Pickleball Tips for Intermediate Players

December 20, 2023

Are you journeying through the exciting world of pickleball, eager to elevate your skills beyond the beginner’s realm? Welcome to your next chapter. Pickleball, a dynamic and delightful sport, is embraced by enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. But here’s the twist: advancing from novice to intermediate play demands honing new skills and strategic nous to spar with the seasoned pros.

This article is your treasure map to pickleball prowess. We’re diving deep into a treasure trove of insights, from refining intricate footwork to unleashing a commanding serve. It’s a comprehensive guide to escalate your pickleball acumen. Whether it’s the solo challenge of singles or the camaraderie of doubles, our tips are your secret sauce to transforming into a more assured and triumphant contender on the court. So, seize your paddle with gusto—it’s time to catapult your pickleball journey to soaring new heights!

Mastering the Serve

The serve in pickleball – it’s not just the start of the game; it’s your first strike in the art of court domination. Mastering the serve is about more than just getting the ball over the net; it’s about setting the stage for victory.

Perfecting the Power Serve

Imagine this: You’re on the court, paddle in hand, ready to unleash a serve that’s the envy of Zeus himself. The power serve is your thunderbolt. It’s fast, it’s fierce, and it sends your opponents scrambling. Here’s how to make it happen:

  • Relax Your Grip: Start with a grip on your paddle that’s as chilled as a cucumber. It’s all about finesse, not force.
  • The High Toss: Give the ball a lofty toss – high enough to prep your stance but not so high it’s orbiting the moon.
  • Leg and Core Symphony: Use your legs and core as the power duo. They’re the engine behind your serve’s horsepower.
  • Peak Contact: Strike the ball at the zenith of your reach – think of yourself as a skyscraper, touching the clouds.
  • The Follow-Through: It’s the flourish at the end of your swing that injects that extra oomph into your serve.

Regular practice hones consistency and accuracy. Remember, it’s not about smashing the ball into oblivion; it’s about controlled, powerful precision.

Crafting the Consistent Soft Serve

Now, let’s switch gears to the soft serve – the cunning fox to your power serve’s roaring lion. This serve is all about finesse, spin, and making your opponents do the pickleball dance.

  • Gentle Grip: Again, start with a relaxed grip. Think of holding a butterfly without letting it fly away.
  • Lower Toss: The toss here is more humble, just a little hop rather than a high jump.
  • Wrist Wizardry: Your wrist is the maestro here, conducting spin and control.
  • Target Practice: Aim for strategic spots – the kitchen line, the sidelines. It’s like playing darts with the court as your board.
  • Variety is Key: Keep changing your serve’s landing spot. Keep ’em guessing, keep ’em on their toes.

Practicing your soft serve develops touch and finesse. It’s not about a featherlight touch; it’s about a serve with enough spin and control to make your opponent’s return a real pickle.

By mastering both the power and the soft serve, you turn into a multifaceted threat on the court. Experiment, practice, and find your unique serving style. It’s about keeping your opponents guessing and you in control.

Improving Court Positioning

Navigating the court in pickleball is like a tactical dance – every step, every position holds the potential to tip the scales in your favor. As an intermediate player, mastering court positioning is akin to mastering the art of silent conversation with the court.

Understanding Court Zones

First, let’s get acquainted with the court’s anatomy. The court is a landscape of strategic opportunities, divided into three distinct zones:

  • The Non-Volley Zone (The Kitchen): This is your no-fly zone, located within seven feet of the net. It’s a volley-free area, demanding precision and strategy over power.
  • The Mid-Court Zone: This is the arena of the volleys. It’s where the rhythm of the game picks up, a mix of offense and defense.
  • The Backcourt Zone: The realm of groundstrokes and defensive maneuvers. From here, you’re the sentinel of your court, guarding and striking with equal prowess.

Strategies for Doubles Positioning

Doubles play is about synergy and spatial awareness. It’s a duet where each player complements the other.

  • Divide and Conquer: Split the court in half. Each player reigns over one side, ensuring comprehensive coverage and reducing gaps for opponents to exploit.
  • Central Intelligence: Positioning closer to the center enhances court coverage and opens up a spectrum of cross-court shots.

Solo Play Positioning Tips

Solo play is a test of your court-savvy. It’s about being a jack-of-all-trades, ready to leap into any role.

  • Baseline Balance: Position yourself just behind the baseline. It’s a vantage point that gives you more reaction time and a wider view of the court.
  • The Two-Step Rule: After every shot, take two steps to the side. This is your dance with the court, a way to cover more ground and be in prime position for the next volley.

Embracing these positioning strategies transforms you from a player to a court tactician. It’s about understanding the battlefield, knowing your strengths, and playing a game that’s as much about wits as it is about skill. Remember, in pickleball, every inch of the court is a story, and you’re the author.

Enhancing Shot Techniques

Elevating your shot techniques in pickleball is like adding spices to a well-cooked meal – it turns good into exceptional. As you step into the realm of intermediate play, refining your forehand and backhand, mastering the art of the slam, and sharpening your defensive tactics are the keys to unlocking new levels of your game.

Forehand and Backhand Drills

The ‘Around the World’ drill is your globe-trotting adventure on the court. It’s not just about hitting the ball; it’s about dancing with it. Picture yourself at the court’s heart, sending the ball on a world tour – left, center, right – first with your forehand, then echoing the journey with your backhand. This drill polishes your footwork, timing, and precision, turning you into a maestro of the court.

Then there’s the ‘Forehand and Backhand Cross-Court Dinking Drill.’ This is your chess game of patience and precision. Each dink is a move in your strategy, a step in your dance of control. As you exchange these gentle yet tactical shots with your partner, you’re not just hitting a ball; you’re weaving a tapestry of skill and consistency.

