The important distinction of Pickleball Strategy is about what to do, not how to do it which is where you would exercise pickleball strategies.
So strategy – what is it when it comes to playing this game with a funny sounding name. Just as baseball has a different play or strategy for first man up compared to bases loaded or just as the last hour of the 4th days play of a 5 day cricket match has a different game play or strategy to the first hour on the first day, so too the same thinking applies to pickleball.
However, what most players new to the game (even some more advance players) want to be conscious of to get on and stay on the winning side more consistently is – what strategy of game play is likely to win me most games. What is it that I should be striving to get good at consistently so that I can subsequently be consistently competitive and ultimately play in more winning games?
When a player gets consistently good at basic pickleball strategy, they can then further improve their game with more sophisticated and elevated skilled strategies to scale the player ratings.
The core basic Pickleball strategy of everyone’s game to playing competitively well should be to be understand and get competent at 10 elements of the game. They are:
1. Get your serve in. Improving your serve and the difficulty of its return comes after you can consistently get your serve in. Yes, there are many strategies to improve your serve but the first basic skill of the winning pickleball strategy is to get your serve in.
2. Get your return of serve in. While there is massive opportunity to make it harder for your opposition to make a good third shot with a more perfect return, your return of serve has the full court to aim at and you must get this in. Effectively it needs little more than a lob return that lands somewhere near the centre “T” to get the ball in play before you look at upping the anti with a more difficult return when you gain improvement in skills.
3. Know where you are on the court. Have or develop your situational awareness and don’t hit balls that are going out. It is a crime – well almost a crime to hit a ball that is well and truly on its way out of court to win that will automatically win you the point. Understandably, situational awareness is lost in part because of excitement of the play and an almost natural want to hit the ball, but remember a ball that lands out scores you a point. Don’t hit it if you don’t have to. Be aware of where you are on the court and the trajectory and pace at which the ball is traveling and winning a point because the ball landing out is just as valuable as winning the point because you hit it in.
4. Understand that not every shot has to be a winner. There are times to play defensively and there are times to attack or be proactively aggressive. A defensive shot aimed to land in play when an aggressive shot is too difficult to make to win a play – keeps you in play so that you might get a better opportunity on its return to win the play.
5. Understand that a doubles game is just that, it is not two singles games. It means that the better placed person or the person that calls to take the shot; takes the shot! Doubles is a team game not just a game that is played by two players. It is not your shot because it is your side and mine because it is my side. Doubles does not mean 2 people play against 2 people. Doubles means that 2 people play together as a team against 2 opposing players.
6. Understand that Poaching is an extremely effective way to win points. Poaching means that either you or your partner will typically jump across and volley a ball normally aimed at the weakest or deepest player. Again, doubles play is two people playing together as a team. If your partner has poached a shot then your continued play is to then cover them and be ready for the next shot if their poach is not a winner!
7. There is nothing harder to hit then a ball you cannot reach closely followed by a ball that is hit at your feet. Always look to place your ball at first option out of reach or second option at your opponents’ feet. Both options are highly effective and should be used as required and decided at the moment during a play.
8. Remember, your game strategy or what you might say goal in the game is to get to and command the net, known as the kitchen line of course. It is from this kitchen line that you will be in the position to win most points and if you win most points you obviously win the game.
9. A well place ball will beat a fast ball every time. While a player has a chance to hit a fast paced ball hit within reach, they have no chance of returning a slow ball that is hit out of reach. Good placement will win over a fast ball every time.
10. Know what you can and cannot do. It is a great feeling to hit a winner at the speed of light but if you cannot reliably and repeatedly do this, it becomes a low percentage shot for you to make and if you lose more than you win with such a shot, you lose. It is not about removing all high risk shots, it is about when you use a shot and what shot you use for any given play.
A well planned, known and rehearsed Pickleball Strategy will definitely help you to win more consistently. Pickleball Strategies that help you do that with more constantly will win you more games more consistently.
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