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4 Tips To Go From 3.5 to 4.0 in Pickleball

By Stephen Bass

on Oct 04, 2022

One of the most common questions asked in the pickleball community is how to get from that 3.5 to 4.0 level.  I’ve compiled tips I have been working on to get my game from the 3.5 to 4.0 level and I will be writing a few of these articles because there are many things you can work on to move to the next level.  

Some of the tips are from specific pros and some are repeated several times by multiple pros.  I’ve linked videos that are attributed to specific pros for your learning convenience! All these things can be practiced in your games, but if you want the fastest results you have to drill these tips.  You just don’t get enough repetitions playing games to advance as fast as drilling.   

 1. Stop Trying to Hit Perfect 3rd Shot Drops.

How many games have you played where you see a side out after two quick 3rd shot drops into the net?  Yeah, I’ve seen this happen very often and of course, I have been a part of this problem as well.  I think a lot of 3.5 players are striving for the perfect drop because their partner is rushing to the net no matter what.   Watch the pros play for a bit and see the patience they have.  Sometimes they are not getting to the net until their 5th, 7th, or 9th shot.  They work their way in slowly when they know their return isn’t perfect.  How many points are you winning when you hit it into the net?  Get those third shots higher and talk with your partner about not rushing in after every 3rd shot drop.  

I know this tip sounds too simple and we still want to hit that beautiful 3rd shot drop. Pro Player Tyson McGuffin does a good job breaking down the mistakes many people make when hitting their 3rd shot drops. 

2. You’re Moving Too Much Because You’re Out of Position

I first hear this tip is from Sarah Ansboury. I think we have all seen the person moving back and forth at the NVZ and you are just waiting for them to fall over with how off balance they are from their crazy footwork.  Every time you are out of position the problem compounds with every shot because you keep moving more until you are too far out of position to get the next ball.  We can help fix this problem by taking more dinks out of the air, when possible, to avoid unnecessary movement.  Taking dinks out of the air solves the problem of getting out of position and reduces the time your opponent has before they must return the ball.  

You need to drill this concept to get the feel for dinking out of the air because it feels a lot different than taking the ball off the bounce.


3. Reset the Ball

Resetting the ball more often has been the skill that has helped me improve my game the most.  Being able to take a face-paced ball and return it over the net at a slower speed will boost your game fast.  Whether you are resetting the ball from the transition zone or resetting it from the NVZ you need to have soft hands.  You need to loosen your grip pressure and take the pace off those fast-paced shots.  You won’t get good at this overnight but trust me you want to get good at resetting.  The other aspect of resetting that comes with time is when you should do it.  This will be different for every person.  My general rule is if I feel like I am losing a firefight because the ball is too far below the net I go for a reset.  

Pro Pickleball Coach Mark Renneson does a great job explaining resets in this video. 

4. Use the Right Grip.

How do you hold your paddle?  This is something that many don’t even think about, but it is so important. I won’t explain how to hold the grip because getting video instruction from pro pickleball instructor Mark Renneson will make your life easier.  You can use other grips later for different shots, but I suggest using this grip for now because it makes your job easier at the NVZ not having to switch grips.  Using the wrong grip can make your paddle face open or closed too much which will contribute to you popping balls up or hitting more into the net.  

Want to see what I am up to on TikTok? You can follow me @PickleballDad

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