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Five Reasons You're Not as Good at Pickleball as You Think You Are

by Jason Flamm on

Pickleball players are notoriously awful at rating themselves. In fact, if you asked most, they would tell you they're somewhere in the 4.0+ range.

Yet, when we recently published "Which States Have the Best Pickleball Players?" only two states according to DUPR had an average above 4.0 (Oregon and Utah).

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That means each of the other 48 states have an average below 4.0.

Basically, there are a lot of pickleball players out there lying to themselves. This is for you.

Reason No. 5 – You only play games

We talk about this a lot, but we'll say it again:

If you want to get better at pickleball – like actually get better – then you need to drill. Playing games is important, and you will improve. But the number of touches you get for each particular shot and situation in a game is nothing compared to the number you could get when drilling.

Next time you play a game, count the number of third-shot opportunities you get. You might get 10-15 in a 20-minute game, and that's if the other team targets you.

You can get 10-15 times that number in 20 minutes of drilling.

If you want to learn a new shot or improve your technique, you must get those reps in. The best way to do this is to drill. When you don't get the reps in, it's easy to revert to how you've always done things.

And if you do things the same way all the time, you're not getting better, period.

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Reason No. 4 - You play the same people

If you only ever play the same group of people (or the same core group), then there's an argument one could make that you will not get better at pickleball; you'll simply get better at beating those people.

Think about it. When you repeatedly play the same person or duo, you'll learn how they like to play. We all know that person who drives every single shot. We also all know the person who speeds up every chance they get.

When you know what's coming, it's easier to win.

To improve at pickleball, you must mix up who you play with.

If you can't do that in rec, consider participating in tournaments. Tournaments are a great way to test your skills because you'll be playing against people you normally don't get to play with, and everyone is playing to win.

Reason No. 3 - You don't make enough mistakes

The third reason you aren't as good at pickleball as you think is that you don't allow yourself to make enough mistakes when playing.

Perhaps that sounds counterintuitive, but if you aren't pushing yourself or trying new things, you aren't learning. To improve, you have to learn.

You must allow yourself to mess up every once in a while.

Step outside your comfort zone and see how far you can push yourself or your shot selection. If you've never Erne'd in your life, try it out. If you don't know how to do an ATP, give it a shot when pulled out wide.

Are you going to miss it? Yes. But you'll be better for it because you'll learn what you did wrong.

Reason No. 2 - You judge yourself by your best shot

We all have one or two shots we know we can make under pressure. We might even be the strongest in our pickleball group at that shot. But, if you are judging your entire game based on one or two shots, then you are lying to yourself about how good you are.

It is possible to be a 3.5-rated pickleball player with a 4.5-rated backhand. That same player, though, can also have a 3.1-rated forehand dink.

We rate the player, not the shot. If you truly want to know your rating, consider your worst shot instead of your best one.

As you go up in levels and play stronger players, you better believe they'll find your worst shot and use it against you repeatedly. So, if you truly want to become a stronger player, you need to find your worst shot and improve it.

Your best shot will still be there when you do.

Reason No. 1 - Your only consistency is your inconsistency

And the No. 1 reason you aren't as good at pickleball as you think is because your pickleball game's only consistency is your inconsistency.

We all have good days and bad days – that's human nature.

But if you are considerably worse on your bad day than on your good day, you lack strong fundamentals and technique.

If you ever have a day where you're wondering what's wrong with your game, then consider that either a) your swings are too big, b) your footwork is inconsistent, c) your timing is off, and/or d) your drives lack control.

Once you figure out which of those it might be, pat yourself on the back. Now you're on the path to becoming better at pickleball.

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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