Tips and Strategies

Pickleball Tips For Beginners (Ultimate Guide)

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When I first started playing pickleball 2 years ago, I quickly became obsessed but quite frankly, I was terrible. Though I loved smacking that wiffle ball as hard as I could, more often than not it would fly out-of-bounds. It took time and plenty of humbling losses before the basics finally clicked.

After years of playing and competing, I’ve compiled 27 essential Pickleball tips for beginners to help shorten the learning curve for them. Implement just a few and you’ll notice the quick improvements in your game and enjoyment on the court.

The Top Five Beginner Pickleball Tips

One question I get from pickleball newcomers is “How do I get better faster? For those eager to jumpstart their pickleball journey with key insights, I’ve distilled my comprehensive guide into these top beginner tips. These essential pickleball tips for new players capture the heart of pickleball, providing a streamlined path to enhancing your game.

Focus on these foundational skills for a rewarding and enjoyable start to your pickleball adventure.

  • Master the Basics
  • Maintain Proper Court Positioning
  • Learn How to Volley
  • Control Your Shot Placement
  • Learn From Mistakes

I have explained these tips in depth below. I hope you find them informative and enjoyable.

If you are an intermediate player I would recommend reading our intermediate pickleball tips to enhance your pickleball game.

27 Pickleball tips for beginners

1. Master the Basics

When just starting out, it’s crucial to learn proper pickleball fundamentals first before trying to advance too quickly. 

Understanding key rules, dimensions, terminology, equipment, basic strokes and strategies lays the groundwork for continuous improvement down the road. Try not to rush the process by skipping ahead prematurely.

Aim to develop overall court awareness and strong technical skills on essential shots like the serve, return, dink, volley and overhead smash. Work first on control and keeping the ball in play rather than blasting balls out of bounds in the name of power. 

Precision should be the priority over pace when beginning. Mastering the basics in pickleball is akin to learning the multiplication tables by heart before moving on to calculus equations. 

Walk before you try to run and build a solid foundation even if that means taking a step back initially to get the basics ingrained.

2. Maintain Proper Court Positioning

Understanding where to stand during rallies and in between shots is vital for beginners especially if you want to get ranking in pickleball.

Proper positioning gives you better preparation and reaction time to hit quality returns. Generally, it’s advisable to stay one to two feet behind the non-volley zone line when your team is defending. This enables seeing angles better from the baseline and leaves room to step into returns versus reaching awkwardly.

When at the net, stay lateral to your partner so you protect attacking lanes down the middle. Call out “I got it!” to avoid collisions. For serves, the receiver should start at the baseline in case of deep, hard serves. 

The server’s partner assumes the ready position around the non-volley line. Adjust positions based on opponents’ tendencies but remember – good footwork and court awareness provide a major edge. 

Keep focused on getting back to the optimal defending area after every shot. Failing to get back in place burns energy and leads to more mistakes.

3. Understand When To Dink

As a longtime player, the dink shot initially caused me endless frustration. I wanted to smash every ball as aggressively as possible. 

It took time, losses and my coach’s patience for me to grasp the art of dinking. When executed properly though, this soft shot over the net can be a total game-changer.

The key is learning when to deploy the dink versus unintentionally giving your opponent an easy put-away. Generally want to dink when there’s no opportunity for a winning shot and you need time to reset the rally. It can also be used to move opponents out of position or induce them into mistakes. 

Just don’t get into prolonged dink rallies hitting back and forth without purpose.

Trust me, over-dinking was my Achilles’ heel for months when I first started competing more seriously. I dinked myself right out of points because I was afraid to pull the trigger offensively at the right moments. 

Get competent with dink fundamentals but also recognize when it’s go-time to unleash an aggressive shot. The blend of touch and power is what makes pickleball strategy so dynamic and fun to master over time.

4. Communicate With Your Partner

One overlooked area I see newer players neglect frequently is communication between partners during doubles play. Beyond basic pleasantries, there needs to be constant verbal coordination before, during and after rallies to succeed consistently. 

Key things to discuss – who takes inside/outside position, labeling shots, calling out balls, establishing strategies based on opponents’ weaknesses, giving encouragement and providing constructive feedback.

Clear communication eliminates uncertainty over who should go for a ball and reduces collisions or openings for opponents to strike. After mistakes, talk through calmly what went wrong and potential solutions rather than blaming or tuning each other out. 

