Selkirk Sport - We Are Pickleball


5 Common Beginner Mistakes in Pickleball

By Stephen Bass

on Aug 03, 2023

Pickleball player mistake taking eye off of the ball

One of the reasons pickleball is growing so quickly in popularity is that it is easy to learn, yet difficult to master. For new pickleball players, there are a few common habits and tendencies that will slow your progress on the court. Here are 5 common mistakes beginners in pickleball make:

Mistake #1: Rushing When Serving

The fast fire nature of pickleball keeps us moving through points smoothly and with few breaks. With this comes the tendency to rush when it’s your turn to serve. Beginner players often walk straight up to the line and hit the ball without even taking a breath. Take a moment, you want to make sure you are as composed and relaxed as possible. This will help with your consistency and placement.

Tip: The best way to counter rushing is to have some kind of routine that you can repeat each time. Maybe take a couple of ball bounces or at least look at your opponent and take a breath before you hit.

Selkirk pro Porter Barr shows us a few more tips on how to improve your serves here:

Mistake #2: Taking Your Eye Off The Ball

This is one of the quickest fixes with a little practice. Watching the ball seems simple, but it's surprisingly harder than you would think. Often the urge to look at your opponent or space pulls your eyes up and away from the ball. The result being a mishit, a full whiff or popping the ball up as you pull your head up.

Tip: Practice rallying by yourself on a wall to get used to watching the ball. That way you have no distractions in front of you. Once you have got into the habit you can try with an opponent on the other side to see if you can maintain your focus.

Mistake #3: Wearing The Wrong Shoes

A common tendency of new players is improper footwear, as many beginners often play pickleball in sneakers or running shoes! Having the correct footwear is just as important as having a good paddle. You can have the best technique and skills in the world but if your shoes don’t allow you to move around the court and get to the ball well, it doesn't matter! 

Tip: Proper fitting tennis/pickleball shoes will give your feet the support required to move in multiple directions fast. More importantly they will protect your feet and joints from injuries. Invest in some good shoes before a paddle!

Mistake #4: Not Moving Your Feet

There's no question that the initial experience of stepping onto a pickleball court can be daunting. The sight of a fast-approaching yellow plastic ball can instill fear. Additionally, trying to hit it accurately while managing to keep it within the court's boundaries is not a simple task! When you factor in the necessity for proper footwork, it's no surprise that most beginners feel completely swamped. It's a lot to take in. In such a state of overwhelm, a player's foot speed is usually the first casualty. How often have you found yourself frozen in place, helplessly watching the ball you've just hit being swiftly returned because you weren't prepared? The key to overcoming this is to avoid pushing yourself to play at a higher level too quickly. The faster the ball moves, the less time you'll have to respond effectively.

Tip: Find a drilling partner that allows you time to hit the ball and practice moving your feet to the desired position. The more experience you get then the better your processing will be. You will eventually be able to hit and move automatically!

Pickleball instructor Mark Renneson analyzes this point to show us how to improve your footwork: 

Mistake #5: Panicking, Especially at the Kitchen Line 

I understand your concern - you don't want to disappoint your partner, who might be someone you've recently met during a free play session. First impressions indeed matter. Often, players find themselves feeling anxious and fretting over their partner's perception of them. However, I can assure you that more often than not, they're likely concerned about their own performance and about not disappointing their partner, much like you! Amid these worries, it's all too easy to lose sight of the fact that you're there to enjoy the game.

Tip: We are all playing pickleball because we love it. Remember that next time you panic or get mad at yourself. Enjoy yourself and this amazing sport….remember to have fun!

Bonus Mistake: Not Adding in Some Practice Time

Always remember that getting better at pickleball takes time and patience. It also takes practice. Make sure you are setting aside some dedicated time for drilling and improving your skills. Simply playing matches is not going to give you the quality of practice that’s needed for progression. Try to get a good balance of drilling and matchplay.

Here are some additional tips for making drilling fun: 6 Ways to Make Drilling Fun. And subscribe to Selkirk TV for hundreds of instructional videos on all things pickleball!

And if you are a beginner looking to buy your first paddle, check out our comprehensive guide to what type of paddle is great for beginners: The Best Pickleball Paddles for Beginners. In addition, the Selkirk Latitude pickleball bundle at Costco is a great options for beginners looking to get started in the sport!


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