5 Common Beginner Mistakes in Pickleball
Pickleball is fairly easy to learn, it’s one of the reasons the sport is growing so quickly. But, it’s also extra hard to master, requiring fast and often complex decision making. As a new player you can get stuck on some bad habits that will slow that progress towards pickleball greatness! Here’s 5 common things that beginner players do wrong:
Rush 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. I often see players just 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.
Mark Renneson Shows us a few more tips on how to improve your serves here:
Take Their Eyes 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 lifting the ball out the back 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.
Wear The Wrong Shoes
So many times I see new players coming in all excited to be on the court with a new paddle and looking the part. Then I glance down and they are wearing running shoes! Having the correct shoes is more important than 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!
Don’t Move Their Feet
There's no denying that the first few times you step on the pickleball court is intimidating. Seeing a plastic yellow ball hurtling toward you at speed can be scary. Then attempting to make contact with it and at the same time control it into the court is not easy! Add in the need for footwork and most beginners become simply overwhelmed. It’s just too much to process. The first thing that is affected when players are overwhelmed is foot speed. How often have you felt like you are standing and staring at the ball you just hit, only for it to be fired back at you and you’re not ready? The solution to this is to not play above your level too soon. The faster the ball travels the less time you have to process what’s going on.
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!
Mark Renneson analyzes this point to show us how to improve your footwork:
I get it, you don’t want to let your partner down…which can often be someone you have just met at free play! First impressions count after all. Many players panic and worry about what their partner will think. But I can guarantee that most of the time they will be worrying about their own game and also about letting their partner down…..just like you are! And it’s all too easy to forget you are there to have fun.
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!
Wrapping Up: Add 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.
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
About the Author: Originally from England, Zoë has coached in both the UK and USA, being based in Los Angeles for the last 5 years. She has been teaching tennis full time for nearly 20 years and pickleball since 2020. Zoë is currently the resident pickleball and tennis expert at TopspinPro. You can find out about their new TopspinPro for Pickleball and read more coaching tips here: topspinpro.com.