Mixing up signals and codes during games can also inject fun while keeping opponents guessing. 

5. Learn How To Volley

Developing solid volley mechanics is a must for all aspiring pickleball players. The ability to hit crisp, accurate shots in the air without letting the ball bounce first should be a priority focus. 

Though groundstrokes have their place too, volley exchanges usually occur closer to the net which affords less reaction time for opponents. Mastering different volley techniques – the punch volley, block volley, high volley smash – will pay dividends as you progress.

Start off practicing volleys at mid-court to learn proper footwork, positioning of the paddle face relative to the oncoming ball and follow-through. Get comfortable resetting to a ready position quickly after volleying rather than admiring your shots. 

As consistency and confidence improve over time, then work on dropping volleys deftly over the net and aiming for open spaces away from opponents. Sharp volleys not only help win points outright, but they also open the door for put-away shots to end rallies decisively.

6. Control Your Shot Placement

New players often just try hitting the ball hard without thinking much about placement. They are focused only on getting the ball over the net. This leads to errors and easy returns for opponents.

To improve quickly, you need to practice control. This means deliberately aiming shots to bounce deep in the backcourt or trying to drop shots softly over the net. Control gives you choices.

Try corner shots that make the opponent run left or right. Hit behind a player rushing the net. Mix in high lobs with low returns.

Master control first. As you get better at placing shots precisely, then build more speed. But don’t sacrifice accuracy just to hit harder. Controlled pickleball leads to fewer mistakes and more wins.

Keep in mind most points are lost not won. Stay patient during rallies. Wait for a ball you can put away versus trying low-percentage shots with little control. That is a key lesson I learned after years of play.

7. Stop Running Around Your Backhand

Many beginners make the mistake of avoiding or running around shots to their backhand side out of fear. They wait desperately for a forehand shot even if it means being out of position. It may seem counterintuitive, but developing at least a serviceable backhand can make a huge difference in your early pickleball development.

Rather than hiding that backhand like the plague, start practicing basic backhand groundstrokes and returns. Get comfortable alternating forehand and backhand shots during cooperative drills. 

Over time you will gain confidence on backhand mechanics, reduce holes in your game, expand shot versatility and enhance court coverage angles. Opponents catch on quickly to players afraid of hitting backhands and will ruthlessly pepper that weakness.

You may never strike your one-handed backhand like Roger Federer but tightening it up even just moderately in the beginning prevents bad habits from cementing permanently. 

Have patience early on as your backhand competency builds steadily week after week. Consistency with the two-handed backhand takes time but pays off enormously.

8. Listen and Accept Suggestions and Rules

Be open to advice from more experienced players. Pay attention if they provide suggestions about grip, footwork, strategy or rules. No matter how long you have played sports, pickleball has unique elements.

Listen also carefully to referees explain calls. Ask questions politely if you don’t understand a ruling. Rules seem complicated at first but will make more sense by staying engaged, focused and learning terminology.

Don’t get upset if players politely correct something invalid like serving from the wrong space. View rules and suggestions as aids rather than restrictions to enjoyment. This approach speeds up development and builds community respect.

In my earlier paddling days, I probably argued calls too frequently out of ignorance. Be better than my past self! Embrace pickleball mentorship opportunities from veterans. Check your ego. Follow standards and keep perspective that pickleball is meant to be fun recreation win or lose!

9. Serve Carefully

The serve in pickleball is vital. Many beginners rush the serve and make errors by focusing only on speed. They lose points from hitting serves in the net or beyond the far-court boundary.

When first learning, put accuracy before pace on serves. Get comfortable simply getting the ball in play. No extra points for a fast serve that misses!

Start by grasping basic service rules and foot-faulting boundaries. Find your ideal grip and stance; what feels controlled. Toss the ball consistently to comfortable contact heights.

Practice swinging smooth rhythm without overswinging on serves during lessons or solo practice sessions. 

As your serve consistency improves over weeks, then gradually mix in more speed while maintaining control. But avoid sacrificing precision too soon just to blast fast serves.

Careful serving builds confidence plus earns free points over time. Don’t give away serves with reckless errors! Patience and practice lead to quality pickleball service success.

10. Return Serves Deep

When I first started playing competitively, I dreaded opponents’ serve chances. Their blazing fast serves handcuffed me into weak returns that got punished routinely. Through painful trial and error, however, I learned the solution was usually not trying to blast returns.

