One reason so many new players get hooked on pickleball is how quickly they improve initially. Like a good video game, it’s an easy game to pick up and play, and with even a little instruction and coaching, most players pick up tips that make them competitive pretty quickly (especially if they have hand-eye coordination and any sort of athletic background). Playing with some skilled players, too, makes new players realize the value in dinking, 3rd shot drops, and resisting the urge to hit every ball as hard as possible from the baseline.
After a year or two, though, I start to hear some people with frustration in plateauing in their game. And while they might still be improving, it’s certainly less quickly and less noticeable than they did at the beginning.
I get why that might be frustrating, but I think there are some simple solutions to help with this. I’ll offer you 3 for now:
–Find a new group to play with: It’s comfortable playing with our normal group, partly because we know how each “regular” plays and how they might attack us. While that’s useful for winning that immediate game, it does little to challenge us into hitting new shots are being aggressive with a new strategy. Sometimes all it takes is playing with someone with a little different style to cause us to adapt and change our games. This can really ramp up your game if you can find a game where you’re the worst player once in a while.
-Add a new skill to your game: One of the fun things about watching pro pickleball is how different the styles of play can be from one pro to the next. Different grips, different serves, different backhands…you name it, someone is using it effectively on the pro tour. There are no shortage of things to try that you’re probably not implementing your own game. Don’t ever drive the ball on your backhand? Try adding a 2 hand backhand to your arsenal. You always play it safe on the serve? How about adding a new serve with pace. Haven’t tried to Erne? Read this article and get practicing. The bigger point: there is some new skill you can practice and add to your game.
-Take some new chances with strategy: This builds on adding a new skill to your game, but we all know how vital strategy becomes in pickleball once you’ve mastered some basic skills. We’ve recently seen a lot of pros use lobs during dink rallies; if the top players see value added to their game by changing up their strategy, surely you can, too. I play with some really good players that never drive their 3rd shot and never speed up a ball in a dink rally. If you’re one of those players, think how much less comfortable your opponent might be if you hit 3 more balls aggressively per game. It’s not much…but being unpredictable is an important trait to improving.
So, there are 3 ideas. I’m sure there are more, but these ideas transfer if you’re a 4.5 player all the way down.