Avoid These 7 Beginner Pickleball Mistakes (Easy To Fix)

Avoid These 7 Beginner Pickleball Mistakes (Easy To Fix)

Just starting your pickleball journey? Or been playing for a while but need a few tips? In today’s article I will explain 7 common beginner pickleball mistakes and the simple solutions…

Moving forward after serving

This is probably the most common mistake among beginners. Everyone will yell “stay back!!” but that doesn’t help much. I think beginners need to understand why…

First let me explain the “two bounce rule”

  1. the server serves the ball
  2. the returner lets the ball bounce (one bounce) and hits the ball back over to the serving team
  3. The serving team now has to let the ball bounce (two bounce) before hitting the ball
  4. After the two bounce rule, either team can hit the ball out of the air or let the ball bounce

The returning team’s goal should be to return the ball as deep as possible. 

Therefore, if we (as the server) start moving in towards the net two things happen… 

1) the return will be coming high across the net and we will want to hit it (but this would be a fault and the other teams point because we can’t hit the ball out of the air)

2) we will then have to chase the ball back to where it lands and try to hit the ball while running away from the net

Our best position to hit the ball is behind the ball… this is why it is ideal to “serve and stay back.”

Standing inside the baseline when returning

Standing inside the baseline when returning will indeed give us a shorter distance to get to the kitchen but… if the server hits a deep return near the baseline (which should be their goal), we (as the returner) need to move away from the net to hit the ball.

And remember… Our best position to hit the ball is behind the ball. If the ball is bouncing at or behind our feet, we will not be in a good position.

Not moving forward after returning the ball

Mistake #2 often leads to mistake #3… if you are moving backwards (away from the net) to return the ball, it is then hard to redirect your momentum to the kitchen line.

It is also common to just forget to get to the kitchen line. So if this is you just remember these two things…

  1. Serve and stay back
  2. Return and run forward

Gripping the paddle too tight

This causes the MOST problems but is the easiest fix! When I coach players and show them this simple fix, they are amazed how much better they play.

You will notice the benefits of loosening your grip the most while dinking or hitting a drop shot.

Here’s how you can test the effects of this:

Part 1: Hold your paddle normally and dink… if you notice the ball popping into the air or feel like you don’t have control, then you are holding the paddle too tight.

Part 2: Hold your paddle with a 3-4/10 grip pressure and dink… you will notice the ball coming off the paddle much lighter giving you more control.

When playing pickleball (especially dinking and drop shots), aim for a 4-5/10 grip pressure.

Less is better here.

Avoiding your backhand

If you are just playing for fun, there is no problem avoiding the backhand (or your weaker shot)… but if you are trying to improve, at some point it is crucial to practice your backhand.

If you saw my post, 3 easy tips to dominate the pickleball kitchen, one of my tips was to target your opponent’s backhand.

If you aren’t practicing your backhand, your opponents will target it every time.

Not working in towards the kitchen as the serving team

As a beginner, strategy usually isn’t on the forefront of your mind. But if you want to move on from beginner status, strategy will get you there.

To me, strategy is all about understanding “why.” 

So why do we want to work in towards the kitchen line?

The further away from the kitchen line you are, the more angles your opponent has AND the harder your shot will be. 

Quick example… your opponent mishits the ball and it pops up in the air.

If you are standing at the kitchen line, you will overhead smash it and win the point.

If you are standing back by the baseline, you will have to run in and miss the chance for an overhead. Therefore, allowing your opponent to pop the ball up and still be in the point.

I don’t know the exact stat, but the team who controls the kitchen line wins the majority of the points. 

Recklessly running in to the kitchen line

As I just said moving into the kitchen line is KEY, we have to be intentional. 

Good times to move in to the kitchen line (most of the time):

  • When your opponent lets the ball bounce
  • When your shot lands in the kitchen
  • When your opponents are not up at the kitchen line

Bad times to move in to the kitchen line (most of the time):

  • When your opponent is attacking the ball out of the air
  • When you hit a high drop shot or drive that your opponent can attack

Many beginners are told to move into the kitchen line and then just recklessly run in every time… The better approach is to be aware of the situation and know when is a good or bad time to move in.

Be patient. Wait for the right moment and then move forward.

And remember, you don’t need to get from the baseline to the kitchen in one shot. Many pros will move forward just a little bit at a time. Slow down, don’t rush.

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