The original founding members of the IPTPA, represent the highest level of players in the sport of pickleball. They have accumulated over 60 national championships and have taught and introduced pickleball to thousands of individuals. Although each of them came from different backgrounds and have their own unique styles, they all agreed upon the following basic elements of stroke development, shot selections and strategies for the beginner thru 3.5 player. It was the groups consensus that these basic elements represent “high percentage winning pickleball.”
All too often beginners who are first introduced to pickleball look to the champions for directions on how to play the game. What they fail to recognize is that the 5.0 player has added more advanced strokes and strategies after mastering “high percentage winning pickleball” elements. We cannot emphasize this enough. Certified pickleball teaching professionals are encouraged to teach the basic elements as outlined below and develop a strong foundation of error free play before beginning to add more advanced strokes and strategies. The elements which follow should be considered the basics of good pickleball, mastering these elements can take you all the way to the 5.0 level.
Teaching Basic Pickleball Strokes
- A simple and fluid pendulum swing initiated from the shoulder and introduced with the dink can be consistently used for all strokes.
- The basic stroke requires a shorter backswing than tennis or racquetball and a good follow through, swing from low to high.
- The continental grip is the preferred grip as it eliminates switching between forehand and backhand grips.
- Avoid a vice grip on the paddle, having a relaxed yet firm grip will help you “feel the ball on the paddle.”
- Avoid teaching underspin or topspin strokes until the student has mastered all the basics. The lone exception is when an advanced player from tennis, racquetball, or another sport already has mastered spin and is obviously comfortable and error free in it´s execution.
- Footwork during the stroke is critical. Movement should primarily be side to side especially at the NVZ and baseline.
- Use the cross step only when a ball is out of reach.
- Proper body position in relation to the ball is the first step toward well executed strokes.
- Make contact with the ball out in front of you and accelerate through contact.
- The ready position is your recovery position after every shot and puts you in the best position to anticipate and react quickly to your opponents next shot.
- Have your paddle chest high and way out in front of you. Feet should be shoulder width apart with your weight on the balls of your feet.
- When moving from the baseline toward the NVZ line the paddle should be up and in front of you as in the ready position. When your opponent is about to make contact with the ball take a split step and land in the ready position.
- Pickleball Strategies and Shot Selections
Teach pickleball from the kitchen line out.
- Respect the net (hitting every ball over the net will minimize your net errors and lead to more success).
- Serve Deep and once mastered direct to different target areas.
- Return Deep and once mastered direct to different target areas.
- The return team should approach the NVZ line right after the return of serve.
- The team that controls the net controls the point.
- If your team is at the net and the opposing team is at the baseline, KEEP THEM BACK by volleying each shot back deep.
- The 3rd shot drop in the kitchen is the preferred 3rd shot.
- The 3rd shot is the serving teams first opportunity to approach the net. You should not automatically rush the net.
- Earn your way to the net- This is determined by how good your 3rd shot drop is. If you´ve hit the ball too far be prepared to hit a 5th or even a 7th drop shot before moving to the NVZ line.
- Do not aim for the side lines, give yourself a cushion of several feet.
- Dinking the ball to your opponent should make up the majority of shot attempts.
- Develop consistency and patience at the NVZ line.
- Do not attempt a put away unless the ball is a minimum of 1 foot above the net.
- Winning pickleball is the result of hitting the ball over the net and allowing your opponents to go for winners.
- Play safe consistent and defensive pickleball.
- Utilize the middle of the court between your two opponents for safety as the net is 2″ lower in the middle.
- Hit to the open space between your opponents.
- If the ball is below the net drop the ball in the kitchen, if the ball is above the net hit to your opponents feet.
- Move as a team while following the path of the ball will keep you in the proper court position.
- Once your team is at the NVZ line maintain your position and minimize moving backward unless lobbed.
- If lobbed immediately turn side ways with your paddle arm up and scratching your back while side stepping back. Your other arm should be pointing up toward the ball. Do not back pedal backwards.
- Open communication with your partner is important, ie. Mine, yours, switch, out.
- Staying positive and encouraging your partner will lead to greater success.
- When at the NVZ line the player who has his forehand to the middle of the court should take all balls on his side of the court plus 12-18 inches across the center line.
IPTPA has developed several guidelines to provide the highest value & safety for the players wishing to attend an instructional clinic. All IPTPA teaching professionals are expected to follow these 3 basic guidelines whether they’re being asked to instruct at a clinic that has been organized by others or whether they are organizing the clinic on their own. Our first priority is providing a safe environment of instruction for players attending a pickleball clinic. Many players are seniors with poor mobility. With 4 players per court and two courts per instructor, it is the professional view of this organization that being responsible for more than the 8 players identified below diminishes the quality of individual instruction that players expect and creates an environment with poor supervision and therefore unnecessary risk. These 3 guidelines must be followed by all IPTPA Teaching Professionals. Infractions to these guidelines are taken seriously and will be investigated by IPTPA. The board will determine what actions will be taken based on the severity of the infractions which may lead to suspension or expulsion from IPTPA. These guidelines pertain to clinics that have been advertised as instructional based clinics. Where specific drills and strategies are being taught to assist each player with personal improvement. They may be several hours in length or cover several days and players are paying a fee with the intention of improving their game.
- The maximum ratio of student to IPTPA Teaching Professional shall be 8:1
- All instructors must be IPTPA Teaching Professionals to maintain consistent instruction to all players
- Students must be organized in like skilled groups
The guidelines above do not apply to exhibitions or introductory clinics where the rules of the game are reviewed and participants attend for free or pay a nominal fee to cover court cost or instructor expense. These clinics are not instructional based for individual improvement but are meant to simply introduce the game of pickleball to a large group of people. These clinics can have a large student to instructor ratio.