Top 5 Mistakes Beginners Make in Pickleball and How to Avoid Them

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(Picture Kerry Pittenger)

Hey everyone, it’s Kyle Koszuta from ThatPickleballGuy. Just recently, I was at a park playing with some beginner players. While playing with them, I gave a few tips and identified five key things they were doing incorrectly. These are five mistakes that most beginners make. So, let’s get right to it.

Mistake 1: Serving & Stepping In

One of the most common mistakes I see beginner players make is serving and then stepping in. According to the rules, after you serve, the ball must bounce once on your opponent’s side and then once on your side before you can hit it again. If you serve and step in, you’ll have to back up if your opponent returns a good, deep shot. This backward movement puts you off balance, leading to a pop-up or a missed shot. Instead, serve and stay where you are, so your next move can be forward. Serve and stay, or if necessary, take a small step back to allow for a forward movement on the return.

Mistake 2: 3rd Shot Drive

Beginners often drive the ball too much on their third shot. The third shot occurs after your serve and the opponent’s return. Many beginners attempt a hard shot, which often results in errors. Instead of driving the ball, try a third shot drop. This technique involves hitting the ball softly so it lands in the kitchen, allowing you to move to the kitchen line and play a softer game.

illustration of where the kitchen line is

For instance, a player I coached recently struggled with his third shot drives, hitting eight balls into the net or out. After advising him to focus on drops, he significantly improved, hitting 13 out of 15 successful drops in his next game.

Mistake 3: Being Sporadic at the Kitchen Line

Another common mistake is being sporadic at the kitchen line instead of standing your ground. When dinking, many beginners move back and forth erratically. This constant movement throws off their balance, leading to pop-ups and lost points. Instead, maintain a strong, stable position at the kitchen line. Move only side to side or with slight backward diagonal steps if necessary. Staying balanced at the kitchen line helps you execute better shots and respond to high balls effectively.

Mistake 4: Taking Big Swings

Beginners often take unnecessarily big swings, especially when they see a high ball. This usually results in hitting the ball into the net. Instead of taking a big swing, use a punch technique. For balls at forehead level or lower, punch the ball with a shorter, more controlled motion. This approach reduces errors and increases your chances of hitting successful shots.

Mistake 5: Being Close-Minded

The final common mistake is being close-minded. Pickleball is simple yet complex, and there’s always something new to learn. Seek feedback from better players and observe their techniques. Being open to advice and continuously learning will accelerate your improvement.

Bonus: Low Paddle Position

As a bonus tip, avoid playing with your paddle in a low position. When you’re at the kitchen line, keep your paddle in a ready position, slightly below your face. This positioning allows you to quickly respond to fast balls and block shots effectively.

Conclusion

To summarize, here are the six mistakes and how to avoid them:

  1. Don’t serve and step in; serve and stay.
  2. Avoid too many third shot drives; try third shot drops.
  3. Don’t be sporadic at the kitchen line; stand strong.
  4. Avoid unnecessarily big swings; use a punch technique.
  5. Be open-minded and seek feedback.
  6. Keep your paddle in a ready position, not low.

I hope these tips help you improve your pickleball game. If you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out my YouTube channel.

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About Kyle Koszuta

Kyle Koszuta, widely recognized as "ThatPickleballGuy," is a big figure in the pickleball community. Kyle is known for his engaging content that caters to both beginners and seasoned players. His YouTube channel features a wide range of videos, from basic pickleball guides to advanced strategies. Additionally, his newsletter provides weekly updates, including video breakdowns, overlooked skills, and stories from his professional journey​.

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