We all know that the key to improvement in anything you do is practice, practice, practice. It’s no different in pickleball. We all want to get better, yet how many of us actually take time to practice?
- Practice our serving.
- Practice our service returns.
- Practice our third shots.
- Practice our dinking
- Practice anything!
Look around where you are playing. Is there a court set up for players to do just drills? If so, is anyone using it? When the courts aren’t being used for organized play, do you see people using them for practice? Likely, not. Most of us just want to play, play, play!
So how do we get better?
One way is to think of the first few games you play each session as your “practice games.” Take the time in your warm up games to identify something specific you want to work on, and look for those opportunities as you play.
For example, maybe you want to work on hitting your serve to a specific target, such as your opponent’s backhand. Make an effort to do so with every serve you make in the game. Or maybe, you want to work on hitting your service returns deep to the back of your opponents court. These are just two things you can work on while actively playing a game.
When you’re playing where courts are not sorted by skill you can still find opportunities to work on your game.
If you’re playing against someone higher skilled, work on shots that you can control, such as those that start each rally; serve, service return, and third shot drop shot. Choose and practice hitting a target on your serves. Hit your service return deep with a little arc to keep your opponent back, then move to the kitchen line. Practice hitting your third shots soft and into the kitchen. If you miss hit a shot, don’t fret. Forget about winning or losing the game. Just concentrate on making the right shot choices.
If you are playing against weaker players, don’t hit every shot to the weakest one. Save that for tournaments! You’re not helping your game or your opponent’s game by overpowering them or taking advantage of their weakness. You could even ask a weaker opponent if there is something they would like to work on. This is a great opportunity to help someone get better and for you to work on keeping the pace slow. Continue to practice your serves, service returns and third shot drop shots.
Soon you will find you are doing these things without thinking. Your shots will be stronger and your rallies will last longer.
So, take advantage of the opportunity to learn and get better, no matter the level of your opponent. You may not win every game, but winning really isn’t that important if you’re not in a tournament!
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