I recently reached out to a number of Pickleball Coaching International members to find out an answer to the question:
What is your best tip for first-time players?
I collected some great responses to the question and have included them in full below:
One thing I do see is they try and hit the ball as hard as they can all the time. I think a new player should take their time to make a good swing instead of just hitting the ball as hard as they can. This will build confidence quicker and their skill level will progress.
Interesting question because first time players come to the court with such varying skill sets. From tennis to badminton, from ping pong to racquetball, from squash to any other sport that requires hand eye coordination. From sports that have touch integrated into strategy to just power players. By answering some of these questions with first time players you easily can find a direction to take that will mark their first approach to pickleball. If I were to have a general tip for “any” first time player it would be to understand and develop the soft game. Learning to use a hard surface of the paddle and the hard surface of the ball and be soft…dink, dink, and more dinks. Where most of the game is played at the net, it is probably the most important part of the game to master.
My advice for the first time pickleball player is to focus on the pure joy of the game. Be kind to yourself — think positively about how you’re stepping out into something exciting and new. When you are thinking positively rather than letting yourself become stressed by negative emotions, you can control what information makes it into your “thinking brain” rather than your “reactive brain.” And because of this, the next time you play, you’ll be able recall the fun of holding a paddle and hitting a quirky little plastic ball across a net. This will keep you coming back for more!
My best tip for first time players is to relax and not worry too much about all the rules, how to keep score, third shot drops, etc. It’s far better to just get a feel for hitting the ball and have fun your first time on the courts.
Looking to improve your game?
Check out this excellent pickleball video training course from High Performance Pickleball Academy. (Affiliate link) They break down the game into 8 key skills and instruct you on how to master them.
As a person who has lead a variety of skill-level drills for over 2 years at our club of 280 people, I have more of a tip for people who take beginners out on the court the first several times. Forget the rules and all the advice. Just LET THEM HIT THE BALL BACK AND FORTH OVER THE NET! Let the novices focus on “just hitting the ball”. A great drill is to have 4 on a court and COUNT how many successful hits go over the net and stay in play.
Now back to your original question: Coaches always say “watch the ball” – well there’s more to it that. You watch the ball HIT YOUR PADDLE. If this doesn’t resonate with someone, then novices (and even advanced players) should focus on the HOLES IN THE BALL. Watch the holes in the ball as the ball makes contact with your paddle. That’s my tip.
The 10 Laws (Commandments) of Pickleball (by PCI Coach, Ian Hutchinson – PickleballCoachingAustralia.com.au )
- The Law of Unforced Errors States that 75% of points are won through opponents mistakes Mantra: Allow them to beat themselves
- The Law of split stepping and ready position States it’s better to stop and split step too early than too late with the paddle up and set in the ready position. Mantra: Always be ‘split steps ready’ before they contact the ball
- Control is more important that Power States, you typically only need to hit the ball at 70% maximum power, as placement is the priority over power as well as creating a higher percentage game. Mantra: Control defeats Power
- The Law of Controlling the NVL States that 80% of points are won from the NVL Mantra: Own the wall
- The Law of keeping your opponents back and on the defence States that keeping then deep as long as possible stops them winning the 80% of points won from the NVL Mantra: Own the NVL by keeping them back
- The Law of play defence and the winners will look after themselves States, play defence (85% of the time) as your default and offense will become obvious and therefore look after itself. So be highly discerning going for winners (and if only 80% sure of the put away) because if first attack shot doesn’t win point, then you only have a 30% chance of winning the rally. Mantra: Defence first and the winners will look after themselves
- The Law of Patience & Percentage Play States, that if unforced errors make up 75% of points won (Law #1), then just keeping the ball in play one more time than them is a key. So letting opponents defeat themselves through % play is smart strategically. Mantra: Just one more shot (> 5 shots) lets opponents’ impatience defeat themselves.
- The Law of Drilling > Playing States, that the best players drill 80% and only play 20% of the time. Mantra: Practice doesn’t make perfect. But perfect focussed practice does make progress
- The Law of Longevity States, that warm-ups & stretching improves agility, movement for performance as well as recovery & injury reduction for longer term uninterrupted time on the court. Therefore longevity supports on-going performance improvement. Mantra: Play the smarter long game through daily maintenance
- The Law of Playing Yourself Mentally States, that your attitude and perspective is the starting foundation to everything – your practice, sportsmanship/community spirit, gamesmanship, mental resets and overall fun, enjoyment and well-being. Mantra: Cultivate a positive attitude of gratitude.
My advice to first time players is – practice: you can’t LEARN during a game. Take what you learn from your clinic or lessons and practice! – persistence: keep at it. The more you practice, the more you’ll improve – patience: everyone has a different timetable for results. If you adhere to the other two, you’ll up your game before you know it!
Watch the ball, laugh and have FUN!!https://lutzpickleball.com/
Take a lesson as soon as you can from a reputable coach to establish good form/technique/mechanics. The worst thing you can do is just go out and play and develop bad habits and then try to break them later on after they’ve been engrained in your game. Please remember though, you get what you pay for when it comes to lessons…Instagram
Invest in a local pickleball camp to help teach you the game. This is a really wonderful way to meet new people of your similar skill level, and you can continue playing with them once the camp is over. My best tip when it comes to the sport is to learn and practice the third shot drop as soon as possible. In my humble opinion, it’s the shot that holds many players back from advancing to the next level. My partner and I begin teaching this at beginner level. Learning a new sport like pickleball can be overwhelming. Be ok with your mistakes, be ok learning new things, and be ok telling people you’re new!! Stick with it though, and you will find yourself immersed in a community like no other!Email
Relax and BreathePhoenixPickleball.com
The best advice I can give to people in any sport is the importance to have a warm up routine before you engage in your activity and a cool down routine afterwards. Our muscles, joints and bones need to be prepared in order to perform at a peak level and avoid injury. If you do get injured, listen to your body, get medical advice and take the proper time sufficient to heal. Cross training can also help strengthen our bodies. Hope this helps. Good luck with your future endeavours.
Thank you to everyone who contributed. Be sure to check them all out!
This is part of a 3 part series of articles, check out the other two:
- 11 of the Most Common Mistakes PCI Coaches See New Pickleball Players Make
- 14 Tips: How Beginners Can Improve Their Pickleball Game – From Pro Pickleball Coaches
And while you’re at it, why not continue to learn by reading another of my articles:
- How to Keep the Ball Low In Pickleball
- What Is The Double Bounce Rule In Pickleball?
- The Definitive Glossary of Pickleball Terms and Definitions
- Best Pickleball Clothing – What to wear on the court
And if you have any additional advice for new players you’d like to see on the list, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.