In this blog we’re gonna go over the top nine basic pickleball strategy mistakes we see out there on the courts as well as how to fix them.
Mistake #1 – “Wandering” Server
The first mistake that we see a lot of players making is something we like to call the wandering server or the drifting server.
What you’re going to see a lot of people do is that they’re going to get ready for their serve, they will hit their serve and then without really noticing it they’re going to drift into the court instead of staying back at the baseline.
The problem with that is if you hit that serve and then you’re drifting into the court the better players that you’re going to play are going to want to hit that return as deep as possible so that they can make a more difficult third shot for you.
So, if you hit that serve and you’re drifting into the court and your opponent hits it right at your feet you’re going to have to hit it while backing up and that’s not a good option for you.
What you should do instead of that is to hit that serve and maybe take a step or two back behind the baseline. This will cancel out all those balls right at your feet and then you can hit your third shot while moving forward.
Mistake #2 – Standing On Baseline When Waiting For Return
The second mistake that we see many players making is that they are standing right at the baseline when they are hitting their return.
The problem with this is that as you play against better players they’re going to hit closer and closer to that baseline and it’s going to be hard for you to hit that ball and advance to the non-volley zone line.
If you’re standing at the baseline and they’re hitting a foot or two from the baseline with a lot of pace you’re going to have to half volley that ball right after the bounce which is going to be a tough shot. Or, you’re going to have to back up and then hit that ball to create the right space so then your momentum is going backwards.
What you should have your momentum do is move you forward towards the non-volley zone to meet your partner up there.
It’s very important that you are off that baseline. Anywhere between two to five or more feet depending on how hard and how deep that server is serving.
This will really help you out and put you in a better position especially with your momentum moving forward to capture the net with your partner.
Mistake #3 – “Dead Dinks” That Have No Purpose & Don’t Press Your Opponent
Mistake number three is hitting dead dinks. This is basically just hitting really safe conservative high dinks with almost no spin and they’re very easy to attack.
Let’s say for example you’re hitting it right in the middle of the kitchen, right to your opponent. Because the dink is sitting up high and it doesn’t have a lot of spin or a lot of placement and you’re just hitting right in the middle of your opponent’s body they can pretty much do anything they want to with that ball.
Instead of hitting dead dinks you should place the ball to your opponent’s forehand or backhand and aim it more at their feet.
You should also change the depth up. Sometimes you should hit it short, closer to the net and closer to their non-volley zone line.
Also, add some spin and it’s going to be a lot harder for you opponent to attack those balls.
Mistake #4 – Too Easily Pushed Off NVZ Line & Don’t Get Back Up
The fourth mistake that we see a lot of players making is that they are too easily pushed off the non-volley zone line.
Usually they’re not aware of it and they are not holding their ground, making sure it’s a habit to stay up there. By doing this they’re putting themselves at more of a disadvantage as they they come off the line and they keep backing up.
The further you move back you’re gonna have more court exposed at your feet and it’s going to be harder to defend because your opponent is going to have more surface area to attack at down at your feet.
One thing that you can do to not let this happen is instead of letting these deep dinks bounce and backing up you want to take that ball out of the air as a volley, as a dink volley, and this way it will hold your position at the non-volley zone line.
If you do have to take a step back sometimes, make sure you come back right up to the line and put yourself in this neutral positioning so that you’re not way back off the non-volley zone line.
Mistake #5 – “Win From the Back” Mentality (a.k.a. Bangers)
The fifth mistake that we see lots of players make is having the mentality of playing back at the baseline and trying to win the game back there and not up at the non-volley zone.
A lot of players are not very comfortable of coming up to that non-volley zone but what you’ll notice as you play better and better players is that the team that dominates the net is going to win the game.
You don’t want to be playing from the baseline all the time.
You want to make sure that you are always making your way in and coming to the net so that you can be at an advantage as opposed to a disadvantage by playing from the baseline.
You really want to work on that third shot drop or just work on that transition to be comfortable with advancing to that non-volley zone line so that you can give you and your team an advantage.
Mistake #6 – Drive & Rush
Mistake number six kind of goes hand-in-hand with the fifth one.
The sixth mistake that we see many players making is called the drive in a rush.
We like to call it the driving rush because they serve and then that team returns it and they’re going for their third shot drive and they just run in without even looking at what that drive did.
Was it high? Was it low? Was it a good drive or a bad drive?
They just hit that drive and they come in and then they get caught while coming in because they paid no regard to how good or how effective that drive was.
Driving that ball as a third shot is not a bad idea but you should want to be mindful of what you’re going to do after that drive.
You don’t want to just come in on every single drive without stopping and being ready for the ball. You really want to be in control of the point even when you hit that third shot drive and see what it does so you can get ready for the next ball.
Mistake #7 – Being A Spectator On The Court
Mistake number seven is being a spectator on the court.
What we mean by that is after you or your partner hits that ball you’re kind of just seeing what’s going to happen with that ball instead of anticipating and getting into the correct position.
If you get pulled out wide or if you or your partner are getting pulled off the court and then there’s a gap in the middle or you know that there’s a good chance of your opponent’s hitting it away from you, you got to make sure you get back into position so that you can play that next ball.
Mistake #8 – Avoiding Your Backhand At All Costs
Mistake number eight is avoiding your backhand at all costs.
This can be either at the non-volley zone hitting dinks or even returning on the service.
Anytime that you are given a backhand you try to avoid it and run around it and hit your forehand.
Over the long period of time this is not going to be a good play for you because it’s going to keep you out of position and it’s really selling yourself short as your backhand is not going to be developed.
Mistake #9 – Playing With Small Margins (Target Too Close To Line)
Lastly we have mistake number nine which we see a lot of pickleball players do.
This mistake is where players hit with too small of a margin.
What this means is that no matter what shot they’re hitting, even if it’s a pretty good shot selection, they are hitting it really close to the sidelines or the baseline.
They’re going to be missing those balls wide and also deep and out past the baseline because they are not giving themselves enough cushion and enough margin.