Top 10 Mistakes Pickleball Beginners Make and How to Smash Them

Top 10 Mistakes Pickleball Beginners Make and How to Smash Them | NatraCure

Pickleball for Beginners

Pickleball has been smashing its way into the hearts of sports enthusiasts, becoming one of the fastest-growing activities in the United States and abroad. It may have a funny name, but the game's combination of elements from tennis, badminton, and ping-pong offers a unique and addictive sporting experience.

Whether you're brand new to the court or looking to up your game, it's crucial to understand that the devil is in the details. We're about to serve up the top 10 common mistakes that beginners often make – and more importantly, we'll volley some expert advice your way to smash those errors straight out of your play!

1. Gripping the Paddle Incorrectly

The Wrong Grip Is a Slip-Up

One of the most fundamental elements in pickleball is the grip. It's not just about holding onto the paddle; it's about maintaining control and generating power. The mistake: failing to use the correct grip. Many beginners clutch the paddle as if it's a hammer, leading to less control over shots and more energy wasted.

The Correct Technique

To avoid this, focus on the continental grip – this is where the V shape made by your thumb and forefinger points upwards towards the center of the paddle. It's the go-to grip for both forehand and backhand shots. For forehand, ensure the V is lined up with where the paddle's faceplate meets the handle. On the backhand, keep the V in place but allow the non-paddle hand to guide the shot with the non-playing hand gently clasping the paddle's end.

2. Standing Too Close to the Net

Leaning In, Losing Out

New players often feel the temptation to get in close and personal with the net, thinking that's where all the action is. But here's the pickle – standing too close to the net can severely limit your options for shots and cover less court space. It's one of the most common mistakes that beginners make.

Finding the Optimal Distance

The sweet spot is generally around the "non-volley zone" or the 'kitchen’. This 7-foot area on each side of the net is a no-volley zone, but being just a step or two back allows for a quick response to a drop shot and still leaves plenty of room to adjust to more aggressive balls. By maintaining this distance, you keep your opponent guessing and have more time to react to a variety of shots.

3. Lack of Footwork

Being Stuck in the Mud

New players often find themselves static and rooted to the spot, believing that the game is all about arm movements. However, pickleball is a sport that demands strategic and swift footwork to maintain a strong position on the court and get to tough shots.

Dancing into the Right Position

Footwork doesn't have to be complicated, but it does have to be active. Focus on the 'ready position': knees slightly bent, weight on the balls of your feet, and paddle out in front. Shuffle those feet as the ball moves or as your opponent hits, always aiming to be in the best spot to strike a ball if it comes your way.

4. Hitting the Ball Too Hard

The Power Struggle

Many new players fall into the trap of trying to overpower their opponents. They believe that more force equals more control, but this misconception often leads to balls sailing out of bounds.

Dialing Down for Control

Instead of trying to smash every shot, work on a smooth consistent swing that imparts spin and placement on the ball. Focus on hitting the ball into play and, over time, you'll develop the right amount of power for each situation. Remember, a well-placed shot will beat a powerful but wild one every time.

5. Not Communicating with Your Partner

Doubles Is a Dance for Two

In pickleball doubles, you're not just a solo act – you're part of a team. Neglecting to communicate with your partner can lead to confusion, missed opportunities, and potentially, frustration.

Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

Simple hand signals and clear verbal cues are all it takes to maintain a seamless partnership on the court. Establish signals for when you're going to take a ball, or when you need help on a tough shot. Always keep the communication positive and constructive to keep the team morale high.

6. Not Using Dinks and Drop Shots

Averse to the Soft Side

Newcomers often think that faster is better. However, pickleball is as much about the dinks and drop shots as it is about smashes and volleys. Neglecting to use these softer shots can make your gameplay predictable and limit your ability to control the pace of the match.

Mastering the Gentle Art

Take the time to practice your dinks – soft, short shots that arc just over the net – and your drop shots – precise placements that 'drop' just over the net. These shots can be incredibly effective in forcing errors from your opponents and setting up opportunities for more aggressive play.

7. Overcommitting to Shots

Stuck in the On Position

When a ball comes your way, it's easy to feel the urge to go full speed ahead no matter the situation. However, overcommitting to a shot can cause you to be out of position, leaving your side of the court vulnerable to a counter-attack.

Learning to Be Selective

Understand when to 'take it' and when to 'leave it'. This can be a tough skill to learn, but practice and experience will help you develop the instincts necessary to make a split-second decision that's more strategic than impulsive.

8. Poor Court Awareness

The Tunnel Vision Trap

Focusing only on the balls and not being aware of the current state of the game can be an issue. Not knowing where your partner is or the current score can put you at a disadvantage.

Expanding Your Perception

Work on your peripheral vision and regularly check in with your partner and the score. This will help in maintaining a cohesive strategy and be ready for any situation that arises.

9. Neglecting the Soft Game

The Siren Call of Power

Similar to mistake 6, many beginners undervalue the soft game. They believe that unless they're hitting the ball hard, they're not playing the game to its fullest potential. This couldn't be further from the truth.

When Soft Is Strong

Soft shots are about placement and control. They can frustrate opponents and set up winners for your team. By adding the soft game to your toolbox, you become a more versatile player capable of handling any challenge on the court.

10. Not Practicing Serve and Return

Missing the Serves on Practice

Often, players neglect what is arguably the most important shot of the game – the serve. Without a good serve and a solid return, you're immediately on the defensive and at a disadvantage.

Step Up Your Serves and Returns

Make time for dedicated practice sessions just for serves and returns. Work on developing a consistent, accurate serve and a strong, reliable return. These shots set the tone for each point and are key to taking control of the game.


Avoiding these common mistakes can significantly improve your game. By focusing on your grip, placement, communication, and strategy, you'll become a formidable opponent in no time. Remember that every great player was once a beginner, so don't be discouraged if you're not smashing every shot right away – focus on these tips, keep practicing, and prepare to enjoy the sweet taste of pickleball success!