Pickleball is an exceptionally beginner-friendly game, but that doesn’t mean there’s absolutely no learning curve. No matter what, there’s still going to be some stuff that a beginner doesn’t know, including all of the pickleball helpful hints and tricks that more experienced players have accrued over the years.
Tips for playing pickleball can sometimes be overly complicated or too simplified to truly make a difference. With our pickleball tips for beginners, we aim for a good mixture of complicated and simple. Just note that these are not necessarily skills that you’ll master initially – instead, use them as benchmarks for the first higher-level skills you learn in this game beyond the rules, the proper grip, and the names of all of the shots.
Our top ten pickleball tips for beginners include:
Serve and return the serve deep
As a general rule, you want to keep your opponent pushed back as far as possible so that you can have more time to react to their moves. Being able to serve deep – or to serve the ball to the back left and right corners of your opponent’s quadrants – forces your opponent back to the baseline. This makes it more difficult for your opponent to hit a deep return, and a shallow return means you can drive or hit a drop shot. Similarly, returning the serve deep prevents drives and drop shots this early in the rally.
Keep your serve and serve return simple
Don’t do anything too fancy – these two moves just set up the rally, so master the fundamental skill of serving and returning the serve so you can execute more complicated strategies later on.
Get to the net ASAP!
Getting to the net is the number one most tactical play in pickleball. Think about it – when you’re playing at the net and your opponent is not, you reduce the amount of reaction time they get and improve your power and accuracy. However, you may need to exercise caution when the other team is already at the net.
Play with control, not power
Slamming that whiffle ball straight into the ground is undeniably fun, but it’s not exactly the most tactical maneuver, nor is it going to be the move that helps you master gameplay. Pickleball is largely a game that relies on carefully performed shots that open your opponent up for error rather than a game of blasting through your opponent’s defenses. The latter approach just doesn’t work without incorporating some directional and speed control, and you’ll stymie the development of more sophisticated skills if you can only drive, drive, drive.
Stay in a ready position
When you’re on the court, it can be difficult to get used to the fast pace of pickleball, especially if you don’t come from a sports background. You may find yourself with hampered reaction times, missing balls you knew were there, because you’re not leaving yourself in the “ready” position to react to the ball. Instead, stand with your knees slightly bent, feet shoulder-width apart, and paddle either in a neutral position or turned to hit backhands or forehands.
Work on your dink
Dinks are a foundational skill in this sport – they’re a highly controlled shot that pulls your opponent into the kitchen while also keeping the likelihood of a drive unlikely with its low height. Dinks are an excellent shot to keep in your back pocket because they can control the tempo of the game when execute correctly.
Call the ball
When playing on a doubles team, make sure you’re always communicating with your partner about where you’re going, what you’re doing, and how you’re doing it. After a while and after a lot of coordination with your partner, many of these things will be communicated implicitly. However, it’s still common courtesy to call out “mine!” when going after a shot. You wouldn’t want your partner to try going for the ball and getting into a bad position on the court – or worse, injured from running into you!
Master the third shot drop
The third shot drop is a basic game strategy in which the serving team hits a drop shot – a very soft, low-altitude ball that bounces in the non volley zone – after the return of serve, forcing their opponent to engage in a dinking game with them, which opens up the door for error.
Avoid the lob shot
Don’t get us wrong, lob shots are excellent, and they are just as integral to the game as any other sort of shot. However, they are extremely easy to execute poorly, and unlike drop shots, it’s very easy to smash a lob back at you. If you’re really looking to win, don’t lob unless you absolutely have to, or without adequate practice and control over the height, speed, and direction of your lob.
Keep the ball away from your opponent’s good side
In general, it’s best to avoid hitting the ball towards whichever hand is your opponent’s dominant hand. Their paddle will be closer to the ball on this side, making it easier for them to defend against your shot in a pinch.