The key is hitting serves back deep into the opponent’s court, even if gently. This deeper ball forces opponents on their heels and affords you precious extra seconds to reposition properly for the next shot. Even if your returns lack raw power, simply focusing on placement over pace disrupts their momentum more often than not.

Of course with experience and better skills, mixing in more aggressive serve returns has its place too. But early on, resist trying to crush returns at the expense of control. 

Go for depth and let opponents make mistakes first. Allow them to beat themselves before taking necessary risks. Master this discipline and second serve woes will dissipate rapidly.

11. Face the Opponent

Proper positioning and footwork are vital in pickleball as shots can come quickly from different directions. Many beginners however forget this basic principle – always keep your chest and eyes facing midcourt where the opponent hits from at the start of a point.

If crossed up sideways or with your back turned even briefly, it becomes exponentially harder to track the ball off an opponent’s paddle. You lose a split-second of reaction time which can mean botching a return.

Make facing the oncoming ball the default between rallies. Avoid unnecessary movement or extra steps during points that lead to poor positioning. In doubles, communicate clearly with partners about positioning duties and make adjustments so both players don’t end up facing the same direction.

Keeping squared up makes reading shots much easier. This proper chest-forward-ready stance aids in quicker reaction time for solid returns. Don’t give away easy points simply because you got caught looking the wrong way when the ball was struck!

12. Keep Paddle High

Many beginners tend to let their paddle hand drift too low when awaiting shots, especially on the forehand side. This seems harmless but makes it very challenging to get the paddle back in position for efficient returns. It causes new players to reach or swing late, leading to 190 mistakes sent long or into the net.

Make a conscious effort to keep the paddle elevated to around chest level and out front when ready for shots. Having the paddle positioned high in your vision facilitates quicker reaction time. From this ready position, you can snap the paddle forward and down without excess motion requirements.

The slight dipping action with the paddle high enables generating some extra power on returns versus low paddle placements. 

Let gravity work in your favor. Avoid drooping that paddle hand! It significantly hinders quick access to a ready position and allows less margin for error on returns. Keep that paddle up for optimal striking efficiency!

13. Keep The Ball In Play

One of the most common beginner tendencies is trying to smash and paint lines with every single shot. While aggressiveness has its place, more often these high-risk shots sail out-of-bounds or into the net. Instead of ending points quickly, this impatient mindset repeatedly stops rallies prematurely.

Learning discipline to keep shots in play takes some focus early on. But it pays huge dividends as your consistency improves over time. Especially when opponents are on the ropes, avoid taking big cuts that lack control. Keeping the ball in play mounts pressure which often induces opponents’ mistakes. Even neutral, defensive shots can produce errors if placed smartly.

In doubles, also communicate clearly on balls bounding towards lines. Yelling “Out!” prematurely costs valuable extra shots. Similarly, call “Yours!” rather than both running down likely in-bounds balls. Premium shots will materialize eventually during rallies if you have the patience. Resist ending points too soon yourself!

14. Hit the Ball to The Center

Beginner pickleball players fall into patterns of hitting too frequently crosscourt. They get stuck rallying shot after shot diagonally, often leading to exploited weaknesses. While crosscourt can move opponents side-to-side, exclusive angles become predictable.

Smart players learn intentionally mixing straight-ahead drives up the center. This forces opponents backwards and prevents them from cheating in either direction. Even slow to medium-paced shots aimed middle put immediate pressure on opponents.

Center drives are especially effective coming off weaker shots like short serves or returns sitting up. Keep firing up the middle to keep foes honest rather than getting too locked into crosscourt exchanges. Savvy beginners also start working on angled combination shots – hitting crosscourt shots followed by driving the next shot up the line/center.

Try mental game strategies, Varying shot direction injects uncertainty in opponents’ minds. Don’t become one-dimensional only going crosscourt! Sprinkle in routine center drives for optimal results.

15. Use Forehand and Backhand

Starting in pickleball, beginners often favor forehand groundstrokes. This can make their play predictable, allowing opponents to anticipate and position themselves better. To enhance your game, it’s important to develop a reliable backhand. This adds variety to your play and keeps your opponent guessing.

Instead of avoiding backhands, spend time practicing them. Work on both topspin and slice backhands. With practice, your footwork and shot execution will improve. A smoother backhand increases your court coverage and reaction time, giving you more shot options.

