“Coaches are aware of how to ignite passion and motivate people. They have an energy that is contagious and know exactly how to get their team excited.” — Brain Cagneey
Behind any great athlete or team is an amazing coach leading them the way. And, just like any other sport, pickleball has many award-winning and talented coaches that help teach and develop pickleball players’ skills. During any pickleball game, having a solid strategy will help you successfully play and win the game. To help you acquire a great pickleball strategy, we found four top pickleball coaches who shared their best strategy tips. Before we dive in, meet the four top pickleball coaches.
Deb Harrison: Named Florida Senior Games Athlete of the Year in 2018, Deb Harrison teaches pickleball all over the country as an International Pickleball Teaching Professional (IPTP PRO). Want to see her in action? You can watch her play and teach pickleball on her YouTube channel.
Kenneth Oliver: While teaching at community centers, Kenneth Oliver coaches both individual and group lessons to players of all skill levels. Oliver’s pickleball expertise revolves around the rules of the game, proper hitting techniques, proper court positions, and pickleball strategies.
Patricia Strazzi: Known as a 5.0+ pro pickleball player, Patricia Strazzi is part of the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association. Since she is multilingual, she can teach pickleball in English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian.
Now that we know who the coaches are, let’s dive into their best strategy tips!
The best way to get a pickleball game going, besides serving, is by hitting the ball back and forth to each court. But it’s not that simple - there are many types of hits in pickleball. These top coaches broke it down to the best strategy tips on hitting pickleballs.
Deep Hits: Like many other coaches, Prem Carnot advises that players should keep shots slow and deep. The deeper the ball goes to the other side of the court, the more room your opponents will have to make an error.
Dink Hits: When it comes to hitting, coaches Kenneth Oliver and Deb Harrison say that shorter hits (or better known as dink hits) is a very important pickleball hit. Oliver explains that players should learn and develop a soft dink hit, and Harrison explains the best way to properly do a dink shot is to hit them straight ahead and diagonally on the court.
Serving is very important during a pickleball game. Not only does serving get a game started, but it’s the best way for players to score.
Simple Serves: If you are a new pickleball player, Deb Harrison has some great tips for beginner serves. She says the best strategy tip for beginners is to keep your serves simple and rhythmical — this will lead to consistency and will keep the game going smoothly.
Serve Deep: The best serving strategy tip that Prem Carnot has is to serve deep and aim towards your opponents’ feet. If your opponents are closer to the net, they will have a hard time returning the ball.
Never Miss A Serve: Kenneth Oliver’s best serving strategy tip is to never miss a serve. When you or your team is serving, it is the only time you can get any points. In order to increase your chances of winning a game, hit as many successful serves as you go.
Even though pickleball is known to be a less vigorous sport, especially when it comes to running, pickleballers can’t forget to move while playing the game. A few of the coaches had some great tips about movement while playing pickleball.
Lateral Footwork: Knowing how to perform a proper dink shot is a very important skill in pickleball. Deb Harrison’s tip on executing a dink shot correctly is all about a player’s movement. She explains that dink shots need to have lateral footwork, so you can be quick and ready to respond.
Move Up to the Net: Coach Prem Carnot says the best movement strategy tip is to advance towards the net. The team or player closest to the net has more advantages like hitting or serving dink shots and third shot drops.
Third Shot Drop
The one tip that many of the coaches touched base on revolved around hitting third shot drops. A third shot drop is a soft drop shot into the non-volley zone, so you can advance towards the net. A few of the coaches had some great pointers to help you achieve a great third shot drop.
Learn & Develop: First and foremost, Kenneth Oliver states that players should learn the purpose and value a third shot drop has in a pickleball game. Once you have learned the importance of a third shot drop, then you can go and learn how to play third shot drops.
How to: If you’re a beginner at pickleball, you may still be learning the ropes of hitting a third shot drop. Coach Harrison has a few pointers for players trying to execute a third shot drop. She explains that a third shot drop should be done by delivering them to the baseline and then follow the shot to the non-volley zone. She also says that if you add a spin to the shot, it will keep your opponents away from the net.
Placement: Your placement is a huge factor if you want to achieve a proper third shot drop. Deb Harrison explains that players need to adapt and respond when players approach a third shot drop. If the opponents are close to the non-volley zone, you will have a hard time executing a successful third shot drop. Watch your opponents and always adjust as needed.
Practice: As a new pickleball player, you may have seen other players do third shot drops. While it may look easy to do, the shot can be difficult to master. Coach Patricia Strazzi believes that before playing third shot drops during a game, pickleball players should always practice hitting third shot drops until the shot is strong enough. Once you develop a strong third shot drop, then you will have the confidence to execute the shot correctly during any match.
Just like most other sports, finding the right position plays a huge role in how your pickleball game will go. Here are a couple of tips from coaches about positioning.
Solid Position: During a game of pickleball, you should always have a solid position. Coach Harrison states that players should have a solid foundation and posture with a neutral ready position to easily play the game.
Keep Your Paddle Up: Your body isn’t the only thing that needs to have a position. Placing your paddle in the right position will help you play the game. Prem Carnot says players should always keep their paddles up and in front after every shot in order to be ready to return the ball at any given notice.
Other Great Pickleball Tips
Some of these coaches had other great strategy tips. Keep on reading to gain additional insight on ways to avoid losing points, patience, predictability, and comfort.
Avoid Losing Points: Coach Oliver explains that until you develop a strong serve or cause the opponents a weak return, you should never give away a chance to score. This means that if you are still developing a strong serve, it is up to you to keep up the game and to leave room for them to make an error.
Patience: You know the saying you were always told as a kid “patience is a virtue.” Well, that same phrase works with pickleball. Coach Kenneth Oliver explains that you have to be patient and keep the ball on the court. He continues to explain that with patience, eventually, the opportunity to pull the ball away will arise, and you should seize it while leaving the other team or player some room for error.
Predictability: Pickleball is pretty easy to learn and play after joining in on a few matches. Once you play the game for a long time, it may feel easy to follow the same game strategy or routine. But, Patricia Strazzi says you need to avoid having the same routine. Instead, pickleball players need to try different shots, spins, movements, paces, and positions. The more ways you change up how you play, the easier it will be for you to keep your opponents on their toes and always guessing.
With a bag full of great strategy tips from four top coaches, you are ready to head out to the pickleball courts and play a fun game. For even more tips, check out our ultimate guide of pickleball strategy tips for beginners. Do you know some other great strategy tips? In the comments below, drop down some of your favorite pickleball strategy pointers.