TOP TIPS for Players
Players can be generous with their tips - here is a collection of the ones we have received during tournament play.
Never Miss Your Serve!
At the pickleball club where I started to play pickleball, when someone misses their serve, everyone says 'Coach Mo says never miss your serve'! It has become a bit of a joke between us all but the truth is, if you cannot get your serve in, you can never score points and it is only the team that is serving that can score! Don't worry too much about varying your serve initially, work on consistency of getting your serve in. Then when you are consistent you can work on variety of serves (high, deep, angled, hard driven, flat). The ideal serve will land nice and deep near the baseline.
Never miss your Return of Serve!
Wait for the serve at least a foot behind the baseline so that the ball will bounce in front of you, not at your feet which is a more difficult shot. Be ready to move fast in case the serve is just past the NVZ. Never try for a pure winner, it could result in an unforced error. Hit the ball slow and high and to the back of the court to give you plenty of time to set up at the NVZ line. Place the return down the middle slightly closer to the back hand player - both players might think the other will take the shot! When you are consistent you can work on a variety of returns.
A common mistake made by players is not having your paddle in the proper ready position - up and out in front of the body at chest height, feet apart and ready to move left or right.
Get to the Non Volley Zone
One of the main problem beginners have is failing to move up to the Non Volley Zone line. After the ball is served and the two bounce rule has been satisfied, all players should be behind the NVZ and continue play from that position with the paddle held in front or in the back hand position. A few other points about the NVZ: 1) The NVZ does not extend outside of the sidelines of the court. This is what enables players to do Around the Post and Ernie shots. 2) You can stand in the NVZ anytime you want - you just cannot volley the ball - you have to wait until the ball bounces before hitting it. 3) When playing at the NVZ line, train yourself to move laterally and hit volleys and overheads without taking a step forward. 4) After making a volley when close to the NVZ, train yourself to quickly look down at your feet to make sure you didn't foot fault.
Practise the 3rd Shot Drop
Per the IPTPA: The Third Shot Drop is the preferred shot which allows the serving team to approach the NVZ line. This arching slow paced shot, which lands in the opposing side's NVZ, will help neutralise the other team's advantage. Practise the shot as much as you can to ensure muscle memory for the shot. Eliminate the too high shots, the too hard shorts, driving the shot rather than using a pendulum movement, remember to stop and split step so that you don't hit the shot on the move. Practise makes perfect!
Aim for your opponents feet on their backhand
Placement of the ball is more important than power! Place the ball at the opponent's feet or bounce the ball right beside your opponent. That will make the hit the ball up which quickly puts them on the defensive and you on the offensive. The team which must hit the ball up most of the time will lose. Keep the ball at your opponent's feet no matter where they are on the court.
Call Out Shots and Foot Faults
When you are receiving the serve, get your partner to watch the servers feet to make sure they don't step over the line and then turn and look at where the serve lands. They will have a better view than you on whether the ball is out and can call it immediately, whilst you will be concentrating on returning the serve.
Move With Your Partner
Move together with your partner keeping ~8 feet apart either both at the NVZ or back at the baseline. If your partner is pushed wide, move across to minimise the gap and to prevent an easy shot down the middle.
Play the % Game
Don't play risky shots unnecessarily. Only play a winner when it is likely to succeed. Otherwise it could be an unforced error. The safest place on the court to bounce the ball is soft, low and in the middle of the NVZ. When all players are at the NVZ hit the ball soft so that your opponents will have no pace to work with. This is the highest % shot!
Don't Keep Hitting Out Shots!
Try to anticipate when your opponents hit a ball that will go out of bounds. Most shots hit HARD upwards from the NVZ will miss the court. Try leaving these shots and see for yourself.