Practice different types of backhands, like down-the-line and angled crosscourt shots. These moves can pull your opponent off the court. A good backhand, even at a moderate pace, can be a game-changer, offering a break from forehand shots.

As a beginner, try to balance your use of forehands and backhands. This prevents opponents from detecting a pattern in your play. Surprise them with your backhand skills during rallies to keep the game in your favor.

16. Emphasize Placement Over Power

Pickleball beginners get caught up in the excitement and try to hit the ball as hard as they can. They focus on power, hoping to outpace their opponents. However, this often leads to more mistakes than points. It’s smarter for beginners to prioritize shot placement over speed.

Instead of just hitting hard, aim your shots. Try for deep corners or practice angled drop shots. Placing your shots deliberately forces your opponent to move more and gives them less time to react. A well-placed slow shot can be more effective than a fast shot that misses its mark.

By focusing on placing your shots, you’ll build confidence in your skills beyond just relying on power. Outsmarting your opponent with accuracy is a better strategy than trying to overpower them. Control and strategy are key. Once you’ve mastered precise shot-making, you can start to introduce speed into your game more effectively.

17. Don’t Take Your Partner’s Shots

One crucial aspect of doubles pickleball that took me some time to grasp is respecting your partner’s territory. In the beginning, it’s tempting to cover the entire court yourself, especially when you’re eager to make every play. 

However, this often leads to confusion and mistakes. Learning to trust your partner and communicate effectively is vital. Stick to your side of the court and let your partner handle their shots. This disciplined approach not only avoids collisions and missteps but also strengthens your team’s overall strategy. 

Doubles pickleball is about teamwork, and respecting each other’s space is fundamental to success.

18. Avoid Risky Shots

Beginners often get tempted to try flashy, low-percentage shots. These include moves like between-the-legs returns or behind-the-back paddles. While they look impressive, these shots are not very effective in actual games.

It’s better to focus on the basics and use traditional strokes in competitive play. You’re more likely to win by playing consistently and forcing errors from your opponent. Leave the high-risk shots for when you’ve reached an intermediate level.

In the beginning, aim for steady rallying and build points with high-percentage returns. Work on eliminating unforced errors from your game. You can try the more stylish shots during practice or in less formal settings. For now, stick to solid, reliable play.

19. Keep It Simple

As a beginner in pickleball, it’s easy to get caught up in trying complex strategies or mimicking advanced shots you’ve seen more experienced players execute. However, during my early days, I learned that simplicity is key. 

Focus on mastering straightforward shots and basic strategies first. This means consistently getting the ball over the net, aiming for simple but effective placements, and avoiding unnecessary fancy plays. 

The most effective play is often the most basic one. Keeping your game simple helps in reducing errors and building a solid foundation. As you progress, you can start incorporating more complex techniques into your game. But initially, don’t complicate things – simplicity is your best ally on the court.

20. Learn From Mistakes

Embracing mistakes as learning opportunities was a game-changer for me in pickleball. In the beginning, every error felt like a setback, but I soon realized that each misstep was a chance to improve. 

Don’t be too hard on yourself when a shot doesn’t go as planned or when you lose a point. Instead, analyze what went wrong and think about how you can adjust your strategy or technique for next time. 

Even the most experienced players make mistakes; what sets them apart is their ability to learn from them. Keep a positive mindset, and see each error as a stepping stone towards becoming a better player. This approach not only improves your skills but also makes the game more enjoyable.

21. Comfort is Key

In my early days, I underestimated the importance of being comfortable on the court. 

Comfort in pickleball goes beyond just physical ease; it’s about finding the right gear that suits your play style. Investing in the right kind of shoes is critical, as they provide the necessary support and traction. 

Similarly, choosing a paddle that feels right in your hand is essential. It’s not about the most expensive equipment but what works best for you. Additionally, wearing appropriate attire that allows for easy movement can significantly impact your performance. 

Advice: When you’re comfortable with your gear, you’re more focused on the game, leading to better play and more fun on the court.

22. Stretch and Stay Loose

in my pickleball journey, I learned the hard way that failing to properly stretch before playing can lead to discomfort and even injury. Stretching is crucial, not just as a warm-up routine but also for maintaining flexibility and reducing the risk of muscle strains. 

