The sport of pickleball is not all about winning. With that said, pickleball is a game, and sometimes, pickleball is played to be competitive and for there to be a winner and a loser—for instance, in any pickleball tournament.
This pickleball blog will break down 7 tips if you are playing pickleball to win.
1. Find the Right Partner
If you are playing doubles pickleball (which is more common than singles pickleball), you must, first and foremost, find the right partner for you. Finding the right pickleball partner can be extremely difficult, as you typically want to find someone that is a strong player at your skill level. But, sometimes, the best player on paper is not always the best partner for you in reality. You need to find someone that jives with your style of play on the court (for instance, if you like to slow the ball down (or speed it up), does your partner have complementary skills that elevate your play?). You want the team dynamic to have some synergies and be greater than the sum of parts.
You also want to jive from a personality and emotional perspective. For instance, do you play best when you are fired up, but your partner is very introverted and does not give you the “COME ON!” that you need? Although this can sound silly, this is a factor in your on-court success in competitive play.
So, first and foremost, find the right partner that elevates both your physical game and your mental focus on the pickleball court.
2. Get Mentally in the Right Space
Believe it or not, your mental approach to the sport of pickleball may be even more important than your physical approach by the time you are ready to play competitive pickleball. To get into the right mental space, establish a routine both before you play, as well as during play. For instance, what does your warm-up look like? What does your pre-serve routine look like? Having consistent routines can help you establish your focus and attention for competitive play, can reduce anxiety (which many pickleball players feel when they step on the court for competitive play), helps eliminate distractions (for instance, thinking of emails or things you forgot on your grocery list), and can improve confidence—which is crucial to success.
3. Make Your Opponents Play
The sport of pickleball is not too complicated when you break it down—you need to get the pickleball back over the net and within the lines of the pickleball court just one more time than your opponents. With that said, it is important to make your opponents play. Make your opponents hit one more pickleball.
When playing competitive pickleball, it is imperative to reduce your unforced errors. You need to force your opponents to hit quality shots and win the point, rather than making errors and giving away easy points to your opponents. To do this, consider keeping it simple and playing high percentage pickleball. Although shots like the ATP or Erne are part of the game, don’t force those moments by being overly flashy or fancy. Those moments will come. Rather, keep it simple, play high percentage pickleball, and make your opponents play.
4. Strategize, But Quickly
When it comes to competitive pickleball—in other words, playing to win—the winner is oftentimes the team/player that can figure out the other team/player first. In other words, the first team/player to identify the other team/player’s weaknesses, and then execute and exploit them.
So, to win on the pickleball court, it is imperative to not only strategize, but strategize quickly. To do this, watch your opponents earlier in the day, if possible. If not possible, watch your opponents during warm-ups to get some insights into their style of play, strengths, and weaknesses. If all else fails, play to your strengths to start a pickleball match and/or attack the middle of the pickleball court. Then, tweak your strategy from there as you start to identify weaknesses or patterns of play. Target your opponents’ weaknesses and remember to mix up your shots to remain unpredictable (while remaining true to your strategy).
Lastly, beware of the trap of not constantly evaluating your strategy on the pickleball court. Oftentimes, pickleball players will identify a strategy and then, when their opponents adjust their strategy, fail to counter or fail to respond to the opponents’ new strategy. It is important to constantly be thinking and evolving during a pickleball match—from game to game, point to point, and even shot to shot.
5. Make Your Opponents Move
When playing competitive pickleball, it is important to make your opponents move. One of the hardest shots on the pickleball court is hitting in motion. So, get your opponents moving—whether it be with drives, drops, aggressive dinks, lobs, drop volleys, shots with angles, etc. These shots will put pressure on your opponents to hit a quality shot and will open up court space for you or your partner to hit the pickleball for a winner.
6. Play Aggressive
Once you are on the pickleball court, it is time to play aggressive. This does not mean that you have to bang and drive the pickleball (unless that is your style of play). Rather, this means to aggressively play your style of play. Play loose. Don’t play tentative or tight, or overthink your shots, as this will only result in unforced errors and poor touch of the pickleball with your paddle. For instance, a tight grip on your pickleball paddle will cause the pickleball to bounce off like a backboard, which will result in high shots by you and easy put away shots for your opponents. Rather, play loose and relaxed and play your game—but play your game aggressively!
7. Let It Go
Short-term memories are actually a benefit on the pickleball court (unless it comes to knowing the score). Having a short-term memory helps you move on to the next point, which is necessary regardless of whether the last point was in your favor or against you. It is easy to let one bad point turn into five bad points on the pickleball court. It is also easy to get to 10 points (for instance, 10-4-1) and then have trouble getting to that game-winning 11th point. This is because you are thinking of the last mistake you made, or you may be playing tight because you are so close to victory.
So, be present. Be completely in the moment with the rally at hand. Let the past points go, and don’t let your mind go to the next point. Let it go and play in the moment. Oh, and also, don’t forget to let the out balls go, too.
Focus on these pickleball tips the next time you are playing to win. They may just help you get over the hump and claim a victory!
WANT MORE PICKLEBALL TIPS AND STRATEGIES?
Plus, if you want more pickleball tips and strategies on every aspect of your pickleball game, check out Pickler’s online video lesson collection called My Pro Pickleball Coach. My Pro Pickleball Coach is a fraction of the price of one clinic or even one lesson, and features over 140 video lessons (over 7 hours of instruction!), as well as a corresponding e-book. These online video lessons are available on demand 24/7 and breakdown every aspect of the sport of pickleball, including pickleball drills, strategy, and advanced concepts, so you will play your best pickleball.