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Focus on Your Strengths Not Your Weaknesses

by Jason Flamm on

Athletes (in any sport) have a tendency to focus heavily on what they’re bad at. They practice and practice and drill repeatedly, hoping to find solutions to wonky mechanics or weak forms.

While it's important to work on our weaknesses, I've noticed a trend among pickleball players (or maybe it’s just me) to dwell too much on our shortcomings and not enough on our strengths. 

Today, I want to make a case for flipping that around. Instead of your weaknesses, I implore you to find and maximize your strengths in pickleball.

Ben Johns agrees with me

Okay, maybe the greatest pickleball player in the world isn’t exactly agreeing with me, per se, but there is this video of him saying exactly this.

5.0 to pro - emphasize your strengths 💪 #pickleball #athlete #sports #explore #shorts

Previous sports have a big influence on pickleball skills

Very few of us grew up playing pickleball – though that will change over the next decade as more and more kids get involved. Instead, many of us are transplants from other sports. While some of those sports translate well to pickleball (like tennis or badminton), others like baseball or football don’t. 

Whatever sports we played as kids or young adults will greatly influence the way we move, how we swing our paddles, and our overall flexibility. 

For example, I have a background in baseball and softball. I’ve played both my entire life. As a right-handed batter, I notice that I rotate much better to my left than I do to my right. 

Therefore, my backhand is much stronger than my forehand. For some reason, I just don’t even consider rotating to my right and I often get handcuffed when trying to use my forehand in a hands battle. 

Of course, I could drill and drill and drill my forehand, but after playing baseball and softball for 30 years and pickleball for just two, it may never be a strong shot for me.

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Perhaps instead of focusing so much on improving my forehand, I should just focus on making it adequate. It might be more beneficial to find ways to use my backhand more.

How to build your strengths

A perfect example of using your strengths and avoiding your weaknesses can be seen even at the pro level with Jack Sock. Jack has had an elite tennis career and is finding success on the pickleball court by literally running around his backhand to utilize his amazing forehand as much as possible. 

Jack Sock already has the best forehand in pickleball
Jack Sock’s forehand is scary good. It’s so good he runs around the ball instead of hitting a backhand whenever possible. Getting out of position might not b…

This shot even has a nickname. It’s called the “fearhand,” and it’s a weapon that very few possess. 

So, how can you take a page from Jack Sock’s book and use your strengths to your advantage?

First, find what you’re best at

You may already know this from playing, but if you’re not sure, ask your pickleball friends to help you. It could be your backhand, forehand, or even something like your patience that gives your opponent fits.

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Second, think about how it applies situationally

Once you know your strength, consider what situations allow you to use it even more. For example, if you’re really good at dinking and staying patient until your opponent makes a mistake, then you should focus more on drop shots and forcing your opponents into the soft game.

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Sure, it’s fun to speed up the ball and hit winners, but if that’s not your strength, just keep focusing on making the ball bounce in front of your opponents.

Last, build your game from your strength out

Skills compound. This means that, typically, when you improve one area of your game, you’re also improving adjacent areas of your game. 

For example, If you have a strong forehand drive, then you might naturally become great at speedups, serves, and returns, too.

But, if you only ever focus on where you’re weakest and spend time drilling those then you might miss out on what sets you apart from other players.

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Your challenge, should you choose to accept it

Today, I challenge you to find your pickleball strengths. Don’t be humble or say something silly like, “I don’t have any.” We all have something that we feel most comfortable with on the pickleball court. Maybe it’s not a shot, but how you see the game. Maybe it’s your movement. Perhaps you love to lob—even though everyone else hates you for it.

It doesn’t matter what it is, only that you are honest with yourself about it.

Once you find it, think about how you can put yourself in more situations to use it. What adjacent skills could you build off of it? Work on those, too.

Once you do these things, find a pickleball partner who complements your strengths with their own. You’ll soon become unstoppable and have even more fun playing the greatest sport in the world.


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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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