Before each game, take a few minutes to loosen up your muscles with dynamic stretches focusing on your arms, legs, and core. Staying loose and agile is key, especially in a sport like pickleball that requires quick movements and sharp reflexes. 

Additionally, post-game stretching can aid in recovery and keep your muscles supple. This habit not only prepares your body for the game but also contributes to your overall physical health.

23. Use Quality Equipment

The right equipment can make a significant difference. When I started, I used whatever paddle I could get my hands on, not realizing how much of an impact a quality paddle could have on my game.

A good paddle can improve your shot accuracy, control, and overall feel for the ball. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive one, but it should be suitable for your level and style of play. Likewise, consider the type of balls you use for practice and matches; different types can affect playability. 

Quality equipment doesn’t mean breaking the bank, it means choosing wisely to enhance your pickleball experience.

24. Less is More

This tip became apparent to me as I progressed in my pickleball journey. There’s a temptation to overcomplicate your game – trying too many different shots, overthinking strategies, or constantly changing your playing style. 

However, I found that simplifying my approach led to more consistent and effective play. Focus on a few key shots and strategies that work well for you and perfect them. 

Consistency is far more valuable than complexity, especially for beginners. By keeping your game straightforward, you reduce errors and build confidence on the court. 

25. Placement Over Power

One of the most valuable lessons I learned early in my pickleball career was the importance of shot placement over sheer power. When I first started, like many beginners, I was tempted to hit the ball as hard as I could. 

However, I quickly realized that power without control often led to unforced errors. Focusing on where to place the ball – whether it’s deep in the opponent’s court or strategically at their feet – can be far more effective than a powerful but aimless hit. 

Good placement can keep your opponents off-balance and open up the court for you. As you develop your skills, remember that thoughtful placement can outsmart brute force and is a key strategy in winning points.

26. Keep Wrist Firm

Maintaining a firm wrist was a technique I had to consciously practice in my early pickleball days. A lot of beginners, including myself, initially struggled with floppy wrist syndrome, especially when trying to make quick volleys or dinks. 

A firm wrist provides better control and precision in your shots. It helps in consistently hitting the sweet spot of the paddle, leading to more effective and accurate plays. This tip is especially crucial for shots like volleys and serves where wrist stability plays a major role. 

By focusing on keeping your wrist firm, you’ll notice an improvement in both your shot consistency and your overall game control.

27. Learn Shots One By One

I was eager to try every shot I saw seasoned players executing. However, I soon realized the importance of patience and focus in learning. Tackling shots one at a time allows you to really understand and master each technique. 

Start with the most basic shots like the serve and the groundstroke, then gradually move on to more complex ones like the volley and the dink. This methodical approach ensures that you build a solid repertoire of shots, each honed with practice and understanding. 

It’s like piecing together a puzzle; each shot you master is a piece that brings you closer to the complete picture of a skilled pickleball player.


Reflecting on my pickleball journey, from a beginner to a seasoned player, I’ve realized the value of Pickleball tips for beginners in shaping my game. 

Improvement in pickleball, as in any sport, is a gradual process. It’s about enjoying each step of the journey, celebrating small victories, and learning from every game. Stay patient, stay dedicated, and most importantly, have fun. 

The skills and strategies will come with time and practice. Whether it’s mastering the basics or perfecting your serve, each tip here is a stepping stone to becoming a better player. 

Keep playing, keep learning, and see how far your pickleball adventure can take you!


Why should I focus on mastering the basics of pickleball?

Mastering basics is crucial to building a solid foundation, emphasizing control over power and ensuring continuous improvement.

How important is court positioning for beginners in pickleball?

Proper court positioning is vital, providing better preparation and reaction time for quality returns and minimizing errors.

When should I use the dink shot in pickleball?

Dink strategically when there’s no winning shot opportunity, to reset the rally, move opponents, or induce mistakes.

Why is communication essential in doubles pickleball?

Clear communication prevents uncertainty, avoids collisions, and strengthens teamwork, enhancing overall performance.

How can I improve my pickleball to serve as a beginner?

Start with accuracy over speed, gradually adding pace while maintaining control; careful serving builds confidence and earns points over time.



When not dissecting opponents on the pickleball court with laser focus, Ethan wields words with equal precision. A dedicated competitor and insightful writer, he captures the sport's essence with sharp wit and unwavering dedication.

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