The unwritten “rules’ regarding courtesy and safety on the court are as follows (they’re unwritten no more!):
A friend related to me that she was traveling recently and happened upon some strangers playing doubles pickleball. Of course, she had to stop and say hello and eventually join in their games. She said she was surprised to find out that these players didn’t follow common rules of etiquette and safety (for example, they never called “ball’ when one of their balls strayed into an adjoining court). She asked me to include the subject of safety on the court in an upcoming blog, and I’ll do that here. (All of these points and more can be found in my book, The Art of Pickleball.)
The unwritten “rules’ regarding courtesy and safety on the court are as follows (they’re unwritten no more!):
A while ago, I was talking with someone about pickleball strategy, he said he’d been approaching the game logically, trying to improve his playing without playing. Since he is a good player, I listened as he rattled off statistics and logical assumptions.
He’d been thinking about the serve. He pointed out that serving in pickleball isn’t like other racquet sports because of the double-bounce rule. In pickleball, the side that gets to the net first wins more rallies — 60 to 70% more. Because the serving side has to wait back near the baseline because of the double-bounce rule, the receivers always reach the net first, and they win more often. He went on to say that it really didn't matter if he missed his serve — his chances of making an ace on the serve are small.
The first part of what he said made sense. He was right about being at the net — the position of power — and the receivers do have an advantage by getting there first. But what did that have to do with making or not making the serve? I said, "If you miss your serve, you’ve lost the possibility of making a point, and your opponents didn’t have to do anything."
He shook his head and said, “Since my chances of winning while serving are less than the receivers’, I should try an extraordinary serve to even the odds. I’m better off serving the ball with maximum power, skill, and deception and miss the serve entirely than delivering an easy serve. If my opponents are any good at all, they’ll send it back with thanks and a victory. When I serve hard or send the serve to the outside corner of the service box, for example, I’m risking a fault to achieve a point. My old tennis coach used to say that a service ratio of an ace to an error is a good ratio. The same thing applies here."
This was an approach to the game I hadn’t considered, but which was all around me in the way other people play.
He continued, “People concentrate on getting the serve into the box, but I disagree with that. You shouldn’t be afraid to miss a serve. Statistics say you won’t win that point very often anyway, so why not take a chance and try a tough serve? If it goes in, even if your opponent sends it back, they won’t do as well as if you handed them the ball on a platter. Serving hard and with as much skill as you can muster has everything to gain and nothing to lose [assuming you get it in 50% of the time]."
I nodded and let this sink in. The key to his strategy being successful depends on that last bit in brackets. If you get the serve in more than half the time, his strategy might work.
He went on. “This changes the serve in pickleball from a defensive opening to a power play that can win points and reclaim the edge (or at least even the odds). The question shouldn’t be what percentage of your serves are in. Instead, track the ratio of your service winners to errors. Track an error if you miss the box. Track a winner when your serve makes them miss or the return is weak and sets up an easy point for you. If the ratio is even or better, that’s great."
His method wouldn’t pay for beginners or inconsistent intermediate players, but for those who can usually place the ball well, it might be worth rethinking whether the serve should be only a game starter or if it has more going for it.
If nothing else, this kind of serve would keep your opponents on their toes because it would be unexpected, and that’s always a good thing.
What do you think?
There are two types of anticipation. One isn’t a conscious choice and can be detrimental to your pickleball game. The other type of anticipation is a conscious choice you can make to improve your play.
Detrimental Anticipation (= Anxiety)
In William Goldman’s story, The Princess Bride, the evil Count says, “One of my theories . . . is that pain involves anticipation.” He then chains Westley, the hero, near a torture device that he promises to use on Westley later. This is detrimental anticipation.
It’s easier to understand in reverse: anticipation can be painful because it brings anxiety. People often respond to anxiety by forcing a resolution before it’s time, just to end the feeling.
Because pickleball is fun, you may not realize you feel anxious while you play. Let’s say you’re waiting for your pickleball game to begin. Maybe it’s a tournament, or maybe it’s just a game that matters to you. You start feeling anxious, and your confidence diminishes with each negative thought you have. By the time the game starts, you’re not at your best.
