8 Easy Ways To Improve Your Pickleball
1. Quality, Not Quantity
You can compare pickleball to going to the gym. If you walk on the treadmill at a steady pace for 4-6 hours a day, you will burn some good calories, but you will not get any fitter. You will most likely, with time, also get multiple overuse injuries from too much repetition. If you are playing pickleball regularly for four or more hours per day, then no doubt your practice is not focused or intense enough. I get it. Pickleball is like a tube of Pringles. Once you “pop,” you can’t stop! One more game leads to another, and another, and so on! Shortening and increasing the intensity of your practice will have faster and better results in the long run. Rather than just playing recreational points, have an objective within those points. For example, you could work on your drops and eliminate any drives during the current game.
Drilling is about adding the quality practice that we have already discussed. Improving technique takes hours and 1000s of repetitions to build muscle memory. Even though points play is more fun, it doesn’t allow you to get enough repetition of the same shots to improve your technique. Hiring a ball machine is a great way to get extra drilling time.
3. Play More Competitive Games
No doubt playing competitively and under pressure pushes your game up a level. You evaluate wins and losses in ways you wouldn’t if playing only for fun. Sometimes you need to put yourself out there to see what you're made of and highlight areas where you can focus on improving. It’s easy to get into a comfortable groove playing recreational pickleball. Try entering a local tournament and get yourself out of your comfort zone. This will match you up against players and styles of play you would otherwise never encounter.
Here are some helpful links if you are in the USA to get you started:
USA Pickleball: Sign Up here for a membership to enter tournaments.
Pickleball Tournaments: Sign up here for a free membership and to register for local and national tournaments.
DUPR: Sign Up here for free and download the app to get a rating.
4. Watch More Pickleball
There’s YouTube and an endless selection of social media sites where you can see clips of the world's best in action. It’s not only a way to take inspiration but also a way to learn both tactically and technically:
Tactically - Listen to what the commentators are saying. See if you can spot any patterns of play or tactics used by players.
Technically - Visual learning is one of the most important ways to improve. If you know how the shot and technique should look, then it is far easier to implement it than trying to imagine how it should be. Pick your favorite players and watch some videos of them in action.
Here's a link to the PPA Pickleball page on YouTube, where you can watch live as well as the full library of past tournament videos:
5. Fix A Bad Habit
There’s a chance you have developed some bad habits along your pickleball journey. You may even be acutely aware of them. Try fixing at least one of them; there's a reason they are labeled "bad." If you’re unsure of what's going on with your game, treat yourself to a lesson or two with a local professional coach who can give you some relevant pointers.
6. Use Shadow Swings
We’ve already talked about how important repetition is when building muscle memory. One of the best ways to do this is by using shadow swings. You can also then progress your shadow swings to a static ball using the TopspinPro.
Click below to head to our YouTube Coaching channel for some tips on using the TopspinPro and technique:
7. Keep Your Gear Up To Date
Paddle - We often purchase a paddle because of how it looks or because we are loyal to a brand. Test a large selection of paddles. It’s important to know what paddle style works for your game. We recommend testing different weights, sizes, shapes, thicknesses, and materials.
Grip - change your grip tape regularly (at least once weekly for overgrips if you play regularly).
Shoes - comfortable shoes are so important for speed around the court and protecting your feet. Blisters and ingrown toenails are common with pickleball players who have wrong-fitting shoes. Newer shoes will also give you the best support and protection, so replace them at least every six months.
Clothing - it’s surprising how many people struggle with their clothing on the court. Get clothing that fits right. You don't want to be holding your shorts up as you run for a ball. Weather plays an important factor in clothing choice too. Many injuries come from playing in cold weather without adequate protection. Compression leggings and tops are a great way to warm your muscles on cold days. And in warmer environments, ensure you're wearing a material that helps to keep you cool. Hat and sunglasses can also make a big difference.
8. Set Some Goals
It's crucial that your goals are realistic and that you set both short and long-term goals for your game. Knowing where you want to take your pickleball over the next few months and years can help you stay focused and structured with your practice. Your long-term goal might be to reach a specific rating or to get your first-ever gold medal. Some short-term goals to achieve that could be something like improving your volleys or return of serve. Whatever your goals are, write them down and then figure out your plan of action.
Some of these tips are easier than others to implement. If you are really pushed for time try some of the more simple ones like five minutes of shadow swings per day.
It's important not to overwhelm yourself with too much pressure otherwise, you will end up resenting your practice. Make your adjustments achievable and easy to form as a habit. For example, having a weekly lesson is something you are likely to look forward to more than booking a court by yourself to practice your serve.
It can also help to have an accountability buddy. I bet you will find several other players you know who are in the same boat and would love to set some time aside for improving their game. Whether a friend, family member, or coach, having someone else along for the journey will make you more likely to show up.
We love to hear your feedback here at TopspinPro, so let us know in the comments how you got on with any of these tips!
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