5 Essential Tips for Pickleball Beginners

For the third year running, USA Pickleball has announced that pickleball is the number 1 growing sport in the country. With over 10,000+ locations and 36.5 million players the sport continues to grow year after year with no sign of those numbers letting up. 

The Growing Popularity of Pickleball - Is It the Right Sport for You?

Are you a beginner level pickleball player or looking to learn the game? This is your practical guide to understanding the most important factors and elements involved in the game. Following these tips will be essential in starting off on the right foot, understanding the game and advancing from a beginner to an intermediate level player.

What Factors Should You Consider When Selecting a Pickleball Paddles

The paddle market is very over saturated and overwhelming with options all over the internet from $20 up to $250. The tendency of a new player is to go on Amazon and pick the best and cheapest deal but this will be your first mistake. If you know you are invested in learning the sport and getting to the highest level you can then you must invest in a high quality, higher priced paddle. Find promotions for our store here us code  WETHRIFT.

The first ‘pickleball’ paddle was actually a modified ping pong paddle. This didn't last long however as it consistently broke during play. This led to the next design and evolution which was a more durable, wooden paddle.The design was an oversized, thicker ping pong paddle that allowed players to have more power and for the paddle to last longer. As the sport continued to grow, the first modern day paddle was introduced. Using composite materials, found in Boeing aircraft floor panels, Areln Paranto invented a lighter-weight, yet still durable version. This changed the game for good and now composite pickleball paddles compared to the wooden version are now the norm. 

Volair Pickleball Paddle                                            Wooden Pickleball Paddle                  

     Volair Carbon Fiber Paddle                                                 Wooden Paddle

So what makes a good paddle? Top professional player Collin Johns, who uses the Joola paddle has some great insight into what he looks for in a paddle. ‘The dimensions are really important because, generally speaking, people miss hit the ball left to right rather than up or down’. You want to give yourself more width’. 

What Should be the Ideal Weight of a Pickleball Paddle?

There are four main elements you need to look at before purchasing a paddle and I recommend demoing at least three different styles of paddles so you can ‘try before you buy’. The first is the weight of the paddle. Most paddles generally weigh between 6 and 14 oz. Heavier paddles generate more power, but in turn may cause wrist or arm problems, while lighter paddles lend more control. The key is to find the happier medium where the paddle has enough weight to swing fairly effortlessly from all over the court. 

Good Material is the Foundation 

The second key factor when buying a paddle is the material. The cheaper paddles that are between the $20-$80 price points will generally be made of wood or plastic. This type of material will give you very little power, control, spin and overall comfort. The more you spend on a paddle the better material you are paying for and the key is to be looking for a ‘carbon fiber’ paddle. This provides enhanced feel and control and no matter your level you will feel a dramatic difference in your shots when using a carbon fiber paddle compared to a plastic/wooden paddle. 

Ergonomic Shape & Handle Will Win You a Game 

The third element is the shape of the paddle. There are many different shapes out there but there are three main categories that exist: wide, classic and long. Wide paddles are shorter but more forgiving with generous sweet spots. Long paddles provide better reach but are more difficult to control with narrower sweet spots. Classic paddles offer a happy medium between the long and wide shapes. The final factor you need to consider is the handle of the paddle. For players that prefer or are more comfortable with a two handed backhand, or have larger hands then you need to be looking for a longer handle length of 5”+. If you have smaller hands and are more comfortable with a one handed backhand then you want to be using a grip size of 4” and 4.25”. Over grips are also important as they provide more comfort, a slightly larger grip feel and if regularly replaced will help manage sweaty hands. If you consider these four elements and demo a variety of brands based on what suits you like Volair you will be investing in the right paddle for you.

Grip – Setting you up for success

Holding the paddle with the correct grip and understanding the differences is fundamental in how you learn the game and each shot. 

What Are the Three Main Types of Grips in Pickleball?

There are three different grips you need to know and can use while playing; continental, eastern and western grip. 

All grips pictured below.

Pickleball Paddle Grips


Each of the grips comes with their own advantages. Choosing the best grip for you comes down to what best suits your mechanics, game style and most importantly, what feels the most comfortable in your hand. The most important grip I will highlight and recommend for all beginner level players is the eastern grip – ‘the shake hands grip’. To find this grip you quite literally shake hands with your paddle. This grip is the same as the forehand grip in tennis and allows you to generate topspin without too much force. This is a neutral grip and can be used for both forehands and backhands without having to change your grip between shots like you would have to do in tennis.


The second most common grip is continental – ‘the hammer grip’. To find this grip you run your hand down the handle with your thumb and first fingers resembling a ‘V shape’. This also the same grip you would have if you were holding a hammer. This is the most common grip in tennis with every shot but the forehand needing this grip to be successful and to create a slice on the ball. This grip is relatively common and plays into a player’s backhand more than their forehand because of the angle of the paddle in your hand. The challenge with this grip is being able to adjust to a forehand especially when volleying. 


