Want to become a better pickleball player? You have to be willing to expose your weaknesses rather than trying to hide them. To strengthen those weakness you need to repetitively practice them until they become strengths. Here are some of our favorite drills you can do on a weekly basis. We are sure that your game will improve by putting in the work. Playing games is a lot of fun, but try to exchange one or two game days each week for a drilling session and your game days will become more rewarding when your weaknesses are now strengths.
Dinking: having patience in dinking is important. You don’t want to “pull the trigger” too early and possibly lose a point, and you want to keep your dinks unattackable by your opponents.
Let’s play a game called “DINGLES”: 4 person drill. Everyone is at the kitchen line. 2 balls are used. Begin the game by dinking cross-court with your opponent. (see photo) This is the time to be patient, and try to keep the ball in play with few risks. Once one of the balls goes out of play (into the net or out of bounds), anybody can call out “DINGLES” letting everyone know there is only one ball left in play. At this time all 4 people are involved with the one ball remaining and the play can become more aggressive (you can hit the ball anywhere now) until the ball goes out of play. Since there are two balls, there is a possibility of 2 points per rally. Play to 11 points. (Pay attention to your footwork, based on what we learned in my past blogpost)
Volleys: Often players back up away from the kitchen line allowing the ball to bounce before they hit it. This is a very inefficient way to play because it requires a lot of moving back and forth leading to fatigue. It is better to keep your feet near the kitchen line and if a ball is coming at your body, take the ball out of the air using a volley. Players need to be able to differentiate when they should bounce a ball first or volley a ball (without reaching too much).
Figure-8 Volley Drill: With a partner across the net from you, practice hitting balls towards each other’s hips and get comfortable volleying the ball back and forth. See how many you can get in a row. (Keep in mind, if the ball is out of reach, it is ok to bounce the ball first to avoid stepping into the kitchen during a volley). Once comfortable with this, try to volley back and forth to each other in a figure-8 formation. Person A volleys to Person B’s opposite hip. Person B volleys to Person A’s straight-across hip. This will then make a figure-8 formation. Take turns with one person crossing and one person going straight, and then switch. How many in a row can you do?
No-Man’s Land: This is not an ideal place to play from as
it exposes your feet, especially if your opponents are already at the net (the
most advantageous place to be in PB). However, if we fear no-man’s land we can
risk losing many points. Either we fear moving forward, and stay near the
baseline too long, putting us at a disadvantage. Or we rush to the net to avoid
no-man’s land, and allow many balls to go down our line.
It is important to get comfortable split-stepping your way towards the kitchen. If you make a very effective offensive 3rd shot drop, a player might move in towards the kitchen line a bit quicker. However, if the 3rd shot isn’t ideal, a player can use their 5th, 7th, 9th, etc. shots to make their way to the kitchen. Try not to hit attackable shots since your feet will be exposed. Practice taking pace off the ball and landing it in your opponent’s kitchen, allowing you to get to the kitchen line sooner.
With a partner, one person will stand at the kitchen line and the other will stand in the center of no-man’s land. The person at the kitchen will try to feed balls towards the other person’s hips. This player in no-man’s land will attempt to take pace off the ball and land it into the kitchen. If the ball being received is short, they may move forward and bounce the ball before hitting it, otherwise, practice volleying the ball. DO NOT step back in order to bounce the ball. Play to 5 points against eachother. Keep in mind, that the person at the kitchen line will likely win most of the rallies.
Baseline: Pickleball is not a game played at the baseline. It may start there, but players have a strong advantage being at the kitchen line. The 3rd shot allows a player to safely get from the baseline to the kitchen line. A player could drive, drop, or even lob a 3rd shot. It is VERY effective to attempt a Third Shot Drop to take pace off the ball, making your ball unattackable, allowing you to get to the kitchen sooner. Mastering the third shot drop takes time and patience. Keep in mind that it is always better to get a ball over the net, than into the net. (Imagine that!!!)............so while getting a great low third shot drop is ideal, if your 3rd shot is a bit too high, you can still use your 5th, 7th, 9th, etc. shots until you get a successful one. Just DON’T HIT IT INTO THE NET!Zero to 60!!!!
Play this game with a partner either straight across from eachother or even cross-court from eachother. Person A will be at the baseline and will attempt to get as many balls over the net as they can in a row. Each ball over the net counts as 1 point. They keep going until they hit the ball out of bounds or into the net. Person B will be at the kitchen line and will try to keep person A back. They will try to hit defensive shots preventing person A from getting any points. However, they must be careful that in their attempts to challenge person A, that they do not hit a ball into the net or out of bounds themselves. If they do this, then person A gets 2 points for that ball over the net, rather than just 1. Person A gets to continue accumulating points. Once Person A misses a ball over the net (or out of bounds), now it is time to switch. Player A now is at the kitchen line and Player B is now at the baseline accumulating points. Continue to keep track of your points as you accumulate them. The first person to 60 wins!!!