darn close! Check out Ben and his brother Collin here:
Watching the top players compete will imprint good habits and patterns in your mind that you will be able to recall later when you need them. You can also start getting a feel for the rich world of pickleball strategy.
Communicate with your Partner
“Mine,” “yours,” “watch out,” “go.” All these cues and commands are constantly used between good partners to help navigate points.
The earlier you get comfortable talking through points the better because it will only help you to form cohesive units with your partners.
Keep It in Play
When you are just starting out, your job is to get every serve and return in play. As you progress, work on getting them deeper into your opponent’s area.
Resource: 7 Steps to Improve Your Return Of Serve
There will be time for learning spins later, but if you can’t get your shots in play, you aren’t going to get far.
Plant your Feet
Whether at the baseline, in the transition area, or up at the kitchen (non-volley zone), if your opponent is striking the ball, stop moving.
Trying to hit a shot on the move is like trying to mount a wet horse. I’ve actually never tried that, but it seems tricky.
Make Friends with the Kitchen Line
The kitchen is a magical rectangle that is totally unique to pickleball. You’re not allowed to take a ball out of the air while standing in the kitchen.
You can however go in to pursue a ball after it bounces in the kitchen. You’re also allowed to step in at any time as long as you are not actively taking a volley (or just hit one).
Learn More: 10 Volley Tips to Improve Your Game
You’ll quickly discover that getting up to the kitchen line as quickly as possible gives you the biggest advantage in the rally. It may seem scary at first, but that’s where you’ll learn to dial in punch shots and hands battles.
This all takes a lot of getting used to, so… Get used to it.
Practice your third shot
The third shot is arguably the most important, most finicky, and toughest part of the sport. If you only take one thing from this guide (not sure why you would do that, because this is all pure gold), start practicing your third shot drop.
Resources: Your Go-To Guide For the Third Shot Drop
Stand at the baseline and have a partner stand at the kitchen line. Have them hit volleys or short hops to you while you play with trajectory and pace to land every ball you can in the kitchen.
After you have done that over and over and over again. Do it some more. With this shot mastered you will be able to have fun, competitive games with virtually anybody.
I am a pretty athletic person who had been sedentary for a few months at the height of Covid. After playing pickleball for a couple of hours the first time, the next morning I couldn’t put my pants on I was so sore!
Stretch before and after play because pickleball utilizes muscles that you may not be accustomed to working.
Get Familiar With The Rules
If you’re brand new to pickleball, a lot of players will let some of the more nuanced rules slide. However, you will want to have an understanding of the rules as you progress.
You don’t want to find yourself practicing and dialing in an illegal serve only to have to start over and re-learn a legal serve. I recommend at least brushing up on serving rules.
Resources: 5 Critical Pickleball Serving Rules
Wear Proper Shoes
If you’re just starting out, you really don’t want to spend too much money. Getting a proper pair of pickleball shoes or really any outdoor court shoe is one purchase I strongly recommend.
Wearing running shoes or improper shoes is the most common cause of pickleball injuries by far. This is one of the most critical pickleball tips for beginners.
Reduce Unforced Errors
When you’re just starting out in pickleball, you’re going to hit balls into the net and out of bounds. Every skill level does.
The objective is to reduce the amount of unnecessary unforced errors. Keep the ball in play and make your opponent hit a good shot to earn the point. Don’t just hand them away.
Play to Your Strengths
If you’re comfortable with forehands then try to always set yourself up for a forehand shot by playing more on the left side of the pickleball court (right-handed players).
Do the opposite if you’re more comfortable with backhand shots.
Don’t Worry About Power
When you hear a shot name like overhead smash, it’s hard to resist hitting it as hard as you can. In reality, the harder you swing, the higher the chances are that you’re going to miss hit the ball.
It could either sail out of bounds or bounce too high and give your opponent a chance at a point.
The best thing to do is go for the feet or low and up the middle of the pickleball court.
You’ll notice very quickly that pickleball is a very friendly, social sport. If you’re going to the same facility, don’t be afraid to meet pickleball players who are better than you are.
This is one of the most overlooked pickleball tips for beginners. Meeting other players and seeking out advice can help you get better a lot faster while building friendships.
These pickleball tips for beginners are pretty straightforward. By implementing some of these tips you will get better faster.
That being said, the number one rule is to make sure you enjoy the game. There’s no reason to invest time into getting better at something you don’t enjoy.
If you can’t enjoy the bad days then you don’t love pickleball.
Seriously. No matter your age, skill level, or aspirations, at its core, pickleball is a fun and social game.
Taking it too seriously can alienate people from wanting to play with you. So get out there and enjoy yourself, because chances are, you are going to be addicted soon enough.