9 Pickleball Tips for Taking Your Game to the Next Level

Implementing some essential pickleball tips can work wonders for upgrading your play. In this article, we’ll outline 9 pieces of advice for helping advance your game to the next level. From smashing serves to crafty drop shots, master these pickleball lessons and drills to start dominating on the court!

Tip#1: Refine Your Serve

Serves initiate the point and present the first offensive opportunity. Yet, many pickleball players must dedicate more practice time to this area. Mastering spin placement, varying speed, and moving position confound opponents, resulting in weak returns you can pounce on. Follow these pickleball serving tips:

Technique: First, refine mechanics – consistent ball toss, full fluid motion, paddle lag, and snap. Once the stroke feels automatic, develop spin. Topspin jumps up off the paddle, slide spin skids low. Aim crosscourt, down the line, or jam the middle. 

Placement: Avoid serving comfort zones on deuce or ad courts. Shift wide and deep frequently, not just safe mid-court. Precision targeting creates imperfect returns.


  1. Vary serve speed, spin, and location in every sequence.
  2. Mix up hard topspin flat drives with off-speed slicing floaters.
  3. Keep opponents off balance and guessing.


  1. Shift your starting stance position and serve motion dynamics.
  2. Sometimes, use a more considerable winding motion that is more compact.
  3. Disguise your typical patterns.

Adopting these serving principles generates crucial mistakes you can prey upon. And second, serves become attack opportunities through aggressive returns.

Tip#2: Smash Returns 

Returning serve is equally as important as the serve itself. You’ll apply immediate pressure if you can reliably put returns in play with pace.

Here are some great options: 

  • Use quick split steps and accelerate with your feet on short returns. Punch them low with a firm swing.
  •  Block back fast, hard serves quickly right off the bounce before they get too high. 

Look to crush second serves with aggressive shots, aiming for the feet when possible. Vary your return placement rather than falling into patterns. Keep the other player guessing!

Tip#3: Master Volley Positioning 

When rallying, every chance you get to strike the ball in the air before it bounces is a blessing – provided your positioning facilitates quality volleys. Excellent footwork and weight transfer empower you to punch or place volleys for winners and set up follow-up shots. Let’s explore proper volley fundamentals:

Split Step: Time this little hop jumps perfectly as the opponent makes contact. Land balanced, ready to explode either way. This builds ideal preparation to handle tricky returns.

Touch: Control is vital on shorter volleys. Use compact swings with an open paddle face to delicately place dinks, drops, and angles. Deft touch begets errors.

Swing: On mid-court or deeper volleys, swing assertively, hitting through the ball to drive pace and depth. Strike with confidence in the sweet spot.  

Placement: Catch opponents cheating one way and directly return the other. Aim for their feet when possible to reduce reaction time.

Defense: When pulled off the court or facing a blistering passing shot, get the paddle out front to block. Even a desperate stab might keep the point alive. 

By mastering proactive and reactive volley footwork, weight transfers, and sharp angles, you dictate outcomes through aggressive net play.

Tip#4: Strategic Shot Selection

Pickleball is a series of decisions – risk vs reward shot calculations informed by percentages and court positions. Even Pros only hit aces and clean winners a fraction of the time. More points are earned through unforced errors or pressuring opponents into hurried choices. Here’s how to facilitate this through shot selection:  

Margin Creation: Hit with enough height over the net and understand spin so you can control shots. This affords time for recovery and preparation, keeping balls in play.

Controlled Aggression: Balance consistent shots reinforcing your positioning with occasional ambush aggressive shots to throw off rhythm.

Shot Disguise: Vary spins, pace, and locations rather than repeating patterns. And use lower-body feints to mislead – fake forehand, hit backhand. 

Down the Line: When offered an open court, aim shots down the line to stretch opponents farther. Height becomes their enemy.  

Slow Play: Drops, chops, moonballs, and even lobs change speeds, messing with opponent timing. Then, strike when least expected.

Implementing advanced shot principles creates opportunity through both outright winners and cumulative pressure. Reduce unforced errors while baiting mistakes.

Tip#5: Footwork Fundamentals

Even world-class strokes and strategy falter without proper movement and footwork. The balance enables weight transfers to align shots. Rapid side steps, pivots, and dynamic footwork place you in a position to attack balls – not just block returns. Let’s overview examples:  

Split Step: Time hops to land just as the ball is about to be struck. The body engages the legs to push explosively left or right.  