Executing Effective Slams

Now, let’s talk about slams – the showstoppers. The ‘Slam and Reset’ drill is your rehearsal for the spotlight. Start with a high lob to your partner, then swoop in like a hawk for the slam. It’s about power, yes, but also about grace – hitting hard and then gliding back to position. This drill is a rhythm of aggression and control, teaching you the art of the impactful yet composed slam.

Defensive Shots to Practice

Defense in pickleball is like a well-planned counter-attack in battle. The ‘Third Shot Drop and Run’ drill is your training for these critical moments. It starts with a deep third shot – a strategic thrust. Then, as you advance for the drop shot, it’s about finesse, a gentle nudge over the net. And then, retreat, reset, and ready for the next engagement. This drill is not just about reacting; it’s about controlling the pace, turning defense into opportunity.

By immersing yourself in these drills, you’re not just practicing shots; you’re sculpting your playstyle, layer by layer. Each drill adds a new dimension to your game, making you not just a player, but a tactician, an artist on the court. Remember, in pickleball, every shot is a word in the story you’re telling – make it compelling, make it yours.

Building a Strong Mental Game

Building a strong mental game in pickleball is like fortifying a castle – it’s about creating a fortress of focus and resilience that can withstand any siege. As an intermediate player, nurturing your mental prowess is as crucial as honing your physical skills. Let’s delve into the dual pillars of a formidable mental game: maintaining focus and managing match pressure.

Maintaining Focus During Play

Imagine your mind as a laser beam, sharp and concentrated. To maintain this focus, crafting a pre-shot routine is like creating a personal ritual. It’s your moment of zen before the storm. This could be a deep breath that whispers calm into your nerves, a visualization of your shot painting success in your mind, or a simple ball bounce that grounds you in the now. This repeated ritual is your mental anchor, keeping you steadfast and centered amidst the game’s ebb and flow.

Mindfulness is another key. It’s the art of being completely in the moment, fully immersed in the here and now. It’s about observing your thoughts and emotions like clouds passing in the sky – noticeable, but not distracting. This practice of mindfulness keeps you rooted in the present, letting distractions drift away like leaves on a stream.

Managing Match Pressure

Now, let’s talk about handling the heat of match pressure. It’s like being the eye of the storm – calm and composed. Focus on the elements within your realm of control. Your mindset should be like a sculptor focusing on their art, not the audience’s reaction. Concentrate on playing your best, executing your strategies, and let the game’s outcome be a byproduct of your focus.

Staying positive is your shield against the arrows of negativity. It’s about flipping the script – seeing each mistake not as a failure, but as a lesson, a stepping stone to improvement. Celebrate your victories, no matter how small, and view setbacks as opportunities for growth. This positive outlook keeps your confidence buoyant, preventing discouragement from anchoring you down.

Fortifying your mental game is essential to your journey as an intermediate pickleball player. By mastering the art of focus and pressure management, you transform not just into a better player, but into a mental warrior on the court. Remember, pickleball is not just played with the paddle – it’s played with the mind too.

Fitness and Conditioning

Ascending to new heights in pickleball isn’t just about skill with the paddle; it’s also about sculpting a body that’s as agile and resilient as your gameplay. For the intermediate player, a well-rounded fitness and conditioning regime is the secret sauce to on-court brilliance.

Tailored Exercises for Pickleball Prowess

Embarking on a fitness journey tailored to pickleball means focusing on the muscle groups that are the stars of the show. Leg exercises like squats, lunges, and calf raises build the foundation for powerful movements. Core-strengthening exercises, think planks and crunches, are your allies in maintaining balance and power in your shots. And don’t forget the shoulders – shoulder presses and lateral raises are crucial for those ace serves and volleys.

But it’s not just about muscle; it’s about the dance of the feet. Agility drills, including ladder drills, cone drills, and shuttle runs, are your tools for crafting footwork that’s as nimble as it is quick. This is where you turn footwork into an art form, a skill that lets you glide across the court with the grace of a dancer and the precision of a tactician.

Boosting Agility and Speed

Your journey to peak physical form also involves amplifying your agility and speed – key components of a pickleball champion. Plyometric exercises like box jumps and jump squats are your go-tos for developing explosive power, turning you into a force of nature on the court.

Interval training is another ace up your sleeve. This high-octane training, with its rhythm of intense exercise bursts followed by rest periods, is like the high-intensity version of pickleball itself. Think sprints for 30 seconds, followed by a breather, and then back at it. It’s not just training; it’s a metaphor for the game – bursts of intensity followed by strategic pauses.

The Symphony of Fitness in Pickleball

Incorporate these exercises into your training ritual, and watch as your game transforms. This isn’t just about getting fit; it’s about crafting a body that’s a perfect fit for the demands and delights of pickleball. Fitness and conditioning are your unsung heroes, the behind-the-scenes magicians that elevate your game from good to extraordinary.

So, as you gear up for your next game, remember that each squat, each sprint, each drill is a step towards not just better fitness, but a better game. Here’s to your journey on the court – fueled by fitness, crowned with success.


Your progression in pickleball is akin to conducting a symphony – each element, be it skill, mental fortitude, or physical conditioning, plays a vital role in creating a harmonious masterpiece. As you continue to refine your techniques, sharpen your mental acuity, and bolster your fitness, remember that each step forward is a note in your personal anthem of success.

Pickleball is more than a game; it’s a reflection of dedication, growth, and the joy of sport. As you step onto the court, paddle in hand, embrace the journey with enthusiasm and determination. Here’s to your continued growth, your upcoming victories, and the endless fun on the pickleball court. Play on!