The sport of pickleball enables players of all ages and skill levels to hold a rally and improve skills and abilities rather quickly—at least compared to other sports. This ability to get better and improve quickly is one of the most attractive aspects of the sport of pickleball. One way to improve your skills and abilities quickly is to improve your decision making on the pickleball court—notably, improve your shot selection and reduce your unforced errors.
One way to improve your shot selection and reduce your unforced errors is to focus on playing what is known as “high percentage pickleball.” Although hitting an impressive winning shot is fun and makes you feel good, it may not be the best pathway to winning or success. If you can hit a difficult winning shot only 1 out of 10 chances, you are likely losing too many points and too many games. To play high percentage pickleball, and increase your likelihood of winning on the pickleball court—especially from the beginner and intermediate skill levels to more advanced skill levels—avoid hitting shots with high difficulty. High percentage pickleball is about hitting shots that give you the highest percentage of success and the lowest chance of making an unforced error.
This pickleball blog breaks down some shots to avoid in order to play high percentage pickleball. Before we dive in, it is important to note that high percentage pickleball does not mean highly predictable pickleball. It is important to remain unpredictable on the pickleball court. Rather, high percentage pickleball is about playing the percentages, which will still allow you to remain unpredictable.
Shots to Avoid to Play High Percentage Pickleball
With the benefits of high percentage pickleball in mind, avoid the following shots on the pickleball court:
1. Long shots to the sidelines or baseline
If you are deep in the pickleball court near the baseline or in the transition area, shots toward the sidelines or baseline on the opposite side of the pickleball court are quite difficult. As a result, these shots are low percentage and should be avoided if you are looking to play high percentage pickleball. In particular:
2. Attacking shots below the pickleball net
Unless you are able to generate top spin on the pickleball (i.e., a shot with forward rotation), you will not be able to attack or speed up pickleballs that are below the top of the pickleball net. If the pickleball is below the net, you will need to open your paddle face toward the sky to get some lift under the pickleball. As a result, if you were to speed up the pickleball, the pickleball would likely sail long out of bounds because you would have to hit up on the pickleball. To play high percentage pickleball, continue to be patient. Do not attack the pickleball unless the pickleball is above the top of pickleball net. This will allow you to hit down on the pickleball to send the pickleball toward your opponents’ feet.
3. Highly difficult serves and returns of serve
While a deep serve and a deep return of serve are critical to success on the pickleball court, do not aim for the baselines of the pickleball court. A serve that sails out of bounds causes you to lose your serve and your opportunity to score points. And, even worse, a return of serve that sails out of bounds causes you to lose a point! Instead, aim for a few feet inside the baseline to avoid any unnecessary unforced errors.
4. Other highly difficult shots
As noted above, high percentage pickleball is all about playing the percentages. So, avoid shots that have a low percentage for success and hit shots that have a high percentage for success. In other words, avoid highly difficult shots, which include the shots described above, as well as other shots that may depend on the circumstances before you. Other examples of highly difficult shots include:
You are solely in charge of your shot selection. Stay patient. Let the point build and play out. Stay consistent by playing high percentage pickleball, rather than becoming impatient and going to a “winner” too quickly. As you improve your skill level, and maybe even one day reach the pro level, you can consider adding these higher difficulty level shots, as you improve your ability to execute them.
And, again, remember that high percentage pickleball does not mean predictable pickleball. Make sure that you remain unpredictable on the pickleball court. Mix-up your shot selection among your high percentage shot options!
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