8 Pickleball Tips to Improve Your Game, According to a Pro

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Pickle ball and paddle on court

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If you've stepped onto a pickleball court, you likely understand the craze. The game is fun, fairly simple to learn, and works up a good sweat. Plus, it's accessible to a wide range of ages and abilities. Once you've mastered basic dinks, groundstrokes, and volleys, you may find yourself seeking advice on how to take your game to the next level.

Verywell Fit looked to pro-Pickleballer, Catherine Parenteau, for tips on how to level up. Currently ranked #2 in Women's Singles and #3 in Women's Doubles, the former tennis player frequently instructs pickleball players of all ages and abilities. Here are her top tips.

Hit Your Serve and Return Deep

If you're a former (or current) tennis player, adjusting to the bounce serve can be tricky. However, the strategy to keep the ball deep (and cross-court) before approaching the kitchen remains similar on the pickleball court. "This is an important technique to consider," states Parenteau. "Hitting a deep serve makes it more challenging for your opponents to get to the kitchen after the return. It can also help make your 3rd shot easier if the opposing player returns the ball short. "

Serve and Stay, Return and Run In

It can be hard to remember to stay put after your serve, but remember that the first two shots of every point in pickleball must bounce. "This is why it is so important to make sure you are staying back with your partner after you serve," explains Parenteau. "On the other hand, when you are returning, you want to try to get to the kitchen as quickly as possible to join your partner who should already be up at the kitchen line! " Just remember, don't volley inside the kitchen.

Keep Your Paddle Up

Maintaining a ready position allows you versatility and will enable you to hit a variety of shots, depending on how your opponent returns the ball. Parenteau emphasizes the importance of keeping your paddle up and ready. "You should always be ready with your paddle up in between each shot and anticipate that a powerful shot is coming your way. I recommend being ready for the fast shot rather than the slow shot because you never know what you are going to get." It's also important to keep your knees bent and feet moving so that you are ready to lunge or run to get the ball.

If you're looking for an awesome pickleball paddle, Verywell Fit is a fan of this JOOLA Vision Paddle (Buy It, $169, Amazon.com).

Consider Your Contact Point

Getting behind the ball and keeping the contact point in front of your body will optimize your shot. "Make sure your contact point is in front of your body as it greatly affects the quality of the shot you hit," says Parenteau. "You also have much more control to be able to execute the shot you want."

Don't Be Afraid of the Kitchen

Many pickleball newbies are somewhat wary of the kitchen. Keeping the rules regarding the kitchen in mind is important, but that doesn't mean you need to stay away. "Remember that you can hit balls without letting them bounce as long as your feet are behind the kitchen line," says Parenteau. "If the ball bounces, it is okay to go in the kitchen to hit it."

Keep Volley Swings Compact

It's very tempting to try to put a ball away by using a smash or huge follow-through on a volley. However, Parenteau warns that this can be counterintuitive. "It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that having a long swing is what generates power on your volleys," advises Parenteau. "What actually generates power is your ability to hit the sweet spot of your paddle. This is much easier to do if your swings are nice and short."

Invest in Quality Gear

Purchasing a pickleball racket and ball are clear necessities for the game, however, Parenteau advises that pickleball-specific shoes are necessary for optimal performance and safety. "When it comes to having the right gear, the most common mistake I see on the court is pickleball players wearing running shoes while they play," says Parenteau. "Running shoes are not built for lateral movement and lack lateral support and stability. I would definitely recommend pickleball court shoes so you have the right support and can focus on your game." Her go-to pair in competition and training is the super lightweight Skechers Viper Court Pro (Buy It, $115, Amazon.com).

Use a Loose Grip for a Soft Shot

The grip you use matters, and it can change based on the shot you want to hit." Whenever you want to hit something soft in pickleball, you are going to want to have a loose grip," instructs Parenteau. "On a scale from 1-10, 1 being extremely loose and 10 being extremely tight, when hitting something soft you are going to want to grip your paddle around 2 or 3 out of 10. Whenever you want to hit something with more pace, you are going to want to grip your paddle at around 6 or 7 out of 10."