Chances are…you’ve heard about pickleball. The sport is experiencing rapid growth because of its health benefits, ease of play, and social perks. That may have tempted to you join a pickleball game yourself.
While pickleball may be relatively simple to pick up, there are some ins and outs to the game you need to know that will make you a better player. Be sure to keep these tips in mind as you start playing the game.
Understand Pickleball’s Intricate Rules
While pickleball’s rules are pretty straightforward, there are a few that aren’t quite as easy to grasp. For instance, did you know touching the net with your racket is a fault? Or that, while serving, your paddle must make contact with the ball below your belly button? Familiarize yourself with these more intricate rules first so they don’t trip you up during a game.
Double Bounce Rule
The ball must be allowed to bounce once on each side of the court. This means the team receiving the serve must let the ball bounce before returning, and the serving team must let said return bounce once. Only then are volleys (i.e., a shot made before the ball has bounced) allowed.
The kitchen, also known as the no-volley zone, is the first seven feet on either side of the net. You cannot volley while standing in this area. It’s also a fault if your momentum on a volley from a legal area carries you or any of your equipment in the kitchen. See this article for a detailed breakdown of the intricate rules of the no-volley zone.
Pick the Right Paddle
Just as baseball players use bats of different weights and sizes and golfers carry individual sets of clubs, pickleball paddles are not one-size-fits-all equipment. Paddles are made from different materials, have different weights and handle sizes, and offer a variety of benefits. Experiment with several different types of paddles to find the one that you’re most comfortable using.
Practice Different Shot Types
The more you can vary your shot arsenal, the better you can catch your opponent off balance. Work on these different shot types in your spare time, then look for the opportunities to use them in your next pickleball game.
This soft shot, returned just far enough to clear the net but not enough to allow for an opponent volley, is a great way to catch an opponent who plays too deep out of position.
A powerful overhead shot, smashes are ideal for finishing off a point. When directed at an open portion of the court or an opponent’s feet, players don’t have time to react to a well-hit smash.
Often, the best way to respond to an opponent smash is by not swinging your racket at all. Return the volley by keeping your paddle steady and deflecting it back, using the speed of the ball to your advantage.
Always Be Alert
This might seem obvious, but it can be easy to loosen up between points or when your teammate is serving. Stay sharp mentally to ensure that you’re prepared for your opponent’s next move. Put your body in a position to react by keeping your knees bent and staying on the balls of your feet. And be sure to keep your arms and paddle in front of your body, not at your side.
Position Yourself Near the No-Volley Line
Many pickleball players, especially new ones, tend to position themselves midway between the no-volley line and the baseline. While this strategy gives you more time to react, there’s a reason more experienced players refer to this area as “no man’s land.”
Not only are you more likely to get a shot at your feet, but returning shots from this spot also gives your opponent ample time to react to your shot. Instead, be more aggressive and play closer to the kitchen. This way you can catch your opponent off guard and set yourself up to win more points.
Get in Sync with Your Teammate
Communication between partners, both verbal and nonverbal, is essential. You don’t ever want to get too far apart and give your opponent wide gaps. Operate as if there is an 8 to 10-foot rope connecting you and your teammate to ensure you stay close. Always call “mine” or “yours” so both partners understand who will be returning a shot, and communicate when you think an opponent shot will land in or out of bounds.
Play with More Experienced Players
The best way to improve at anything is to learn from those who are more skilled. While you might not win every game against more seasoned players, you’ll begin to better understand pickleball etiquette, rules, techniques, and strategies from playing with them.
Aim for the Feet
Last, but certainly not least, take some time to learn how to hit more shots at other players’ feet. This is by far the most difficult place to return a shot. It’s an awkward and uncomfortable place to swing from and can easily get someone off balance.
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