Common Pickleball Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Pickleball, a rapidly growing sport all around the world, is becoming a more common pastime. Given that it is relatively easy to learn, it’s a great new sport for anyone looking to maintain (or start) an active lifestyle. Of course, like anything new, there is a small learning curve as you play your first games.

By familiarizing yourself with some of the common mistakes in pickleball, you’ll have a leg up on your opponents. Then, once you’ve mastered the basics, you can move on to more advanced skills. But when getting started: remember to pay attention to your stance, footwork, and positioning the next time you find yourself on the court.

In this post, we’ll cover some of the most common mistakes new players might make.

Weak Serving

Pickleball tennis racket
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Mike Orlov

Starting a rally with a weak serving is a recipe for disaster. In pickleball, you can only score points when you serve, so a good offense is your best defense.

Treat your paddle as an extension of your arm, and focus on the entire limb as you swing. Keep in mind that the swing doesn’t end when the ball touches the paddle. Go for a full-range motion for the best control of the ball. That is, if you want to deliver a powerful and accurate shot.

Staying Behind The Baseline Too Long…

Pickle Ball players in Brooklyn Bridge Park in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York
Image Credit: Shutterstock / rblfmr

Remember, the ball has to bounce two times, once on each side of the net, after a serve initiates a rally. After the third shot, you should immediately move into the service area and close in on the kitchen line.

If you find yourself still standing behind the baseline after the two-bounce rule ends, your opponent will likely surprise you with a short ball. Gain the upper hand by moving swiftly enough for a volley counterattack.

Or Not Staying Long Enough

Four pickleball players rally against each other with two at the net ready to return a drive on a dedicated court
Image Credit: Shutterstock / pics721

What is this guy talking about, right? This may sound self-contradicting, but leaving the baseline too soon is just as dangerous as staying behind it too long. It’s all about timing.

After serving – as the two-bounce rule is still in effect – players sometimes scoot up and close the gap between themselves and the baseline. In this case, an experienced opponent would grab the opportunity to catch them off balance by sending a deep ball and forcing the server to backpedal to return the ball. To avoid this common mistake, stay well behind the baseline after you serve.

Poor Stance

A female pickleball player returns a volley of a bright yellow ball at the net on a dedicated court at a public park
Image Credit: Shutterstock / pics721

Don’t just stand there like a beanstalk in the wind. Mastering the ‘ready’ position is crucial if you don’t want to be called a pickleball beginner.

Bend your knees slightly. Ensure both feet are on the ground and about shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Shift your weight towards the balls of your feet rather than the heels for a faster response time. Hold the paddle firmly in front of your body at the waist level. You’re now ready to challenge the ball head-on!

Using Too Much Power

A senior competes in a pickleball tournament
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ron Alvey

We know you want to show off your bulging biceps, but this isn’t the time or place. Pickleball is all about strategy and technique. Relying on too much power can damage your accuracy. It can not only make you predictable but also result in unnecessary faults.

Aim for the golden balance of power and precision to tip the scales in your favor. Know when to put more power into your shots and when to scale down for a more accurate shot.

Volleying in the Kitchen

A senior doubles team competes in a pickleball tournament
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ron Alvey

Volleying in the kitchen is common among beginners, especially those transitioning from tennis to pickleball. While volleying in the non-volley zone is never permitted, you can enter the zone as you please.

When a ball lands in the kitchen, don’t panic. Try to return a soft shot just above the net that will force your opponent into the kitchen and take away their right to volley the ball.

Poor Communication

Two smiling pickleball players prepare for action on a suburban pickleball court during summer
Image Credit: Shutterstock / pics721

If you’re playing 1-on-1, don’t worry. We’re not asking you to have extensive monologues to enjoy the game. But when you’re playing in doubles, you and your teammate should communicate your plans. Are you moving left? Is she moving right? Who’s going to get that ball in the middle? Lack of communication with your partner will leave you fumbling around the court.

Keep talking to your teammates about your plans. You can even create secret codes that only the two of you will understand!

Staying in No Man’s Land

A female pickleball player returns a high volley at the net as her opponents prepare to return the ball on a dedicated court at a public park
Image Credit: Shutterstock / pics721

The ‘no man’s land’ refers to the court area between the baseline and the kitchen line. Most of the time, you should be standing right behind the kitchen line or the baseline. Getting stuck in no man’s land is a far too common mistake that both beginners and intermediates make.

When you’re in no man’s land, a smart opponent will aim at your feet, making you tumble back and forth without allowing you to close in on the kitchen line and start volleying the ball. Another reason you should avoid this zone like a plague is that returning cross-court dinks is nearly impossible if your opponent knows what they’re doing.

Not Practicing Different Shots

Happy blonde boy playing pickleball game, hitting pickleball yellow ball with paddle, outdoor sport leisure kids activity
Image Credit: Shutterstock / NGrey

Every skillful player should master all kinds of shots to surprise the other party. If you’re already skilled at dinks, practice drop shots and lobs over the opponent’s non-dominant shoulder.

Speaking of shots, practice both forehand and backhand shots equally. You’ll need them all in the games to come.

Improper Footwork

A man hits a pickleball
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Ron Alvey

Remember how we talked about correcting your stance? Fixing your footwork is just as important if you wish to improve. Like in tennis, you should avoid being entirely still in pickleball. Keep on moving and count on fast, small steps to get you across the court rather than on big leaps.

Engage your legs and avoid leading with your upper body. Once you get to the ball efficiently, you should be prepared to answer the next shot. This will only work if you’re quick on your toes and keep moving.

Author: Zan Kokalj


Zan Kokalj is a veteran content writer, copywriter, and author inspired by the impact of ink on paper.

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