When you pick up a pickleball paddle for the first time, people only tell you about the kitchen. They tell you that you have to let the return bounce.They tell you about the eccentric scoring system. They only tell you about the things you need to know. This article isn’t about those things. This article is about the things that are nice to know.
These are the six things I wish I knew before I started playing pickleball.1. You will get addicted.
Nobody warned me about the high you get when you smash your first overhead or drive the ball down the alley. Nobody warned me about how infatuated you could get over the flight trajectory of a wiffle ball.
Consider this your warning: you will become obsessed with the sport. So before you take that first swing, make sure your body, mind, and heart are ready for the journey.2. You don’t have to smash every shot.
Some things in life don’t make sense. Like how socks disappear in the dryer. The pronunciation of gif. And how you can smash so many balls into a net only seven feet away.
I wish someone told me to use 80% of power rather than 110%. Trying to make every shot a winner is the quickest way to become a loser.3. The 3rd shot is the most influential.
You serve, your opponents return it, and what you do next will shape the rest of the point more than any other moment. Nobody told me that.
I treated the third shot like the rest of them — just hit it hard. I wish someone would have told me to treat your third shot like a fundamental part of the game — a basic skill you have to work on.4. Be purposeful with your return.
Speaking of third shots, your return should make your opponents’ third shot as difficult as possible. It should also set you up to make your way to the kitchen.
The first time I played against a skilled opponent, he hit deep and high returns. I had no idea why. The shots seemed so easy for me to return, yet, he was winning all the points. I asked him his thought process behind his return, and his response was simple: “I’m just trying to keep you back so I can move up.”5. Move with your teammate.
I wish someone told me how I should treat my movement like a foosball table — to slide with your teammate.
When I first started playing pickleball, I was so focused on my side of the court that I never considered how my teammate’s movement should influence mine. When your teammate shifts left to hit a ball, you should shift left.
I wish someone told me that communication doesn’t have to be with words. Your teammate’s movement is a message to you. Are you listening?6. It’s easy to get good; it’s hard to get great.
Pickleball’s barrier to entry is so low that it’s easy for your confidence to outpace your competence.
It doesn’t take long for you to feel comfortable with the basics. You’ll then fall for the lie that you’ve mastered the sport — until you play someone who shows you a new part of the game you didn’t know existed. You can get good by playing games, but if you want to become great, you have to practice — a lot.