Pickleball Tips for Beginners to Get Started and Have Fun

Pickleball is a fantastic sport for people of all ages and fitness levels, and it’s easier to learn than you might think. With a few basic tips and some practice, you can be enjoying the game in no time. Don’t be intimidated by the pros. Pickleball is a social and welcoming sport, and there’s always someone willing to help you learn and have fun.

pickleball-tips-for-beginners

Getting Started

Choosing the Right Equipment

Selecting the right equipment is the first step to getting started with pickleball. The primary piece of equipment needed is the pickleball paddle. Paddles can be made of various materials such as wood, composite, or graphite. For beginners, starting with a less expensive paddle is often recommended to determine what suits your playing style before investing in a more specialized one. Here’s a simple table to help you decide:

MaterialAdvantagesDisadvantages
WoodDurable and affordableHeavier, less control, and power
CompositeBalanced, good control, and powerMid-range price, varying durability
GraphiteLightweight, excellent control, and powerMore expensive, less durable than composite and wood

Beyond the paddle, you’ll also need pickleball balls, which come in different varieties for indoor and outdoor play. Indoor balls usually have fewer holes and are lighter, whereas outdoor balls are more durable to withstand the elements. Experimenting with a few options can help you find your preferred type.

Additional practice equipment that can be useful includes ball machines, hoppers, and targets. These tools can significantly improve skills and consistency.

Understanding Basic Rules

Familiarizing yourself with the basic rules of pickleball will help you get started smoothly. Some of the essential rules include:

  1. Serve:
    • Must be hit with an underhand motion.
    • Contact the ball below the waist.
    • Arm moving in an upward arc.
    • Serve must clear the kitchen area and land in the diagonal service court.
  2. Serve Alternation:
    • Serves must be alternated between players in doubles play, or between sides in singles.
  3. Two-Bounce Rule:
    • The ball must bounce once on each side before players can volley (hit the ball in the air without letting it bounce).
  4. Non-Volley Zone (Kitchen):
    • Extends 7 feet from the net on both sides.
    • Players cannot volley while standing in this zone.
  5. Scoring:
    • Points are scored by winning a rally.
    • Games are typically played to 11 points, but you must win by 2.

By understanding these basics, you will be well-equipped to start playing and enjoying pickleball.

Mastering the Serve

Mastering the serve is one of the most critical skills in pickleball. The serve sets the tone for each point. Here are some essential tips:

  • Underhand Serve: Start by practicing the underhand serve. Stand with your knees slightly bent and hold the paddle in a firm grip.
  • Contact Placement: Contact the ball below your waist with a smooth upward swing. Aim to get the ball over the net and into the diagonal service box.
  • Foot Placement: Keep one foot behind the baseline at all times until after you contact the ball.
  • Serve Deep: Aim to serve deep into your opponent’s side of the court. Deep serves push your opponent back and make it harder for them to return effectively.

Invest time in practicing your serve, focusing on getting it consistent rather than powerful. A well-placed serve is more advantageous than a hard-to-control one.

Mastering the Return of Serve

Returning serves effectively helps keep you in the game and allows you to control the pace. Here are some tips for returning serves:

  • Positioning: Stand in a ready position with knees bent and paddle up.
  • Footwork: Move swiftly to position yourself to return the serve.
  • Hit and Follow Through: Hit the ball with a controlled stroke, aiming to place it deep into your opponent’s court. Ideally, aim for their backhand side to increase the difficulty of their return.
  • Loft the Return: Occasionally lofting the return can give you more time to get to the non-volley zone line, positioning yourself for the next shot.

Improving your return will not only keep you in more rallies but also put pressure back on your opponent.

On the Court

Footwork and Positioning

Proper footwork and court positioning are crucial in pickleball. Good footwork allows you to cover the court efficiently and react to your opponent’s shots.

  • Balanced Stance: Maintain a balanced stance with your knees slightly bent and your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Side-to-Side Movement: Move laterally with small, quick steps to maintain your balance and readiness to change direction.
  • Non-Volley Zone Line: Aim to position yourself about 12 inches behind the non-volley zone (kitchen) line. This place allows you to easily defend and attack during dinks and volleys.
  • Return Positioning: After returning a shot, always attempt to get back to a central position (parallel to the net), allowing you to cover the court more effectively.

