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Pickleball Strategy

How to Get the Most Out of Playing Weaker Pickleball Opponents

by Jason Flamm on

We’ve all found ourselves in pickleball games where the competition wasn’t very good.

The games aren’t very challenging and you’re having a rough time keeping your focus. Even worse, if you get stuck playing too many of them, you might feel like your own game is suffering because of it. 

Instead of feeling like these games are a waste of time, we've got three ways to improve your game, even when playing against weaker opponents.

Don’t Go For the Kill

Strong pickleball players make you pay for mistakes. But one way to improve your game is by getting more touches throughout the game. How do you get more touches? Don’t go for the kill shot. Instead, focus on extending the rally as long as you can.

Franklin FS Tour paddle, Pickleball paddles

Yes, we know Maria left the ball up to your forehand six times now and it’s taking everything within you not to make her pay for it. That’s fine. Practice patience. Instead of busting her ankles with the next one, reset it in the middle and try to get into a dinking rally.

As long as you're not forming bad habits yourself, count how many shots each point goes to and try to make the next one go even longer. 

Eventually, you’ll go for the kill shot – just maybe not on the first chance you get.

Tell Them Your Weaknesses

Pro Jaume Martinez Vich mentioned this strategy on the PicklePod. He said that one way he likes to work on his game, especially against weaker opponents, is by telling them exactly where to hit the ball.

He wants them to exploit his weaknesses. 

It sounds crazy, but it’s actually genius.

If you want to improve against weaker opponents, you can simply tell them you struggle against lobs or with your backhand. Maybe you hate dink rallies. By letting them know these things, you’re giving them something to focus on (which, in turn, probably makes them better) and giving yourself plenty of practice where you are weak.

Hey, if it works for Jaume, there’s a great chance it’ll work for you.

Focus on One Shot or Technique to Improve

Unless it’s the only form of pickleball you play, wins and losses in rec play shouldn’t matter to you. If you’re a tournament player or someone trying to become more skilled, you can spend your time focusing on one particular shot or technique to improve during these games.

Similar to the above tip, this means you don’t go for the easy kill shot. Instead, you set yourself up so you can use that shot, situation, or technique over and over throughout the match. 

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For example, let's say you are working on the Ben Johns backhand roll. One way you can set yourself up for an attempt is to dink crosscourt repeatedly. If your opponents aren’t very good, there’s a great chance you will get a high ball in return. This is your chance to practice that shot.

You can also work on your transition game by forcing yourself to take 2-3 shots before getting to the kitchen line. Essentially, anything you want to improve at, you can find ways to do it during these less-than-stellar games. 

Next time you find yourself in this situation, select one of these options and see how it goes. And, remember, you were (and maybe even still are) the weakest player on the court at one point. 

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