In today’s blog we’re going to be talking about the three golden rules of winning pickleball strategy.
Golden Strategy Rule #1 – Have A Plan. Be Proactive, Not Reactive.
Golden strategy rule number one is to have a plan.
That may sound really simple but we see people going out there and not having much of a plan, or a very limited plan. This puts you in a very reactionary situation out there on the court.
Your opponents can impose their will on you and you’re basically employing the strategy of “I’m just going to see what happens and deal with it as it happens”.
That is a big mistake.
If you have an idea of how your opponents play then this is great to develop a strategy as to how to deal with them.
If you don’t, that’s fine. You can assess and see what they’re doing. Test out different shots on them and see what comes back and develop a plan as you go.
That often has to happen if you don’t know them and how they play.
But, basically, before you get out there to be playing a game, and definitely before some kind of structure competitive play like league or tournament, you want to have a plan – “if I get this shot i’m going to do that.. if I get this other shot i’m going to do this..”.
You want to decide who’s taking that middle ball when it comes after the serve and who’s going to drop that middle shot. It could be you or it could be your partner. Discuss and decide ahead of time.
When you’re both up at the non-volley zone line who’s going to be taking those middle dinks, the middle attacks, that could be floating through the middle of the court?
Those are things you’re going to want to have figured out ahead of time.
The other thing that goes along with having a plan is that you want to know and understand how you deal with every situation in more than one way.
If your opponent sends you a shot and they know you always send back “shot B” when you receive “shot A”, that’s not going to work out in your favor because then they can make a plan and they know what’s coming so you become too predictable.
You want to have at least two ways to deal with any type of shot that you’re going to receive on the pickleball court. That right there is a great tip – to organize your strategy between you and your partner on how you’re going to address the match.
Also, don’t be too reliant on what you’re doing. Yes, you want to have that squared away but you should also be paying attention to what comes back when you hit a certain type of shot. That way, you can plan for what you’re going to do to them when you know what’s coming.
Be alert out there.
There’s so much information that’s happening on every point. Take it in, assess, analyze and develop your plan so that you have a greater chance of coming away with the “W”.
Golden Strategy Rule #2 – Buy Time For You & Take Time From Them
Golden rule number two for playing strategic winning pickleball is always look for ways to buy time for yourself and to take away time from your opponent.
Let us give you some examples. A really good example is on the return.
You should be hitting that return and following it in. Now, if you drive the return, are you gonna have a lot of time to get to up to the non-volley zone line? No.
You’re probably going to be caught somewhere deeper than you would like, hitting your fourth shot.
A better idea is to maybe hit a slice or a little bit of a lofty return. As long as you get it deep you’re good since you’re going to be hitting that third shot from further back because of the two bounce rule.
Give yourself some extra time to make your way up to that advantageous position to meet your partner, two up at the net.
You might be somewhat back off the line by the time you’re hitting your fourth shot but you’ll be much closer than you otherwise would have been if you had hit that shot hard.
So, that’s a nice way for you to buy time to transition yourself from the baseline to the net on the return.
Anytime you’re looking to get up, find ways to buy time because you need time to make that transition. So, look for ways to do that.
Another example, is that when you’re the serving team, a third shot drop is a great option to come in behind because it’s slow which gives you time to come up and try to keep it unattackable so that you’re not going to be attacked once you get up there.
Slow is a great way to buy time.
Notice we’ve talked about it on the return and the drop but what’s another great time to do it?
When you’re being attacked and you don’t have a good counter attacking ball to hit straight or down on. If you’re getting that low contact you’re just generally not in the best position to be attacking them back.
Reset and buy yourself time to get up to that net. Or, if you have to dig out a few resets before you hit a really good one that gives you that time to move back up. Do it.
Buy yourself time with typically slower shots.
Now, how are we going to take time away from them?
A good example of this is aggressive dinking with deeper dinks.
If you’re pushing that dink towards their feet or slightly behind them, they now have to decide between taking it as a dink volley, a half volley (so right off the hop volley), or letting it bounce and coming up and stepping back.
So, they have to make a decision and be pressed with a deep dink as they’re doing it. That’s a really good way to get pop-ups or even outright misses.
Deep dinks is a good example of taking away time.
Anytime you can put some topspin on the shot, it hits and kicks towards them. Anytime you’re pressing them without necessarily attacking but you’re setting up the point so that you can build to an attack.
The way to set that attack up is to find ways to press them, take time away from them by either jamming them, stretching them, and hopefully they’ll make a small mistake at worst and a big one at best.
The small one could just be a ball that’s a little lifted that you can now attack.
When you’re pressing them and taking time away from them that’s a great way to stay in control of the point. When you’re in control of the point there’s a much higher probability that you’re going to come away with winning that point.
And, when you stack up enough of those over the course of a game you’re winning the game.
So, buy yourself time and be looking to press them and take time away from them.
Golden Strategy Rule #3 – Be Ready For The Drive…FIRST
Golden rule number three for winning pickleball strategy is to be ready for the drive first.
As far as the shots that can come back from your opponent, between a drive and a soft shot, what shot is most likely to do the most damage?
If your answer is the drive then you’re right.
If you get a soft shot you’re going to have time to deal with it so you need to position yourself in such a way that you are defending from the drive from your opponents first.
Every time you send a ball over to your opponent’s side, consider where they’re hitting from, where their contact point is and what the likely drive opportunities are for them, that they could hit, from one side of the court to the other.
Position your team in such a way that you get in the middle of those angles of opportunity for them.
That way, your side of the court is well defended and they’re going to have to hit a tremendously good drive with pinpoint accuracy to get it by you.
If you’re making them hit with such laser-like accuracy every time and they can do it, congratulations, they deserve to win.
Chances are they probably can’t.
You’re going to have a really good chance to do something with that next shot even if it’s hit pretty hard.
Between you and your partner you’re going to want to do everything you can in terms of positioning to minimize the gaps that are available to your opponent on your side of the court if they were to choose to hit a drive on that particular shot.
Get in the middle of that defend that as best you can and you’re going to be in really good shape.
If they end up hitting a dink or a drop or anything soft and it’s further away from you, that’s fine.You’re going to have time to run and get to it most of the time. But, it’s that drive that’s going to do damage so always be ready for that drive first.
Even when you’re in a dink battle and it doesn’t look like a drive might be coming right then, people are driving from lower shots, different shots, more difficult positions than we’ve seen in the past and it’s only going to continue to evolve that way in pickleball, we believe.
Therefore, always be ready for that speed up to come and be ready to defend it and if it’s not that great you’ll probably have time to deal with it.
Be ready and positioned for that drive first and that’s going to take you a long way strategically in the game of pickleball.
These are three great guiding golden rules of pickleball and how to apply winning strategy into your game.
This way you can take your game to that next level and be a feared opponent and get to play on those top courts.
If you amp up your strategy and become more of a complete player with a complete game that’s going to help you enjoy the game a whole lot more and likely also put more “W’s” on the board which of course is a lot of fun.