Do you feel like there is something missing from your game?
Do you think you are just as good as some of the advanced players at your court, but you just can’t secure the win?
I have some easy suggestions I've learned over the years that have helped me improve. And I think they will help you too!
1. Stop Rushing To The NVZ Line
Are you rushing to the NVZ line without thinking about what your third shot looks like or what your partner’s third shot looks like? I can’t count the number of times I have seen people run blindly to the NVZ line without looking at their partner’s third shot (Yes, I’m also guilty of doing this!) You usually want to move up a little, but you do not want to run up to the line unless you see how good of a drop your partner hits. You need patience! Don’t worry if it takes you a few shots to get up to the NVZ line. Work your way up slowly if the drops aren’t good. It is a lot easier to get a fastball back if it isn’t being crushed at your feet or face.
2. Stop Popping The Ball Up When DinkingI know...I know. Easier said than done...
But do you not know why your popping it up? This tip changed my dinking life. Watch a pro match closely when they are dinking. They hold their non-dominate elbow in the air. Think about swinging that elbow out to hit someone. Now keep it out there. The reason they keep their elbow up is to keep their balance when they are getting low to dink. This will give you a lot more control when dinking.
3. GET YOUR PADDLE UP!
Have you ever felt like your reaction time is too slow in blocking a speed up? Take note of where you are holding your paddle when you are at the NVZ. Hold it up and be ready as if you knew a speed-up was coming and you needed to block. You will have time to get low and dink if that is what is coming, but you won’t have as much time to bring your paddle up to block. You can do even more by staying (slightly) in a backhand ready stance so you are flipping your paddle around. Staying ready with your backhand will give you a wider range of motion and have your reaction speed be even faster.
4. Hit into the middle more.
You don’t have to be fancy trying to blast the ball through your opponent, hitting down the line, and hitting insane angle dinks all the time. If you start feeling more pressure try hitting your dinks middle. This creates fewer angles for your opponent and can slow things down a bit. Hitting the middle works great on third shot drops as well as the net being lower in the middle, and you can create confusion amongst your opponents on who should hit the ball.
5. Be Intentional with your Warm-Up
What do you do before you start playing games? If you want to play competitively just dinking slowly to warm up is not the way to do it. Sure, go ahead and dink a bit, but aim those dinks. Think about moving your opponent around with the dinks. Be intentional.
Hit third shot drops and throw in a few drives. Find your rhythm. Do some drills if everyone agrees to it. Think about situations you face in the game that give you trouble and warm up using those situations. Dinking slow is a good start, but you need to warm up with pace.
6. Stop hitting out balls!
We all know you are a beast at the net, but do you know what isn’t helping you? Hitting every single ball that is hit toward you. How many out balls have you hit? How many out balls have I hit? TOO MANY! But how do I learn when a ball is going out? Start letting balls go above your shoulders. Sometimes they will go in, but more often they will go out. This is a huge factor in getting your pickleball game to the next level. Think about how easy it is to win a point when all you must do is duck or not move your paddle to the ball. Yeah, that is a free point that you are getting when you let the ball go out. When it lands in, just say nice shot, and keep going.
A great way to drill this is shown by Tyson McGuffin:
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