Playing game after game of pickleball is a good way to get a workout, but it’s not necessarily the best way to improve. If you swing away without thinking about how you’re maneuvering and responding to different circumstances, then you may find yourself stuck in a rut over time. Don't let bad habits take hold!
In truth, it’s fairly simple to keep a few things in mind during games that will help you to better your play and determine what you can work on during practices. Here are a few questions to ask:
1) How are you holding your paddle?
Unless you’ve taken lessons before, you may not even think about grip style and how it affects your game. Do you hold your paddle like a tennis racquet? Place a finger against the back of the face? Grip it near the base of the handle?
All of these methods have different pros and cons, not to mention their usefulness varies depending on the type of paddle you use. If you find you’re responding too quickly or slowly to shots, you might want to experiment with different grips to see if you can get better control and placement with your paddle.
2) How fast are you moving to the kitchen?
Generally speaking, after the serve/return of serve, you want to get to the kitchen line as soon as possible. A lot of newer players tend to hover near the baseline and make it harder for themselves to cover the court.
It can be intimidating for some players to step up close to the net when it feels like the action gets more frenzied in these instances, but you’ll be able to defend against a wider variety of shots and react much faster this way. If you find yourself standing around the middle of the court, step up a few paces and watch your skills improve.
3) Why are you missing balls?
Sometimes missed shots are inevitable, but if you can keep track of the reasons why then you’ll be on the right path to improving your play. Were you out of position? Not watching your opponent’s eyes/hands? Maybe you managed to hit the ball, but slammed it too hard and sent it outside of the court.
If you’re consistently making the same mistakes, take a look at what’s causing them and how you can make appropriate tweaks moving forward.
Other great ways to improve your game are to practice good techniques by drilling or learning from a more practiced partner/teacher. Have you ever had a 'light bulb' moment when it came to correcting your play?