We all have to start somewhere, but if you’re fed up with being the rookie and you’re ready to take things up a notch, the following pickleball tips for beginners will soon have you competing with the best on the court.
From arming yourself with the right equipment to mastering the rules and techniques, all the way to taking care of your physical well-being here’s everything you need to know to take your game to the next level.
10 Pickleball Tips for Beginners
1: Find Your Favorite Paddle
It’s not uncommon for pickleball newcomers to start by borrowing a paddle from a more experienced player.
While that can be a great way to see if you like the sport without spending any money, if the pickleball bug has bitten you, you’ll certainly find it helpful to get a paddle of your own.
Alternatively, you may have opted to buy a basic wooden pickleball paddle just to try it out. Again, there’s no harm in that, but if you’re going to upgrade your game, then it pays to upgrade your gear too.
Swapping that entry-level equipment for one of the best Pickleball paddles for beginners can make a big difference.
Not only will you be able to find a paddle that’s perfectly suited to you, but you’ll also get to grow very familiar with that paddle and gain a better understanding of just how to use it to get the best results on the court.
2: Wear Appropriate Footwear
We spend so much time thinking about what we do with our upper body when playing Pickleball that it’s easy to overlook what’s going on below the waist.
Make no mistake about it; the feet get a serious workout during any game, with lots of lateral movements that see you shunting from side to side, often at a pretty high speed.
Do that in shoes that aren’t designed to support your feet properly, and there’s an increased risk that you’ll roll an ankle or even come away with nasty shin splints.
While running shoes may do a decent job, you’ll get the best results from wearing court shoes such as the Adidas Men’s Grand Court Sneaker, which, as you’ll guess from the name, are purpose-made for the kind of surface you’ll find on a Pickleball or tennis court.
3: Get Out of the Kitchen
The Kitchen Rule often gets overlooked by Pickleball novices, but if you’re planning to play with more experienced players, then it’s a rule you simply can’t afford to ignore.
At its core, the rule is designed to stop people loitering around the net and slamming the ball back and forth to each other for the whole game. But, as you can imagine, that can very quickly take all of the fun out of things.
The “kitchen” (formally the “non-volley zone”) is a 7-foot area around the net on either side. If your feet are in that area, then the Kitchen Rule states that you can’t volley the ball.
Likewise, if hitting a volley causes you to move into that area, that’s classed as a fault.
The trick is to never venture further than a few inches outside the kitchen line and be very aware of where your feet are if going for a volley.
Naturally, that’s easier said than done, and you’ll probably find that you don’t always get it right when you first start out but, as with most things, this should improve the more you practice.
4: Get Familiar with the Double Bounce Rule
On a related note, another one of the important pickleball rules that many newcomers often run afoul of is the double-bounce rule.
In a nutshell, it means that the ball must bounce twice between the serve and return serve, once on each side of the net.
In other words, when you serve, you can’t simply volley it right over the net. You first have to hit the ball so that it bounces off the ground and then goes over the net.
Once it’s gone over, your opponent then has to make the ball bounce on their side before it crosses the net again back into your half of the court.
One trick to help with this is to try and stay towards the back of the court to give the ball plenty of room to bounce.
5: Perfect Your Position
You could have the very best pickleball paddle on the market, know all the lingo and have every rule deeply embedded in your brain, but if your position is off, you’re unlikely to improve your game in the way that you’d like.
Once you’ve served (or hit a return serve), it’s tempting to slack off, but this leaves you vulnerable and means you may not be ready to strike when the ball comes back to you.
That’s why it pays to perfect the ready position and maintain it throughout your game.
This means ensuring that:
- Your feet are shoulder-width apart
- Your knees are slightly belt
- Your weight is on the balls of your feet so that you can spring into action
- Your upper body is relaxed
- Your pickleball paddle is out in front of you and tilting upwards.
6. Master Your Dink Shots
Not too dissimilar to the drop shot you might be familiar with from tennis, a dink shot involves getting the ball just over the net so that it drops into your opponent’s kitchen area.
Getting good at this technique can be a game-changer, especially if you’re playing against a player who relies purely on power and strength.
Sometimes, it will force such players to plow the ball right into the net. Others, it will result in them slamming the ball right out of bounds.
Either way, that’s a point to you.
Dinking really is one of those skills that separates the beginner from the intermediate and expert pickleball players, so it’s definitely one worth taking the time to develop.
7: Get on the Same Page as Your Partner
As is true of all team sports, pickleball duos see the best results when they work well together.
It might take some time to really gel with a new partner, but there are a few things you can do to really develop a winning partnership.
The most important thing is to keep up communication at all times.
No matter how well you know your teammate, neither of you is telepathic.
One top tip is to ensure that you’re constantly calling out who’s going for the shot by shouting either “mine” or “yours” as appropriate.
Otherwise, you run the risk that both players think the other is going for the shot, and neither ends up taking it.
8: Strategy Beats Power
The old saying about “work smarter, not harder” is usually meant for your day job, but it’s equally applicable on the pickleball court.
Some players tend to go all out with as much speed and power as they can, but unless you’re at peak physical fitness, that’s rarely a sustainable approach.
Instead, you’ll get better results by playing a slower, strategic game, staying within 8ft of your partner, and moving around in sync to ensure you’re always covering your half while looking for gaps on your opponent’s side.
Not only does it work, but you’ll be much less exhausted at the end!
9: Practice Your Serve
The serve is the most essential shot in pickleball, so it’s helpful to get it right.
While you’re just starting out, aim towards the middle of your opponent’s half and focus only on getting it over the net each and every time.
Once you’ve got the hang of that, you can start getting more advanced and aiming for the back corners or even going for their backhand to force them to foul.
10: Warm Up and Cool Down
Last but not least, let’s dispel the myth that pickleball is a gentle game with minimal impact on your health and well-being.
Injuries can and do happen. It’s not uncommon to hear of pickleball players complaining of sore knees, sprained ankles, Achilles heels, and even torn hamstrings.
So, much as you would with any sport, it’s important to warm up before a game to prevent injuries, then cool down and stretch afterward to avoid soreness building up.
More Pickleball Tips for Beginners
Practice Makes Perfect: The Final Word on Improving Your Pickleball Game
There is an infinite number of pickleball paddle tips that could be useful to beginners, but the ten above are what we consider to be the most essential.
Master these, and everything else begins to get that much easier.
That said, if we could leave you with one final tip, which may just well be the most essential of all, it’s simply this:
Practice as often as you can.
Competitive games are obviously a great way to gain more experience but don’t stop there.
Working on your serve, volleys, and other techniques can all be done solo, and the more you work on them, the faster you’ll progress and the sooner you’ll find yourself going toe-to-toe with the very best pickleball players around.