One of the great things about pickleball is that it’s relatively easy to learn, which makes it an extremely inviting sport for new players. But much like chess, it’s easy to pick up but notoriously difficult to master!
Once you get a hang of the basics, you’ll find that pickleball has countless nuances that require attention if you want to be a proficient player.
As you’ve probably discovered by now, the pickleball community is a friendly and welcoming one! Unfortunately, that means that as a new player on the court you’ll likely be flooded with all kinds of tips and advice from other players.
Also Check Out: 18 Pickleball Tips For Beginners
Now, the good news is that each of these friendly folks probably means well and genuinely wants to help you improve your game. The bad news is that not all of the advice you’ll get will be accurate or useful.
With so much information out there it’s all too easy to develop bad habits that can slow your progress and stick with you even as you work to level up your game.
Keep in mind that these beginner pickleball mistakes are not unique to new players. Many intermediate pickleballers struggle with the very same issues. But once you learn to avoid these ten common pickleball mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to taking your pickleball game to the next level!
Here Are The Ten Top Pickleball Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
1. Rushing Through Serves
Pickleball gameplay is often fairly fast-paced with limited breaks, so when it’s time to serve many beginning players tend to rush through the process.
Listen up: rushing through your serves is sure to negatively affect your accuracy and efficiency. Without a relaxed and controlled serving routine, the placement of your serves will be much less consistent.
To avoid rushing, find a consistent routine and perform it before every one of your serves.
It doesn’t have to be anything specific, just something that allows your mind and body to slow down and reset. Some people tap paddles with their teammate, or bounce the ball a few times, or just take a deep breath before their serve.
Whatever routine you develop, just make sure to keep it consistent. Get into the habit by going through your routine even when practicing your serves.
A routine serving process will give you greater consistency, accuracy, and control.
2. Moving Up Immediately After Serving
This mistake is extremely common for newer players and plagues many intermediates as well.
After serving the ball, they immediately rush up toward the kitchen line. This is a big mistake.
While the instinct is good, the problem is that the opposing team can hit a deep shot on the return that can’t be played until it bounces (the “two-bounce rule”).
So a player who rushes to the kitchen line too early and gets a deep return smacked back at them will either instinctively hit the ball on a volley and concede the rally, or they will have to try and backtrack to get to the ball that’s flying past them.
Being in the right position for the third shot is essential to winning points!
To avoid this mistake, make sure to stay slightly behind the baseline when your team is serving and wait until after you’ve hit the third shot to start making your way up to the kitchen line.
3. Not Letting Shots Go Out
A lot of beginning and intermediate players make the mistake of swinging at balls that are on their way out of bounds.
We get it – pickleball is a blast to play, and it’s hard not to swing at everything you can! But if you’re really trying to improve your game, learning to let the right shots go will make a huge difference.
Every time you hit a ball that was on its way to land out of bounds, you give your opponent another chance to win the rally.
If a ball is flying at a good pace toward your head and shoulders area, chances are it’s going to land past the baseline. Avoid returning these shots and let them land out.
For shots that land close to the boundary lines, work with your teammate to call out whether you think it will be in or not. A quick “let it go!,” or “bounce it!” will let your partner know that you see something that they don’t.
If you’re behind the ball and can’t determine whether the ball will be in or out while it’s in the air, try to position yourself to return the shot off of the bounce; that way, if it is out, you win the rally, and if not, you’re ready for the return shot.
4. Standing In No Man’s Land
In pickleball, there are really two main spots on the court where you should be positioned most of the time: the baseline and the kitchen line. We call the area in between the no man’s land. There are scenarios that call for being positioned in no man’s land, but for the majority of the game you should be at one of the two main locations.
If you are standing in no man’s land, you make a lot of shot opportunities available to your opponents. They can easily hit the ball toward your feet, making it very tough to return, or they could hit a cross-court dink in front of you that will be difficult to get to.
When in the no man’s land area, most balls that you hit will be easier for your opponents to return – or even smash – back to you.
Get into the habit of playing the majority of your games at the two key positions. Stay at the baseline for as long as necessary, then rush up to the kitchen line as soon as you get an opportunity.
If you get up to the kitchen line and your opponent attempts to hit a lob over you, your best bet is to try to hit it out in the air. The other option is to run back and get behind it to return it off the bounce.
5. Playing A One-Dimensional Game
Whether it’s power shots, spins, or lobs, playing a game using just one type of shot is a common mistake for beginners.