Dealing with that type of anxiety requires you to block negative thoughts and dwell on positive ones. Relaxing and focusing on your strengths will bring a much better result. This takes practice, but it’s something you can work on all the time, not just when you’re playing pickleball. (I find it helps in many other situations, too.)
Here’s another example: you’re at bat in a softball game. The count is two balls and one strike. The pitch comes. You’re anxious to get a hit so you swing, but the ball was low and outside and you miss. Now it’s two balls and two strikes and you’re more anxious because another strike will put you out. The pitch comes . . . and your anxiety causes you to swing too soon and miss what probably would have been a hit.
Here’s another example: you’re at the net playing doubles and your opponents keep dinking to your backhand. It’s not your best shot, and you worry you’re going to put the ball in the net. In fact, you do put it in the net when you try to get out of the dink too soon. When you get to the net again in the next rally, you’re in the same spot, and you’re more anxious because the opponents have gained a point. Your anxiety causes you to make a poor return, which goes too high this time. You know the rest.
I like to spend time watching great pickleball players at tournaments or on YouTube. They make the game appear effortless. They don’t rush around the court. They take whatever time they have for each shot, and they don’t let anxiety about what’s coming interfere with the stroke they are making. They are calm — or at least more calm than other players. This is due to the amount of training they’ve had and how much they believe in their ability to succeed.
These last points are important. Training comes with directed practice, not just play — it’s practice toward a goal, whatever that goal might be. Directed practice makes you more confident in your ability to succeed at that goal. This success in turn reduces anxiety and promotes confidence, leading to better play, which again inspires more confidence. Win-Win (pun intended).
The dinking example illustrates the need for patience. It’s hard to be patient when you want to get that hit, but being patient is what will help you hit better when the time is right. This is particularly important in dinking, where you must continue patiently sending the ball back and forth, back and forth, until your opponent makes a mistake and you can take advantage of it. Don’t be anxious and end the dink too soon or you’ll be the one making the mistake.
That said, there is a time when anticipation is desired in pickleball. If you can learn to anticipate your opponent’s shot before it happens, you’ll be that much farther ahead in being ready to receive it. This doesn’t have anything to do with anxiety — it’s just watching carefully to see what is happening and planning ahead.
If you watch as your opponent hits the ball, you’ll get a good idea where the ball is going to land, how much spin it will have, and more. Watch where your opponent is looking, too — that can reveal a lot about where the ball will go. (Of course, some players are tricky and look one way while using their peripheral vision to guide their shots, too.)
Planning ahead will also ensure that you have good position on the court when it is time to hit the ball. If you’ve ever watched a good pool or billiards player, you know they think ahead and set up their next shot while making the current one. Watching your opponent’s shot can help you know where you should be on the court in order to properly execute a return. Similarly, you can anticipate what your opponent’s next shot might be before the ball leaves your paddle and start moving accordingly.
For example, if you’re drawn to the outside of the court, chances are your opponent will send the next shot back to the center of your court — the place where you’re not. Quickly moving back to the center of your court is always a good idea, since it gives you the most options to reach the next ball. In this case, it could help you get there in time to make the shot instead of miss it. Whenever you can think ahead to what your opponent is likely to do and prepare for it, you’ll be one or more steps ahead, which can make quite a difference. The same is true when playing to your opponent’s weaknesses: knowing your opponent’s style helps you anticipate his actions, so it’s wise to pay attention to any patterns in his play.
Try to avoid the type of anticipation that leads to anxiety. Stay relaxed, and practice until you’re comfortable with your game. Keep your wits about you, and try to anticipate your opponent’s next move in order to be able to counter it effectively.
[This is a repost from August of 2015 that was amended with new information in February of 2016. Since then, new sites have appeared, so here's my new and improved list!!
If you learn of a great website that should be added, please let me know.]
So many websites offer pickleball tips and information now that it’s sometimes hard to find what you need quickly or to locate the best.
My list is not comprehensive, and I’m sure I’ve missed sites that should have been included. But I offer this as a starting point if you are looking for tips, tricks, basic info, and/or strategies.