The Dink Shot

The dink shot is a soft, controlled shot that lands just over the net in your opponent’s non-volley zone. It’s critical for controlling the pace and being aggressive without risking an easy shot for your opponent. Here’s how to execute a perfect dink:

  • Knees Bent: Bend your knees, using your legs to provide the power rather than your arms.
  • Short Swing: Use a short, compact swing with your paddle.
  • Contact Point: Make contact with the ball in front of your body, ensuring the paddle face is slightly open to lift the ball just over the net.
  • Maintain Control: Focus on control and placement rather than power. The lower and shorter you keep the ball, the harder it is for your opponent to counter.

Regular practice of the dink shot will help you master it and make it a formidable part of your game plan.

Basic Shots: Forehand, Backhand, Volley, and Lob

Understanding and mastering the basic shots in pickleball sets a strong foundation for your game. Here’s a breakdown of the key shots:

  • Forehand:
    • Swing: Use a smooth, upward swing.
    • Placement: Aim for control and accuracy rather than sheer power.
    • Position: The forehand is generally the stronger and more natural shot for most players.
  • Backhand:
    • Short Backswing: Use a shorter backswing for better control.
    • Consistency: Work on developing a consistent and reliable backhand shot.
  • Volley:
    • Quick Reflexes: Focus on quick hands and maintaining a low stance.
    • Position: Stay close to the non-volley zone line and be ready to react quickly to volleys.
  • Lob:
    • Defense and Offense: Use the lob to put your opponent on the defensive and create opportunities for attacking shots.
    • Placement: Aim for the back of the court to push your opponent back and open up space.

Playing Doubles: Communication and Strategy

Playing doubles in pickleball requires clear communication and effective strategy. Here are some key tips:

  • Communication: Establish clear verbal cues and hand signals. Regularly discuss shot plans and positioning with your partner.
  • Positioning: Stand side by side at the non-volley zone line. Adjust your position based on the ball’s location and your opponent’s movements.
  • Covering the Middle: Ensure you and your partner communicate and decide who takes shots down the middle.
  • Strategies: Utilize stacking to optimize player strengths. Anticipate opponent’s shots and switch positions if necessary.

Maintaining Good Sportsmanship

Maintaining good sportsmanship on the pickleball court is crucial for creating a positive and respectful playing environment. Some ways to demonstrate good sportsmanship include:

  • Fair Play: Always play by the rules and show fairness in your decisions.
  • Positive Attitude: Keep a positive outlook whether you’re winning or losing.
  • Compliment Opponents: Acknowledge good shots made by your opponents.
  • Calm Celebrations: Avoid excessive celebrations after scoring points.

By fostering a spirit of respect and camaraderie, you contribute to a more enjoyable and supportive pickleball community.

Advanced Tips

Keep the Pickleball Low

Keeping the ball low is one of the most effective strategies in pickleball. Low shots are harder for opponents to attack and allow you to control the pace of the game.

  • Low Trajectory: Focus on making controlled, low-trajectory shots to minimize your opponent’s ability to react.
  • Dinks and Drop Shots: Practice dinks and drop shots to keep the ball close to the net.
  • Knee Power: Utilize your legs by bending your knees and keeping the ball low over the net.

Play to Your Strengths and Your Opponents’ Weaknesses

To maximize your potential, play to your strengths while exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses.

  • Strengths: Identify your strong areas (e.g., forehand, backhand) and build your strategy around these.
  • Opponents’ Weaknesses: Observe your opponent’s weaknesses (e.g., poor backhand) and target these areas.

Be Patient

Patience is a virtue in pickleball. Instead of trying to win points quickly, focus on consistent play.

  • Controlled Shots: Aim for controlled and precise shots rather than powerful hits.
  • Rally: Engage in longer rallies, waiting for your opponent to make a mistake.

Move Your Feet and Bend Your Knees

Good footwork and knee bending are essential for efficient movement and shot execution.

  • Side-to-Side: Practice lateral footwork to improve movement.
  • Knees: Bend your knees to stay balanced and in an athletic stance.

