You’ve played pickleball for a while and are pretty good at the game.
Now you want to take your game to the next level and need some tips and drills to get there faster.
As a pickler, I constantly look for ways to improve my game.
I’ve gathered some of the top tips from the more seasoned players rated 4+.
Here are the top ten pickleball tips for intermediate players to transcend their gameplay.
Table of Contents
1. Improve your Footwork
One of the most essential skills in pickleball is footwork.
You will improve your game vastly if you can move quickly and efficiently on the court to position yourself for the best shot possible and to avoid getting caught off balance or out of position. Good footwork can help you cover more ground, reach more balls, and hit more accurate shots.
To improve your footwork, you need to practice some drills that will help you develop your agility, speed, and coordination. Some of these drills are:
- Ladder drills: Use a ladder or tape some lines on the ground and practice moving in and out of the squares with different patterns, such as forward-backward, side-to-side, diagonal, etc. Try to be as fast and precise as possible.
- Cone drills: Set up cones or markers on the court and practice moving around them with different patterns, such as zig-zag, figure-eight, etc. Try to change direction quickly and smoothly.
- Shadow drills: Without a ball or a partner, practice moving on the court as if you were playing a real point. Imagine where the ball is coming from and where you want to hit it. Try to simulate different situations, such as baseline rallies, net exchanges, volleys, etc.
2. Practice your Serve
The serve is the only shot you have complete control over, and it can set the tone for the rest of the point. A good serve can give you an advantage over your opponent by putting them on the defensive or forcing them to make an error. A lousy serve can give away an easy point or put you in a vulnerable position.
To practice your serve, you need to work on accuracy and power. You have to be able to hit the ball where you want it to go, preferably in the corners of the service box or near the baseline. And you need to do it with power, with enough speed and spin to make it difficult for your opponent to return it.
Some tips on how to improve your serve are:
- Use a consistent and comfortable grip and stance. Find a grip and stance that work for you, and stick with them. Don’t change them too often or too drastically.
- Use a smooth and fluid motion. Don’t rush or jerk your arm when serving. Use a pendulum-like motion that starts from your shoulder and ends at your waist.
- Aim for a low contact point. Don’t hit the ball too high or too low. Aim for a contact point that is slightly below your waist level.
- Vary your serve location and spin. Don’t hit the same serve every time. Mix up your serve location and spin to keep your opponent guessing and off balance.
One drill that can help you practice your serve is to use a bucket or a basket as a target and try to hit it with different serves from different positions on the court. Try to hit at least 10 serves in a row before moving on to another target or position.
3. Consistency is Key
One of the most significant differences between intermediate and advanced players is consistency.
Advanced players can hit the ball in play without making unforced errors or giving away easy points. You will make your opponent anxious if you make very few mistakes. And it can help you win more points by forcing your opponent to attempt to hit more winning shots and make more mistakes.
To improve your consistency, you need to focus on shot selection and execution. Shot selection means choosing the right shot for the right situation. Execution means hitting the shot with proper technique and placement.
Some tips on how to improve your consistency are:
- In an actual match, play within your limits. Don’t try to hit shots beyond your skill level or comfort zone. Don’t go for winners that are too risky or have a low percentage.
- In practice sessions, play out of your limit. Try hitting the ball in different angles or placements that make you uncomfortable.
- Play smart. Don’t hit balls out that wouldn’t be winners anyway.
One drill that can help you practice your consistency is to rally with a partner and keep the ball in play for as long as possible. Try to hit at least 20 shots in a row before stopping or switching sides.
4. Mix in Slice and Topspin Consistently
A mix of spin makes it harder for your opponent to anticipate and return it.
Some tips on how to use spin effectively are:
- Use slice on your serve and return of serve. Slice can help you keep the ball low and deep, making it harder for your opponent to attack or approach the net.
- Use topspin on your groundstrokes and volleys. Topspin can help you lift the ball over the net and make it bounce higher, making it harder for your opponent to defend or dink.
- Mix up your spin and direction. Don’t hit the same spin or direction every time. Vary your spin and direction to keep your opponent guessing and off balance.
5. Learn the Lob
If you want to practice a new technique as an intermediate player, the lob is your best option. It will catch your opponent off guard because players at this level are not getting used to this shot. The lob is a high shot that goes over your opponent’s head, forcing them to move backward and hit a difficult shot.
It requires good touch, timing, and placement, as they can be quickly punished if executed poorly.
Some tips on how to hit a good drop shot or lob are:
- Use a continental grip and an open paddle face. A continental grip is when you hold the paddle like a hammer, with the edge facing forward. An open paddle face is when you tilt the paddle slightly upward, creating more loft and less power.
- Disguise the lob. You don’t want your opponent to guess you are about to lob because the whole point of doing it is to catch your opponent off guard.
- Aim for a high arc and hit the ball deep. Don’t hit the ball too flat or too low when hitting a drop shot or lob. Aim for a high arc that clears the net by at least 3 feet and slams it deep into the opponent’s court.
