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7 Things You Should do to go from a 3.0 to 3.5 Pickleball Player

by Eric Roddy on

The beginning phase of your pickleball journey is arguably the most exciting. Few moments rival playing those first few games and keeping score.

At the 3.0 level, there is so much to learn that it can feel like drinking from a fire hose at times. At this early stage, the easiest way to develop as a player is to play as much as possible.

If you are looking for more specific things to work on, here are 7 things to help accelerate your jump from a 3.0 to 3.5 player.

Am I a 3.0 Player?

A 3.0 player usually avoids hitting a backhand and is able to hit a medium-paced forehand without a lot of control or intentional direction.

They hit medium-paced serves and return shorter in the court. A 3.0 player struggles to stay in dink rallies, lacking control and consistency. They are able to hit a safe third-shot drop and volleys without a lot of direction.

From a strategic standpoint, 3.0s understand the basic fundamental rules and are learning proper court positioning. They can keep score and are able to compete in tournaments and
match play.

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7 Tips to Master The Basics

Yes, the fundamentals are cliches that you will hear hundreds of times as a 3.0 level player, but they truly are crucial to building good habits that will serve as the foundation of your game. Make sure you can do the following basics in your sleep:

1. Keep Your Eye on the Ball

This will not only help you make clean contact, but it will help train your brain to withstand longer rallies as you advance.

2. Use the Continental or "Handshake" Grip

Beginners will often use a more pancake grip because it is more familiar or easier. This can lead to bad habits and can restrict players from hitting certain shots. Using the continental grip is crucial, especially as you add shots to your arsenal.

3. Get Low

Stay low for every shot, with your feet shoulder-width apart – It can look or feel ridiculous a times, but staying low before, during and after every shot will lead to the best results. Staying low also allows a player to better identify out balls.

4. Reduce Your Swing

Less is more in pickleball, especially when it comes to the backswing. Try to keep your paddle in front of you, especially when you are at the Kitchen, and avoid taking big backswings. This will help your timing, and will help you react more
quickly when the game starts to speed up.

5. Loosen your grip

As you start to learn how to dink, try to keep a firm wrist, but softly grip the paddle and gently hit under the ball with little follow through. Use the paddle as an extension of your arm and keep it straight, instead of letting your wrist turn over. Short, flat dinks that land just over the net in front of your opponent are great to practice at the 3.0 level.

6. Miss High or Long

Miss high or long before missing in the net – In my opinion, missing in the net is one of the greatest mistakes committed in pickleball. If you clear the net, you at least force your opponent to decide if they need to hit the ball or not. Missing in the net not only immediately ends the point, but it prevents your opponent from potentially making an error of their own.

7. Play with Different People

My favorite part about pickleball is the chance to spend time with friends and loved ones. While this is important (and a huge part of the sport), it is important to actively try to play with as many different players as you can. As a 3.0 player, try to play with other 3.0s and occasionally play up with 3.5s if possible. This will allow you to identify the shots and skills you need to work on, and will also give you
experience against different game styles. It is also a great way to meet new people and potential partners for tournaments!

Recommended Drill

Transition to the Kitchen
Start at the baseline and have your partner stand opposite from you down the line at the Kitchen. Your partner will feed the ball to you, and your goal is to hit as many shots as it takes for you to get to the Kitchen.

Once you reach the Kitchen, play the point out down the line. You can keep score and play games to 7 or 11, and then switch roles with your partner.

This drill will help you practice drops from the baseline, resets and drops from the midcourt, and dinks at the Kitchen. These shots are more difficult for 3.0s to execute, but will help you make the climb up the ratings ladder.

Bonus Tip
Get in the best physical shape possible. By no means do you need to be a world-class athlete to get better at pickleball. However, as you climb the pickleball ratings ladder, the game gets faster and more difficult physically. In order to keep up, your body will need to do the same.

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I recommend spending as little as 10-20 minutes a day strengthening your core. Push-ups, lunges and even stretching or yoga can help your body’s foundation develop to help you play at a higher level. Find a routine that works for your body and schedule and stick to it. Consistency is everything, and you will notice results quickly on the court.

Alternatively, there is great value in drilling and playing alone. One of my favorite ways to practice is to find a wall and work through different shots (dinks, drives, fast hands, etc.). The wall is and will forever be undefeated. If you have a ball machine, use it to practice shots that are giving you trouble.

While there is no substitute to drilling or matches with others, playing alone can be a change up to your traditional practice routine.

Thanks for reading, and be on the lookout for the next article in our Advancing in Amateurs series.

Enjoy the grind, and remember, you can’t dink all day if you don’t start in the morning.

💡
Eric Roddy is a signed PPA pickleball professional and lives in Charlotte, NC. When he isn't working, he is teaching pickleball at Pickleball Charlotte. He has written and edited for Pro Football Network, CBS Sports, and has appeared on Sirius XM radio for fantasy football. He played division III tennis at Sewanee and has coached the UGA women’s and Swarthmore Men’s tennis teams.

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