Five Common Pickleball Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Pickleball, while fun and engaging, is also a game of strategy and skill. Whether you’re new to the sport or have been playing for a while, there are common mistakes that can hinder your game. Recognizing and addressing these mistakes can significantly improve your performance and enjoyment of the game. Here’s a rundown of five typical pickleball errors and practical tips on how to avoid them.

1. Poor Positioning on the Court

The Mistake: Many players, especially beginners, find themselves out of position during games, which can lead to missed shots or weak returns. Proper positioning is crucial in pickleball to cover the court effectively and make strong plays.

How to Avoid It:

  • Stay Centered: Try to return to the center of your service area after each shot. This position gives you the best chance to reach your opponent’s return.
  • Use the Kitchen: The area near the net (known as the kitchen or non-volley zone) is a strategic spot for making shots that are hard for your opponent to return. Practice moving in and out of the kitchen smoothly to make plays at the net without committing foot faults.

2. Overhitting the Ball

The Mistake: It’s common for players to think that power is the key to winning points. However, overhitting can lead to faults or give your opponent an easy return.

How to Avoid It:

  • Control Your Swings: Focus on controlling your paddle swings to maintain balance and direction. Use just enough power to get the ball where you want it to go.
  • Practice Soft Shots: Work on your dinks and soft shots. These can be more effective than power hits, especially in games where positioning and finesse are crucial.

3. Ignoring the Serve’s Potential

The Mistake: Some players treat the serve merely as a means to start play, not realizing it can be a strategic tool. An effective serve can set the tone for the rally and put your opponent on the defensive.

How to Avoid It:

  • Mix Up Your Serves: Use a variety of serves to keep your opponent guessing. Try mixing speeds and angles.
  • Practice Precision: Aim for the corners of the service box to maximize the difficulty of your opponent’s return. Practice until you can place your serve where you want it consistently.

4. Neglecting the Mental Game

The Mistake: Pickleball isn’t just a physical game; it’s also a mental one. Losing focus, getting frustrated, or underestimating the strategy involved can all lead to mistakes on the court.

How to Avoid It:

  • Stay Positive: Keep a positive attitude during the game. If you make a mistake, shake it off and focus on the next point.
  • Watch and Learn: Pay attention to more experienced players. Notice how they handle different situations and try to incorporate their strategies into your game.

5. Failing to Communicate in Doubles

The Mistake: Communication—or the lack thereof—can make or break a doubles team. Many points are lost due to misunderstandings or assumptions about who will take the shot.

How to Avoid It:

  • Establish Signals: Before the game, agree on simple signals or verbal cues to indicate who will take the ball, especially for shots that land in the middle.
  • Regular Practice With Your Partner: The more you play with the same partner, the better you’ll understand each other’s play style and tendencies, leading to improved coordination and fewer on-court mix-ups.

Additional Tips for Improvement

1. Regular Practice: Like any sport, regular practice is the key to improvement in pickleball. Spend time working on your weaknesses, whether it’s your serve, your volley, or your footwork.

2. Clinics and Coaching: Consider attending a pickleball clinic or taking lessons from a coach. Professional instruction can provide personalized feedback and help you correct mistakes more efficiently than practicing alone.

3. Play Against Better Opponents: While playing against less experienced players might boost your ego, playing against stronger opponents will challenge your skills and force you to play smarter. This is one of the fastest ways to improve.


Pickleball is a dynamic and enjoyable sport that combines physical skill with mental strategy. By recognizing common mistakes and learning how to avoid them, you can become a more competent and confident player. Remember, every player makes errors, but the best players are those who learn from their mistakes and continually strive to improve. Whether you’re playing for fun or competition, refining your skills can make pickleball even more rewarding.

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