The third grip in pickleball would be the western grip – ‘the frying pan grip’. This is the least common and would be the grip I do not recommend for beginner players. You see this grip being used by tennis players that are used to hitting the tennis ball with a lot of topspin. This grip favors the forehand but sets up a difficult angle for the backhand and without strong technique a lot of your shots will go into the net. Grips are a hard aspect of the game to break so the sooner you get into the right grip and understand the differences the more successful you will be on the court.

Prioritizing Consistency Over Power - Why Less Is More?

Less is more on the pickle ball court. One of the most common mistakes made by beginner players is too much movement and too much power. Resisting the temptation to ‘bang’ every shot is key with the mindset of control and consistency needed at the beginning stages of learning the game.  If you start to take big swings and add too many steps in your movement then this will decrease your efficiency and take time away from hitting the ball. The most important concept of pickleball is consistency: the less motion you have, the more consistent you will be when hitting your shots. With the court being very small in comparison to a tennis court it is all about touch and precision. Your mindset should always be less swinging and ‘banging’ and more of forcing the mistake from your opponent.

How Does Consistency Play a Crucial Role in Pickleball?

To become more consistent it is important to do the fundamentals well. When first learning, a lot of players like to take big back swings and use a lot of wrist on their shots. The more you use your wrist, the more the ball will fly all over the court. Keeping your wrist firm and limiting excessive movement will help develop better accuracy and consistency in all your shots.

Although tennis and a lot of other racket sports are similar to pickleball the strategy involved in the game is very different. The average tennis rally lasts for three hits, while the average pickleball rally lasts for nine highlighting the difference in speed and consistency. In tennis, the goal is to hit the ball with a lot more force, spin and power while in pickleball it is all about control. Tennis players predominantly hit with force from the baseline and are moving side to side, up and back consistently. Pickleball players however use a lot less force on their shots, move less and play the majority of the game up at the kitchen line. The more comfortable you can get playing at the kitchen line the more confident you will become which will also help improve your consistency and overall game play.  

Dinking – Third Shot Drop

The third shot drop is a crucial strategy for beginner players. After the serve and return, the third shot drop is aimed at landing the ball softly in the opponent's non volley zone (kitchen) giving you an opportunity to move forward and forcing your opponent to return a softer shot. This shot is used over 60% of the time by pro players showing the importance of being able to hit this shot consistently from the baseline. 

Practicing the third shot drop and becoming proficient at it will give you better control over the game's tempo and allow you to dictate the play. The third shot drop is an extended dink from the back of the court that isn’t easy to execute consistently. Too many players are focused on hitting the ball hard on the third shot and winning the point quickly but if this shot isn’t executed well with your opponents generally already at the kitchen line it gives them the advantage to finish the point on the volley. To be successful with the third shot drop you need to be able to execute the following consistently:

  1. Do not stand inside the baseline after your team serves
  2. Do not take a big backswing or follow through
  3. Hit the shot with forward momentum
  4. Be intentional with the placement of your drop

How Can Beginners Practice and Improve Their Third Shot Drop?

As a beginner your focus should be on drilling more than match play. To improve a specific shot like the third shot drop the only way it can get better is specific drills working on this shot. You need to master the dink from the kitchen line first before you progress into drilling the third shot drop from the baseline.

Dinking Drill Progressions

A great beginner and warm up/starter drill is simply throwing the ball underhand to each other from the kitchen line. This is the motion for the dink shot on both the forehand and backhand side. Throwing the ball and aiming for it to bounce inside the kitchen shows early on how soft you should be caressing the ball. After a few minutes you would then change position with your partner and aim the throw cross court to work on hitting different angles and areas of the kitchen. A fun, final progression would be adding targets positioned in different areas of the kitchen. This gives you a visual aid to aim towards with the target being to hit as many cones as you can consistently. Once you have developed this throwing motion consistently you can then grab your paddle and execute the same motion but now hitting back and forth from the kitchen line both down the line and cross court with your partner. Once you have developed more consistency on your dink shots you can then start drilling using targets/cones to further develop your accuracy and to make it more competitive. 

The final progression to improve your dink is to work on creating patterns. Pro player Sarah Ansboury created a fun dinking drill shown in the image below.  The goal with this drill is to create a pattern by changing the depth of each dink, alternating from midway to the line. These targets can also be placed in positions that cause your practice partner to move side to side and up and back. Allow your partner to call the pattern, for example, blue, orange, green. Your goal is to create the pattern they call as you dink. 