First of all, playing a one-dimensional game will make it much easier for your opponents to predict what you are going to do. Ideally, you can learn to incorporate a variety of shots throughout a game to keep the opposing team on their toes and to maximize your scoring opportunities.
Second, as a beginner, this is your time to learn the game – use it to practice different shots and swings. If you devote yourself exclusively to one style of play, you’re likely to find yourself limited to that style even as you develop your skill and understanding of the game.
Try to learn and incorporate a variety of shots into your game, even as you take your first steps in playing pickleball.
6. Trying To Hit Smashes On Low Balls
Have you ever seen players fire the ball into the net from the kitchen line? Of course! We’ve all done it at some point.
It usually happens when the ball is at an awkward height around the player’s shoulders. They think that it’s high enough to smash the ball, when in reality a simple controlled volley would be best. So they reach their paddle up at an awkward angle only to smash the shot into the net.
The key is to learn where the ball should be on the court relative to your body for each type of shot. If you find yourself close to the net with a medium-height ball in the air, gently push your paddle in the direction you want the ball to go for a nice, controlled volley.
7. Not Keeping An Eye On The Ball
This may seem like a simple concept, but many beginner players struggle to stay focused on the ball.
After all, when learning pickleball, there’s quite a lot to take in.
We often see new players taking their eyes off the ball to look at their opponents and surroundings. This results in a lot of errors, mis-hits, and whiffs.
Fortunately, this is a pretty easy mistake to fix: simply work on watching the ball and its movement around the court, and when it comes time to swing stay focused on it as it comes toward you and look the ball into your paddle.
As you develop and level up your pickleball skills, you’ll be able to more easily observe your surroundings while remaining aware of where the ball is and where it is going.
8. Stepping Into The Kitchen
It’s easy to make mistakes regarding the kitchen when you’re first starting out in pickleball because it is very specific to the game and not really seen in similar sports. Understanding exactly when you can and can’t enter the kitchen can definitely be tricky for a lot of new players.
Following through too much on some shots and ending up stepping into the kitchen can cost beginning players a lot of points, so it’s important to learn exactly how the pickleball kitchen rules work when you first start playing. Thankfully, we have an article about just that so you can operate in and around the kitchen with confidence.
In order to avoid kitchen faults, be sure to read up about what you can and can’t do around the kitchen. Once you learn the rules, the best way to understand how they work in different game situations is by playing more games. As you progress, your feel for the kitchen will become more and more instinctive.
9. Poaching Shots From Your Teammate
In pickleball, the term “poaching” refers to stealing a shot that your teammate should have taken. Have you ever had your partner jump onto your side and go after a shot you were lining up to hit yourself? It can be frustrating, and sometimes it can even be dangerous!
In some contexts the term poaching is simply used to mean operating on your partner’s side of the court. For example, many advanced players have poaching strategies that they implement into their gameplay. So poaching isn’t always a bad thing, but for beginners and most intermediate players, poaching should usually be avoided unless agreed upon beforehand.
Poaching can be risky when done for no reason; it can leave a huge gap in the court where your team is defenseless for return shots. If you must poach a shot, make sure it’s a shot that can’t be easily returned, and take care not to collide with your teammate!
10. Not Communicating With Your Partner
Brand new players can get a bit of a pass on this one – it’s understandably hard for a new player to focus on calling out shots during a game while they are still trying to learn all the various mechanics of pickleball.
And it’s not limited to beginners; a lot of players struggle with this issue, even those at higher skill levels.
Communicating with your teammate so that you’re both aware of where the other is and who is getting each shot makes a massive difference in a game. If you don’t call out shots on the court, your team will definitely lose a lot of rallies to center-line shot miscues and confusion as to who will take it.
To avoid this, get into the habit of calling out loud when you are going to hit a center-line shot or if you’d prefer your teammate to get it. As described in Tip #3, a simple communication will do, such as “You!” or “Mine!”
It can also help your teammate a lot if you call out open parts of the opponent’s court so they can deliver targeted attacks while still focusing on the ball.
Getting a handle on the basics of pickleball can be fairly quick and easy, but becoming proficient at the sport takes time and patience.
With practice, dedication, and focus, you can avoid these ten common pickleball mistakes and be well ahead of the learning curve. After all, understanding your mistakes is the first step to fixing them.
Remember that you don’t have to be perfect, but if you’re always focused on improving – even just a little bit – each time you play, the sky’s the limit as you watch your pickleball technique soar.
Now get out there and have fun improving your pickleball game!