Here is an excellent video if you want to improve your lob.
6. Perfect your Dink
The dink is the most critical shot in pickleball because it is probably the shot you will play the most in a game. It can help you control the point, neutralize your opponent’s attack, and set up your attack.
Here are some tips to improve your dink:
- Aim for a low trajectory and a low bounce. Keep the ball low and shallow when hitting a dink. Aim for a low trajectory that clears the net by a few inches and a low bounce that stays below your opponent’s knees.
- When dinking, hit the ball in front of you. Avoid dinking the ball in your sides because you will inevitably use your wrist to hit the ball, and it will make the dink too high.
- Lock your wrist and use your shoulder to hit the ball to hit the ball low.
One drill that can help you practice your dink is to play a game of “dink only” with a partner or a wall. The rules are simple: you can only hit dinks in the non-volley zone, and you lose a point if you hit the ball out, into the net, or above the net. Try to win at least 10 points before switching sides.
7. Track the Ball with Your Paddle
Another skill that can help you improve your game is tracking. Tracking is the ability to follow the ball with your eyes and your paddle, anticipating its trajectory, speed, bounce, and spin. Tracking can help you improve your reaction time, accuracy, and consistency.
To track the ball with your paddle, you need to practice some habits that will help you stay focused and ready for every shot. Some of these habits are:
- Keep your paddle up and in front of you. Don’t let your paddle drop or lag behind you when playing. Keep your paddle up and in front of you, at chest level or higher, ready to hit any shot that comes your way.
- Keep your paddle parallel to the net. Don’t tilt your paddle too much when playing. Keep your paddle parallel to the net, creating a flat surface that can hit any angle or direction.
- Keep your paddle moving with the ball. Don’t keep your paddle still or move it too late when playing. Keep your paddle moving with the ball, matching its speed and direction.
One drill that can help you practice tracking is to play a game of “paddle touch” with a partner or a wall. The rules are simple: you have to touch the ball with your paddle before it bounces on your side of the court, and you lose a point if you miss or touch it twice in a row. Try to touch at least 20 balls in a row before switching sides.
8. Rest and Recovery
Another factor that can affect your game is rest and recovery. Rest and recovery are often overlooked but can help prevent injuries, reduce fatigue, and enhance performance.
To rest and recover properly, you need to follow some guidelines that will help you take care of your body and mind before, during, and after playing pickleball. Some of these guidelines are:
- Hydrate yourself. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after playing pickleball, especially in hot or humid conditions. Water can help you regulate your body temperature, flush out toxins, and prevent dehydration.
- Be sure to warm up if you are going into a competitive game.
- Fuel yourself. Eat healthy snacks before, during, and after playing pickleball, such as fruits, nuts, granola bars, etc. Eat balanced meals after playing pickleball, such as lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Eating can help you replenish your energy, repair your tissues, and boost your immune system.
9. Control where you are hitting the ball
At this level, you want to be able to hit the ball where you want it to go, preferably in the most effective and strategic spots on the court because you need to start attacking the weak spot of your opponents.
Some tips on how to improve your shot placement are:
- Aim for the corners of the court. Don’t hit the ball to the middle of the court or your opponent’s paddle when playing. Aim for the corners of the court, creating more distance and angle for your opponent to cover.
- Aim for the weak spots of your opponent. Aim for your opponent’s weak areas, such as their backhand, feet, or body.
- Pin the opponent to the weaker side of the court. Most players’ backhands are worse. Therefore, you want to consistently keep hitting the ball to their backhand and suddenly attack the other side of the court when they are out of position.
- If you are playing a double, aim at the weaker opponent.
You can practice your shot placement by using targets like cones or markers on the court and trying to hit them with different shots from different positions.
10. Don’t let a team or player up to the kitchen line for free.
The last tip that can help you improve your game is to control the net. Always try to dominate the non-volley zone (or kitchen) and prevent your opponent from doing the same. Controlling the net can help you win more points by being able to attack or counter more effectively and by forcing your opponent to defend or retreat more passively.
To control the net, you need to follow some strategies that will help you keep your opponent back or push them back. Some of these strategies are:
- Serve and return deep. Don’t serve or return short or high when playing. Serve and return deep, near the baseline or the corners, making it harder for your opponent to approach the net or hit an aggressive shot.
- Always aim at the opponent who is further back. It is a simple yet effective strategy, but you need to get used to constantly scanning the positions of both players of the other team.
I hope you have learned something new from this article. Thanks for reading, peace.
FAQ – Pickleball Tips for Intermediate Players
How can I become an advanced player?
Consistency is the most significant difference between an intermediate player and an advanced player. You have to eliminate unforced errors entirely from your game through consistent practice and game review.
What rating is considered an intermediate player?
Generally, players rated 3.0 – 3.5 are considered intermediate level, and 4.0 + is advanced.