Watch the Pickleball and Hit It Out in Front

Keeping your eye on the ball and making contact in front of your body ensures better control:

  • Eye on the Ball: Maintain focus on the ball at all times.
  • Contact Point: Aim to hit the ball in front of your body for optimal control.

Be in “Pickleball Ready” with Your Paddle Up

Staying in a ready position with your paddle up prepares you for quick responses:

  • Ready Stance: Stand with knees slightly bent and paddle up.
  • Quick Reactions: This position allows for quicker and more effective reactions.

Make a Decision on Shot Selection and Commit to It

Decisiveness is crucial on the pickleball court:

  • Decision Making: Quickly decide your shot selection.
  • Commitment: Commit fully to your chosen shot.

Let the Out Balls Go

Learning when to let balls that are out of play go:

  • Discipline: Develop the discipline to resist chasing every ball.
  • Position: Maintain your position and let unreachable balls go out.

Dink Crosscourt (Most of the Time)

Crosscourt dinking is an essential tactic:

  • Crosscourt: Aim dinks diagonally across the court.
  • Consistency: Consistent crosscourt dinks make it harder for opponents to return effectively.

Over the Pickleball Net, Between the Lines and Mostly Down the Middle

Strategic shot placement is key:

  • Down the Middle: Focus on shots mostly down the middle for optimal margin for error.
  • Target: Aim for the center areas to create confusion and miss-hits from your opponents.

By implementing these advanced tips and continuing practice, you can significantly improve your pickleball game and enjoy greater success on the court.

FAQs

Do I Need to Buy Expensive Equipment to Start Playing Pickleball?

No, you don’t need to buy expensive equipment to start playing pickleball. Beginners can start with more affordable paddles and balls. As you become more experienced and find your playing style, you can invest in specialized equipment. Here’s a cost comparison:

EquipmentLow-End PriceHigh-End Price
Paddle$10 – $40$60 – $200
Balls (Dozen)$10 – $20$30 – $50
Shoes$30 – $60$80 – $150

Opting for beginner-friendly equipment allows you to enjoy the game without a significant financial commitment.

What Is a “Volley” in Pickleball?

Volley in pickleball refers to hitting the ball in the air before it bounces on the court. Volleys are often used aggressively at the net to put pressure on opponents. Note that volleys cannot be executed within the non-volley zone (kitchen).

What Are Some of the Best Places to Find Pickleball Lessons for Beginners?

Various facilities and organizations offer beginner pickleball lessons:

  • Local Recreation Centers: Many recreation centers offer pickleball lessons and open play sessions.
  • Pickleball Clubs: Joining a local pickleball club can provide access to lessons and experienced players.
  • Community Centers: Community centers often have schedules for pickleball clinics and lessons.
  • Online Platforms: Websites like USA Pickleball and Meetup offer directories to find local pickleball lessons and events.

How Does Pickleball Differ from Tennis or Badminton for Beginners?

Pickleball shares some similarities with tennis and badminton but also has distinct differences:

AspectPickleballTennisBadminton
Court Size20×44 feet27×78 feet (singles); 36×78 feet (doubles)20×44 feet (singles); slightly larger for doubles
Paddle/RacketSolid paddleStrung racketStrung racket
Ball/ShuttlecockPlastic ball with holesFelt-covered rubber ballFeathered/cork shuttlecock
ServeUnderhand; below the waistOverhand or underhandUnderhand; below waist
Game PaceGenerally slowerFasterFast; focused on quick reflexes

Pickleball’s smaller court size, unique paddle, and underhand serve make it approachable and easy to learn for beginners compared to tennis or badminton.

Conclusion

Pickleball is a fun and rewarding sport that’s easy to learn and enjoy. By focusing on the basics, playing smart, and having a positive attitude, you can quickly improve your skills and have a great time on the court. Find a local pickleball court or group, grab a paddle, and get ready to enjoy the game! The pickleball community is welcoming and supportive, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and have fun as you learn.

Embrace the journey of learning pickleball, prioritize fun, and immerse yourself in the social aspects of the game. Joining clubs, participating in friendly matches, and continuously practicing will not only enhance your skills but also ensure you have a delightful and engaging experience. Whether you are playing for fitness, competition, or leisure, pickleball promises a world of enjoyment and camaraderie. Let this vibrant sport bring more excitement, fitness, and friendships into your life!