Dinking Drills

Once you have mastered the dink to a consistent level it is then time to progress into the third shot drop. A great drill for working on this shot is having one player at the kitchen line while the other player is moving back after each shot with the aim to hit everything inside the kitchen. As the player progresses all the way back to the baseline they then need to work their way back to the kitchen line and this continues for as long as possible. This not only works on your movement and balance but it also allows you to work on hitting the dink from all areas of the court. This will help establish muscle memory, consistency and control to then be able to execute this shot consistently in a match situation. 

No matter the drill you must always have a purpose. If you want to improve your dink, your third shot drop or even your volley you must set a goal for each practice session and work towards that. The more you drill with a purpose the quicker you will see improvements.

Footwork and Court Positioning is Key to Success

Your footwork and positioning are the most important elements in pickleball but is an area that is often overlooked. As a beginner player understanding the significance of movement, balance and positioning on the court will help set you up for immediate success. Getting yourself to the kitchen line and being comfortable in that position is one of the biggest challenges for new players. 

Why is Footwork and Positioning Often Overlooked by Beginner Pickleball Players?

Less experienced players will typically stand 2 to 5 feet away from the line due to their fear of committing a foot fault. By doing this, they are putting themselves at a huge disadvantage from a positioning standpoint. It is advantageous to be as close to the net as possible, which is why the area is restricted. To return balls that are poorly dinked, you should lean forward and have bent knees and do not step forward while volleying. On the volley plant your feet and generate power with your hips and upper body. This will help you be more consistent and prevent foot faults. 

What are Some Tips for Effective Footwork and Positioning on the Court?

Once you have become more comfortable moving and staying up at the kitchen line an important movement to learn and execute is the ‘split step’ This is one of the most important movements in tennis and if transferred correctly into pickle ball will be a game changer for your game. The split step is a small hop that gets you into an athletic ready position where you’re engaging your legs. From this position you can shift into many other shots, push off into different directions, or pivot your feet. You should split step every time your opponent hits the ball so you are best set up and engaged to receive and react to the ball. Players that do not split step or understand the importance of it will generally be more off balance and slower to react to your opponents shots.

Next is how to move efficiently at the kitchen line with and without your partner. A lot of players tend to over shuffle at the line which is not only exhausting but doesn’t allow you time to recover for the next shot. Over shuffling will also leave bigger gaps for your opponents to capitalize on. Instead of making a lot of tiny steps, you should take one larger step when moving across for a dink or volley. This allows your weight to move underneath you and ensures your hips and shoulders can rotate.

Communication with your partner is key so they know where you are and what shots you are going for. The more you play with your partner the more comfortable you both will become but in the early stages communicating more is always beneficial. If a mistake is made you must always check your footwork and positioning on the court after each point as that will usually tell the story of why you won or lost the point. Identifying the reason why you have made a mistake and then making this correction will help you become more consistent and aware.

Thirdly is always making sure you warm up and cool down before competitive play. Sports science tells us that the better you warm up and stretch before physical activity the less likely it is that you get an injury. With the hard surface and the constant moving up to the net this can cause a lot of wear and tear on your feet, hips and knees. Dr Brian Cole a well respected doctor and pickleball player stresses the importance of an extensive warm up before you play. He offers some great insight and examples of drills and stretches to be using regularly to improve your footwork and balance on the court. 

Why is Wearing the Right Footwear Essential for Injury Prevention in Pickleball?

Another important factor in avoiding injury or muscle pain is to make sure you are wearing the correct footwear. Regular running shoes will not give you the grip, support and durability you need to move well on the court. There are three main things to look for when shopping for a pair of tennis shoes. The first is support and stability. You want a shoe that isn’t too heavy on your feet but gives you support where your feet do not slide around in the shoe. The second factor to look for is how lightweight the shoe is. If you are playing a lot, lighter shoes tend to wear out faster so it is good to rotate shoes to avoid foot pain and for your shoes to last longer. The final factor is durability. This comes from the rubber compound used for an outsole as well as just how much of that rubber is used. If you want the shoe to last longer you want it to be on the heavier side. 

There are a lot of great brands out there, notable names being “Head Tennis” , “Asics” and “Nike”. Make sure to research these based on the type of feet you have and athlete/ age profile you are to guarantee you are buying the right fit for you.  


By implementing these five main tips and tricks as a beginner player, you will be well on your way to improving your game and enjoying the sport to the fullest. Remember the main focus and goal at the beginning of your journey is to master the basics, maintain good court positioning and develop solid consistency. Effective communication with your partner, anticipation and shot placement are equally valuable skills to develop and will allow you to improve at a quicker rate. With practice and dedication, you will see steady progress and improvement from a beginner to intermediate and hopefully then advanced level player.