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8 Mistakes Beginner Pickleball Players Make

Pickleball No Man's Land | Play-PKL

There are some common mistakes that many beginner pickleball players make. Being aware of them is the first step in learning how to fix them. But be patient, it takes time to learn new skills.

1. Scooting up after the serve

The most common beginner mistake is scooting up a bit after serving. This is a problem because, if your opponent hits the return deep and you’ve scooted up, you’ll have to back up to return the shot, which means it will be weak (if you get it at all). And of course that return serve can’t be volleyed because of the double bounce rule. The trick is to not move past the baseline after you serve until after you’ve returned the shot. This is especially true if you’re playing against advanced players, because they are likely to hit their return serves deep.

This is also relevant when your partner serves. Don’t scoot up when they serve because it’s possible that you’ll be the one hitting it back.

2. Trying to be too fancy or hit low probability shots

The next mistake is getting too fancy with your shots. As a beginner, you want to focus on your technique more than anything. Getting too fancy too soon is where you can get into trouble with faults. Winning in pickleball is about consistency, persistence, and strategy, not as much about fancy shots and spins.

If you focus on just keeping the ball in play, most likely your opponent will eventually make a mistake. Many games are won just by waiting for your opponent to make the mistake, especially for recreational players.

3. Making kitchen faults

This one may seem obvious, but kitchen faults are also very common because the kitchen rule is unique to pickleball, and less intuitive. The basic rule is that you can’t be in the kitchen when you are initiating a volley or it’s considered a fault, but there are also some less known aspects of the kitchen rule:

  • You can’t volley a ball and then step into the kitchen from your momentum 
  • You can’t drop anything in the kitchen that you are wearing or carrying in your pocket (e.g., paddle, wallet, keys, or hats)

You shouldn’t be afraid to be in the kitchen: it’s the best way to return a dropshot. But you’ll want to step back out after you execute the shot in case the ball comes back at you so you don’t accidentally hit a volley while standing in the kitchen.

4. Not taking centerline shots as the forehand player

If you’re a beginner or new to racket sports, the forehand will be your dominant shot. In pickleball, whoever is the dominant forehand player should take shots that go up the middle. (Of course, this is assuming that both you and your partner are right-handed.) 

If you’re playing on the left side of the court, then you should take nearly every shot that goes up the middle as your dominant forehand, including smashes.

 

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5. Not letting shots go out

Learning to know which shots to hit definitely comes with experience. If a ball is coming hard at you at shoulder or head height while in the kitchen, you must let it go so you don’t make a fault. If you’re lucky, the ball will bounce out and you’ll get the point. But if you volley it while in the kitchen, you will definitely lose the point. 

Similarly, if you’re standing on the baseline or sideline and a ball comes at you in the air, don’t hit it on the fly…it is probably going to go out. These are some of the easiest point’s you'll make in the game.

6. Not getting to the kitchen line

Pickleball is primarily played at the kitchen line, so it’s important to get there as quickly as you can. Once the serve and return-serve have been executed, you should try to get to the kitchen line by the time the ball comes back. This is an important habit to learn to set yourself up to dominate the point. 

If a ball is coming at you while you’re running to the kitchen line, stop and focus on getting the ball back over. Running to the kitchen line while returning a ball at the same time will often lead to popping the ball up for your opponent to easily smash. You can get the rest of the way to the kitchen line after your shot.

7. Hitting the ball too hard

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as absolutely smashing the pickleball as hard as you can, but consistently hitting the ball hard is one of the biggest mistakes beginners make. There are two reasons why hitting hard is a bad idea: 

    • Power shots are, by their nature, unruly and unpredictable. While this can be an advantage, it’s also a disadvantage because it often ends up in the net.
    • Drive shots don’t work on advanced players, who know how to block them right into the kitchen and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Instead of trying to hit as hard as you can, you must focus on just returning the shot or dinking it over instead. There’s a time and a place for hitting hard, but it should be used sparingly and strategically.

8. Standing in No Man’s Land

You should only ever be standing at the kitchen line or the baseline. Always. If you are between the baseline or kitchen line, you are in No Man’s Land. This is a disadvantage because it is easier for your opponent to hit shots at your feet, which are hard to return without popping them up. 

No Man’s Land also makes you vulnerable to cross-court dinks, which will be out of reach. If you are at the kitchen line, you can take the cross-court dink as a volley, and if you are at the baseline, you can run up to hit it.

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Try one or two of these tips each week when you play and before long you’ll see some great results in your game.

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4 Responses

Play-PKL
Play-PKL

March 03, 2023

Hi Harvey,
I believe what you are asking is whether you can move your paddle to your other hand to hit the ball and the answer is yes. Additionally, balls hit by the paddle hand below the wrist while holding the paddle, are legal. However, if you hit the ball with the non-paddle hand, that is a fault.

Harvey
Harvey

March 01, 2023

Can you hit the ball with the other hand?

Heidi Block
Heidi Block

January 24, 2023

Yes, you are correct, though the officially rulebook prefers the latter. The first zero is the serving team’s score, the second zero is the receiving team’s score and the “Two” refers to second server. For the team that starts the game, only one player gets to serve so calling the server as “Two” instead of “One” reminds everyone that the service passes to the opposing team once there is a fault.

Harry
Harry

January 24, 2023

With the first serve of the game, I have heard players say zero, zero start and zero, zero 2. Are both correct?

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