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Five Huge Mistakes You’re Making in Pickleball Without Even Knowing It

by Jason Flamm on

I don’t know about you, but some days, I feel like everything I do on the pickleball court is clicking, and I’m playing at a high level. Other days, I feel like it’s the first time I’ve picked up a paddle.

It’s very frustrating, and it often makes me wonder if I actually know what I’m doing.

The truth is, I don’t. Or at least, sometimes I don’t. We all have blind spots, and sometimes, you need someone outside looking in to tell you what you’re missing.

Here are five mistakes you’re (probably) making on the pickleball courts without even knowing it.

You’re not warming up

I’m not going to lecture you or tell you to spend your precious pickleball play time doing something boring like touching your toes or running laps. We play pickleball so we don’t have to do boring things like that. 

How to Properly Warm Up Your Body and Mind Before Taking the Pickleball Court
Eating properly, planning ahead and preparing your mind and body for an intense day of pickleball can go a long way to on-court success, writes our Eric Roddy.

Instead, I want you to incorporate extra movement into your pregame routine. This could be light lunges (don’t stretch muscles too far when your body isn’t warm yet), moving laterally, or even just some good old-fashioned arm circles.

Injuries will ruin your life. Is that dramatic to say? Yes. But it’s also true. How would you feel if you couldn’t play pickleball for 2-4 weeks? Miserable.

Please warm up your body before your matches. Even doing the bare minimum is better than nothing at all. 

You stand too close to the baseline

Next time you play a game, count how many times you have to step back, either on a return of serve or before taking your third shot.

No matter how often you have to do it, it’s too many. 

There is no reason not to take an extra step back while you wait for the ball from the baseline (unless your mobility is severely lacking, in which case, know your body).

Moving forward an extra step is infinitely easier than taking another backward step. It’s also a million times better for your technique and shot effectiveness.

Moving backward while swinging causes several problems:

  • Your momentum is going away from the ball, leading to a weaker shot
  • Your arm swings out, leading to poor contact
  • You are now in a worse position for the next shot (if you do happen to hit the ball over the net)

On the flip side, moving forward while swinging has these benefits:

  • Your momentum is carrying you through the ball, adding pace and control
  • Your arms stay compact, which is ideal for pickleball
  • It becomes easier to move into a good position for the next shot

Make a point to take one extra step back when standing at the baseline. If you still get forced backward more than once during a match, take two extra steps back. You’ll be shocked at how much better your pickleball game will be.

You’re focused too much on winning

We all want to win. However, if your goal is improving your game, winning should not concern you. If you’re not trying to get better and winning is important (which is okay if that’s your choice), feel free to ignore this advice.

How to Deal With THAT GUY in Open Play
Everyone knows THAT GUY in pickleball. The person we hate playing with. We describe who THAT GUY is and how to best deal with them.

So often, players get frustrated on the court because they lost another game. 

Remind me, what do you get if you win your rec game? Oh, nothing.

Then, who cares? 

Would you rather be a better pickleball player after two months or have a winning record in open play?

If it’s the former, then instead of caring about wins and losses, care about whether or not you are improving in these parts of the game:

  • Shot selection and execution
  • Positioning and footwork
  • Finding and exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses

You can choose any of those areas on any given day to spend your mental focus, and it will be much more productive than going 7-0.

Before you start a game, choose one area to focus on and maintain that as your focus throughout the match. It could be third-shot drop practice, keeping your drives low and at the opponent in front of you, or finding one weakness in your opponent.

You may want to learn how to Erne, so you try that a few times in a match.

You’ll fail sometimes, but if you can’t fail while trying new shots or strategies during rec play, when can you?

Should You Still Go “All Out” When Facing a Weaker Opponent in Rec Play?
Should you consider holding back in rec play against weaker pickleball opponents? We make the case for and against going all out in more casual settings.

You don’t practice what you’re bad at

We’re all afraid of looking silly, especially to our pickleball friends. I get it. But if you keep running around your backhand because you know it’s your worst shot, you will never get better at backhands. 

You have to practice them and do it in situations that matter, like during a game. You can drill all day, but if you don’t take what you’re learning during drilling and apply it during live games, then you’ll never develop the confidence necessary for when it matters most.

Give yourself permission to look silly. Those who don’t will be stuck at their current level forever.

Tips and Drills to Becoming a Dominant Dinker
Ready to become a dominant dinker? We’ve got tips and drills to improve this crucial part of your game with the help of pro and PicklePod co-host Zane Navratil.

You’re too hard on yourself

One of my favorite reasons to watch pro pickleball is to see that even they make bad shots, bad choices, and sometimes tumble while trying to defend a lob. 

It’s nice to know that even professionals aren’t perfect.

This game is harder than it seems, and we must be nicer to ourselves (and our partners). It’s fine to mess up, even if you've hit another easy putaway into the net.

Laugh it off and get ready for the next shot.

We all do it, and personally, I hope to stay fit enough to continue making mistakes on the pickleball court for many years to come.


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Jason Flamm

Jason Flamm

Jason is a writer from St. Louis. He’s been a coach in several sports and is currently working on his pickleball coaching certification. He loves to teach and share his passions.

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