This list is NOT an endorsement of any site, nor a ranking of any over another. My goal is simply to list what I consider the best of the sites that provide useful information contained in clearly presented and easy-to-navigate online sites.
My List of "Best Sites for 'Text & Graphics' Information"
The United States of America Pickleball Association (USAPA.org) is the definitive source for Rules, Places to Play, and a list of upcoming events (click the “Events” tab at the right of the screen). Their “Education and Training” menu contains good information about strategy, skill development, and safety, among a host of other offerings. USAPA members can also read content included in their new monthly Pickleball Magazine.
Coach Mo’s PickleballCoach.com has a wealth of written information. Coach Mo was a tennis pro who has won numerous pickleball accolades. He markets video lessons, but his new website offers a strategy guide you may read or print, a compilation of monthly tips, and a link to his “Pickleball Coach App” available for Android users.
PickleballCentral.com is one of the largest retailers of pickleball goods via the Internet, but their site offers a great Paddle Selection Guide. They also write a blog that has useful information. Their posts include keywords that allow you to search by topic.
Pickleball Experts also carries a full line of goods and they donate 10% of their proceeds to local charities (they're based in Auburn, WA). Their interactive Paddle Selection Guide may be what you need to find your next best game changer.
Prem Carnot was a table tennis champion and is now a 5.0 pickleball player who teaches clinics. His site, PickleballHelp.com, features an Articles and Strategies blog that has a keyword archive for searching (scroll way down on the right).
Multi-National and International Champion Jennifer Lucore’s blog sits atop her sales site AllPickleball.com. She offers blog posts about various topics, categorized by keywords so they are searchable, and there's also an index on the lower right.
A.J. Fraites' Pickleball.biz is a site devoted growing all things pickleball. He has a blog with good information and the entire site is mapped for easy reference. Great source of information.
Jeff Shank hasn't added information recently, but his blog contains a wealth of information that's worth a look.
Of course, if you're reading this, you've found my pickleball blog at GaleLeach.com. Note that this Pickleball Tips blog is searchable by keyword and has a list of topics. You can also subscribe to my page (GaleLeach.com) and receive notifications about new pickleball postings as they occur.
My List of "Best Video Instruction" Sites
For those who prefer to get their information via video, several good sites are available. My only complaint about most of the video sites is that their content isn't tagged with keywords, making it hard to locate the information you want.
PickleballChannel.com’s videos are top-notch, covering diverse aspects of pickleball and “mini clinics” through their “Pickleball 411” segments.
Pickleball Legend Norm Davis has a series of YouTube videos that offer instruction on the basics of just about everything. His videos are clear and easy to follow.
Likewise, Deb Harrison’s YouTube Channel is filled with great information about the basics and many topics not ordinarily covered by others. Worth a look.
My Favorite Pickleball “Radio” Podcast
Pickleball even has its own podcast “radio” station. Chris Allen’s “The Pickleball Show” features interviews with top players and coaches offering strategies, tips, and tricks for playing better pickleball, along with reviews of equipment and notes about upcoming tournaments.
My Favorite Pickleball "Celebrity" Facebook Pages
Quite a number of people are offering sage advice via their Facebook posts. I'm sure I've missed some on this list, but I've enjoyed the format here, because readers can comment also, generating lively discussion at times.
Pickleball Forum A forum where you can discuss all things Pickleball.
Aspen Kern 24-year-old 5.0 National Champion Pickleball player. Lives in Palm Desert, CA.
Jennifer Lucore 16-time USAPA National Champion, 10x Canadian, 4x International... + more.
Mark Renneson Founder at Third Shot Sports which also has some good videos on YouTube.
As I said at the top, I’m sure I’ve missed some good sites. Send me a note or reply to this post so I can include them later. Meanwhile, I hope this list helps you locate good information that will help take your game to the next level.
Gale Leach lives in Arizona with her husband, two dogs, and one cat. When she's not writing pickleball tips, she's working on the second in a new series of novels for young adults, a fifth book in the "Bruce" children's series, and updating The Art of Pickleball.