In this video, Jordan Briones from PrimeTime Pickleball shares his top 9 strategy mistakes and how to fix them. The video shows excellent side by side comparisons of what to avoid and what to do instead. The list below summarizes my key takeaways from the video.
- Wandering forward after serving. Take a step back and establish yourself a good distance back from the baseline so you are prepared for a potentially deep return of serve. If the other team observes you wandering forward, they can take advantage of this by aiming their return right at your feet.
- Standing too close to the baseline. A lot of players get in a bind when receiving serves and returns because they’re standing right at the baseline or too close to it. It’s much easier (and safer) to move forward than to move back so the best option is to stand a good distance back from the baseline on preparing to receive a serve or a return of serve. When you have to back up too quickly, not only do you run the risk of tripping over your own feet but you also end up hitting a much weaker shot than when you are established and ready for that deep serve or return. Also, when you are moving forward to take the shot, rather than backing up, your momentum will take you forward and you’ll be able to reach than the No Volley Zone (NVZ) line much more quickly than if you had to back up first.
- Hitting dead dinks. When you hit dead dinks to opponents, you give them lots of options. They can attack the dink or move you around and cause you to make an error. Avoid hitting dead dinks to your opponents, dink with purpose and do not give them an opportunity to attack.
- Backing off the NVZ line. Try not to allow opponents to push you back from the NVZ line. It is okay to occasionally back off to get deep dinks but come right back to the NVZ line. When you allow opponents to push you back from the line and you stay back, this gives them more court to work with and potentially win that rally.
- Not coming to the NVZ line. The advantage is at the NVZ line. By not coming to the NVZ line or by lingering too long at the baseline or transition zone (sometimes called “no man’s land” by some players), you are giving opponents more shot options. The team that has established themselves at the NVZ line will always have the advantage over a team that stays back.
- Driving and rushing to the NVZ line. When you hit a drive, the ball often comes back just as quickly. Players who drive and rush to the line will sometimes get caught during the transition. When running to the NVZ line after a shot, remember to split step and establish yourself when the other team hits the ball so you are established and ready for that next shot. Try to avoid hitting the ball while you are running or moving because this is a common reason for missed shots.
- Spectating and not recovering. Spectating is definitely something I am guilty of. Many times, when I am not getting the balls, I find myself just watching the rally happen. Remember to stay engaged in the point. Follow the ball and always be ready for when it might come your way. Also, when the other team pushes you off the court, remember to get back in position and be ready for that next shot.
- Avoiding your backhand at all costs. It takes more time to run around your backhand to hit the shot with your forehand so it’s not always ideal. Sometimes you can hit a better shot with your forehand so it can be a wise choice but if you always avoid hitting backhand shots by running around them, opponents will not only exploit this but it could also prevent you from developing your backhand and so it will continue to be a weakness.
- Aiming to close to the line and just not giving yourself enough margin for error in general. A lot of the times players will aim too close to the outside lines and end up hitting the ball out when they could have hit an overhead winner anywhere else on the court, or when you’re dinking with purpose and you end up dinking the ball out but could have had a shot that is just as effective and kept the ball in play by not being too aggressive with your dinks, or when you try to hit a return or drive so deep that you end up hitting the ball out. The main message to me here is always give yourself sufficient margin for error. Another area that I always have to think about giving myself margin for error is on my third shots and dinks. Sometimes I try to keep the ball so low that I end up clipping the tape. I am constantly reminding myself to give myself enough margin over the net on these shots. It’s always better to miss high (because you can always try to defend the next shot) and apologize to your partner after than to miss your shot into the net and end the rally prematurely.