First Step: Upon identifying the shot direction, that initial stride sets the tone. Push off decisively to align momentum in the coming feet. 

Change Direction: Sharp cuts, about-face pivots, and crossover steps prepare weight flow to support laterally stretched shots like backhand smashes.

Recovery: Scramble urgently needs to reestablish the court position after being pulled wide or forward. Sprint if required.

Drilling repetitive volleys and groundstrokes in place builds competency. But eventually, you must incorporate extensive footwork training – even solo without hitting balls. Become a master mover so your mobility prowess transitions onto game action. Fluid, flawless motion begets victories!

Tip#6: Cultivate Mental Toughness

Pickleball competition presents not just physical but extreme mental challenges. Anxiety from unforced errors or opponent streaks tears at confidence. Lapses in focus or impatience prompt rushed play. Emotional volatility surfaces over perceived rotten luck. Here’s how to strengthen your mental game:

Constructive Self-Talk: Quiet negative thinking and provide affirming reminders about your skills, training, and past successes.

Visualization: Picture desired shot outcomes – see winners, aces, and cutaways before attempting them. Envision handling adversity positively.   

Routine: Establish consistent pre-serve and pre-return patterns, calming nerves, focusing tactics, and regulating breathing.

Awareness: Recognize emotions without reacting negatively. Accept setbacks as opportunities to display courage and resilience. 

Mindfulness practice builds the mental fortitude separating recreational players from competitors playing for titles and ratings. Challenge angst with positive self-belief backed by preparation. Thrive under pressure by leaning on your routine to focus energy appropriately. Achieve flow in the face of scoreboard deficits or opponent streaks. Conquer inner demons, limit distractions, and let your best performance shine through.

Tip#7: Integrate Drills and Practice Games

Reading about pickleball tips only goes so far. Engraining new techniques and tactics into muscle memory requires extensive drills and competitive scenarios replicating game actions. Deliberate, focused regimens avoid simply going through motions without purpose. Here are productive training ideas:

Serving: Practice spin serves and target specific quadrants in patterns. Make first serves with new grips and motions. Attack second serves.

Volleys: Rep groundstroke to volley sequences, directing returns to backhand and forehand. Volley crosscourt, then down the line ordering shot placement. 

Lobs: Repeat lobs off opponent attack shots. Then, run down lobs, practice overhead smashes, and swing volleys. 

Games: Play King of the Court—seven-shot games with specified sequences. Alternate games focus on keeping shots in play and then ripping aggressive winners.

Drill at actual speed: Not just slow-motion walkthroughs. And concentrate on proper execution with brief breaks for adjustments rather than mindless reps. Integrating competitive games tests skills under pressure. Match-like scenarios replicate handling score deficits or opponent charges. Embrace the challenge!

Tip#8: Choose Groundstrokes Wisely

Even solid volleyers end up back at the baseline reasonably often, so your groundstroke game has to be up to par. Error-inducing groundstroke mistakes are common if placement and shot choice aren’t purposeful.

  • Hit top spin groundstrokes to keep shots controlled and in play. This allows you to construct the point.
  • Use backhand slices to change pace and trajectory – great for defense.
  • Move opponents around, going behind them, then striking to the open court.

Tip#9: Implement Winning Tactics

All advanced pickleball players have mastered shot setup and strategic purpose. Here are some tactical tips to practice:  

  • Serve and volley plays apply immediate pressure. Rush the net after a strong serve.
  • Jam opponents by hitting behind them, drawing weak replies you can attack. 
  • Two-shot rallies force errors by making every shot uniquely challenging.
  • Wrong foot opponents by hitting where they are only sometimes possible.

Implement Lessons into Your Plan

Recreational play provides exercise and enjoyment, but maximizing your pickleball potential requires purposeful training. Set measurable goals like improving the rating level, winning a local tournament, or qualifying for a state championship. Establish a program blueprint addressing shortcomings objectively.

Catalog strengths and weaknesses. Ask others for constructive input after matches to understand external perceptions. Film your play to analyze trends. 

Map a progression plan starting with fundamentals. Assign training hours for solo skill sessions along with competitive games. While mostly fun, make aspects challenging!

Embrace occasional discomfort, recognizing negative experiences transport the most significant opportunities for growth. Adjust tactics between tournaments. As competitive results improve, update seasonal goals.

Approach training, drilling, and competition with an insatiable desire for improvement. Commit to excel as a lifelong endeavor, not just to achieve isolated objectives. This mindset and intentional preparation allow you to showcase pickleball greatness!

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