Oftentimes, in sports, there are competing forces or competing interests. For instance, as a pitcher in baseball, you may be able to hit the inside corner with a fastball at 80 miles per hour over and over. In other words, you have a very consistent strike. However, the hitters are able to adjust to an 80-mph fastball. As a result, it is important to improve your speed or mix pitches (e.g., slider, curveball, change-up, etc.), but for each mile per hour you try to add, the less consistent your pitch is. As you push your acceleration to +90 mph, your pitch becomes wild and erratic. So, where should you put your focus? Should you focus on the consistency of your pitch (i.e., throwing strikes) or the speed of your pitch (i.e., throwing at speeds that the batter cannot catch up to).
This analogy also applies on the pickleball court. In pickleball, is it better to consistently get the pickleball over the net and between the lines of the court? For instance, being able to hit countless dinks up-and-over the pickleball net (even if those dinks are simple, flat dinks with no spin or pace)? Or, is it better to be able to hit shots with speed or pace, so that your opponents do not have enough time to react?
In both examples—both on the pitcher’s mound in baseball and on the pickleball court—the answer is not a simple yes or no, nor a single singular focus on consistency or singular focus on speed. Rather, we would recommend that you:
- First and foremost, focus on fundamentals. Just like a house, the foundation of your pickleball game is critical. The stronger your foundation, the more that you can build up without any fear of weaknesses in your structure. The stronger your fundamentals and mechanics on the pickleball court, the more you can build your game and add to your game. And, the faster you will be able to improve your game. So, first and foremost master your fundamentals on the pickleball court. (To get started on a few basics for success on the pickleball court, check out this video by Pickler and USA Pickleball.)
- At the beginner and intermediate levels of pickleball, consistency can go a long way. Pickleball is oftentimes a game of who makes the least number of unforced errors. So, being consistent with your shots and keeping the pickleball in play is sometimes all it takes to win a pickleball game. If you are at these beginner and/or intermediate levels of pickleball, or you are finding that you are losing games due to an inordinate number of unforced errors, then focus on your consistency over speed.
- However, to advance to the next level, speed is critical. As noted above, at the beginner and/or intermediate levels of pickleball, the game can be won by not making mistakes. However, as you advance, you will find that you need to create opportunities and/or be more offensive in order to win points. At these advanced levels, everyone is consistent. So, to win, you need to incorporate speed (or spin or creative shots) to add pressure on your opponents and force them to make mistakes. But, as alluded to above, this speed may come at a price—at first. The more you play and practice at a faster level, the more comfortable you will become and the more consistent you will become at the faster level. It is important to be patient, as you learn to play at a faster pace.
- Further, to note, sometimes, speed—even if inconsistent—is not a bad shot. At times, it can be to your advantage to be “effectively wild” on the pickleball court. For instance, in baseball, sometimes, a fastball—even if it is a ball and out of the strike zone—is hard to lay off of and will result in a strike because the batter will swing and miss at the pitch. Adapting this concept to pickleball, the quick speed-ups on the pickleball court—even though traveling out of bounds and out of play—can be hard to lay off of and will result in errors by your opponents. So, sometimes, speed may be all you need.
- Even at these advanced levels, if you are finding you are making too many errors as you push your limits on speed, then consider turning your focus back to more consistency. It is a balancing act to push your limits on both speed and consistency on the pickleball court.
In summary, when stepping on the pickleball court, it is first and foremost a priority to master your fundamentals and mechanics. From there, it may be a balance to maintain your consistency (because the team that makes the least number of unforced errors usually wins), while pushing your limits on speed, spin, and creative offensive shots.
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.