Worst Pickleball Tips: Ignore This Advice to Improve Your Game

Pickleball Tips

In 2023, there’s an abundance of easily accessible pickleball advice. With the sport’s meteoric rise in popularity, blogs and countless YouTube videos have emerged, offering tips to help you become a 5.0+ player.

However, there’s also a lot of bad pickleball advice out there, and many people are repeating it.

This is the double-edged sword of readily available pickleball tips. Some people, without ever reading the rules, accept what they find online from unreliable sources and spread it like wildfire.

I know a few people who have received so much incorrect pickleball advice that they decided to hire a certified coach to learn the right way.

In this post, we’ll dispel several pickleball myths. By the end, you’ll feel confident on the court, knowing that those self-proclaimed experts who are actually dead wrong won’t influence you.

How to Choose a Ping Pong Paddle

Essential Pickleball Rules

Alright, let’s dive into the list.

15 Worst Pickleball Tips

“The serve is only meant to start the point”

Some pickleball players will tell you that the serve’s only purpose is to get the ball into play, and nothing more. You might even encounter individuals who suggest making your serve easily returnable for the other team.

These players fundamentally undervalue the serve and fail to recognize it as the important strategic shot that it is. In reality, the serve sets the tone for every point and can be a powerful weapon that gives your team an advantage.

Some people may not like this, but they cannot deny that the serve is an integral part of pickleball. Tough serves that result in aces are just part of the game.

So, feel free to constantly practice and optimize your serve. It’s not an easy skill to master, so dedicate time to practice. Don’t let anyone discourage you from perfecting a new serve technique just because you’re not yet consistent.

“You should always be hitting a drop on your 3rd shot”

The third shot is often the most pivotal moment in a pickleball rally. A good third shot can make the difference, allowing the serving team to get into proper positioning and win the point.

Because of this, a lot of emphasis is placed on shot selection for the third shot in pickleball. The most common third shot is the drop, and for good reason. A well-executed drop shot is slow-moving and unattackable, providing the best opportunity for the serving team to advance to the net.

However, just because the third-shot drop is excellent doesn’t mean you should always use it.

A good third-shot drive is also very effective and can win you more points, especially when your drop game isn’t on point. There’s also the third-shot lob, which is smart to mix in occasionally. Using a variety of shots keeps your opponent on their toes.

So, if someone tells you to only hit a drop on your third shots, let them know that drives and lobs are valuable options to mix in as well.

“Get up to the Kitchen/NVZ line as fast as you can”

There’s a strong emphasis in pickleball on getting to the kitchen line quickly to help your team win the point. While it’s true that you want to move toward the kitchen for strategic positioning, you don’t want to go there too prematurely. It’s important to follow the flow of the game before making your way to the line.

You might hear someone say, “As soon as you see the ball going to your partner, run up to the kitchen.” But that’s bad advice. Instead, pause and observe your partner’s shot. If it’s a “safe” shot (i.e., a drop that’s unattackable by the opponent), then move up to the line. If your partner’s shot is a high and long drop or a drive, stay back and prepare for a slam.

The same goes if you’re the one hitting the third shot. Try to quickly assess the quality of your shot. If you feel you’ve hit a good drop or drive, you can advance to the kitchen line. If not, stay back and try to hit a better shot on your next attempt(s) with the fifth or seventh shot.

Why wait? Because there’s no guarantee that you or your teammate will hit a good shot every time. Even pro players sometimes miss good third shots. If you race to the kitchen after a bad shot, you risk facing a slam or having a shot hit at your feet or past you.

The worst advice is to sprint to the kitchen immediately after the serve. Some people even recommend this, completely ignoring the two-bounce rule.

“Stay back at the baseline”

This terrible advice is less common than “rush to the kitchen line,” but I’ve still heard it several times.

What is the rationale behind it? If you stay back at the baseline, the opponent won’t be able to lob you, and you’ll be able to execute powerful groundstroke drives. Some highly athletic beginners might embrace this strategy, thinking they can rush to the kitchen if necessary for a short shot.

The reality is that you will rarely make it in time for a well-placed short shot, especially if it follows a fast drive at your opponent. Staying back is generally less advantageous. So, make your way to the kitchen, people!

“You can’t go in the NVZ/Kitchen until the ball bounces”

This is a common misconception about the non-volley zone (kitchen) rules. When I started playing pickleball, I was told multiple times that you couldn’t enter the kitchen and believed it to be a fact for months.

The reality is that you can go into the kitchen whenever you want (unless you’re currently serving). While you wouldn’t want to be inside the kitchen too often, you are completely allowed to be there.

In fact, it often makes sense to enter the kitchen early when setting up to hit certain dinks. Form and positioning are essential for making a good shot, so feel free to step inside the kitchen while you’re preparing to hit a ball that’s about to bounce.

Visit this post for more information about kitchen rules.

“Never retreat from the kitchen/NVZ line”

Many people who advise rushing to the kitchen line as fast as possible will also tell you to pretend your toes are glued to the non-volley zone (NVZ) line and never back off it.

However, this advice is incorrect. There are times when you’ll definitely want to step back from the kitchen line.

For example, when a ball is popped up high at your opponent, they will have a great angle and will likely smash it down on you. By stepping back, you give yourself more time, more space, and a better chance to defend against the aggressive shot.

“Don’t bother wearing glasses/eye protection”

I always recommend proper eye protection after witnessing numerous eye injuries, both in person and in online forums. An eye surgeon I recently spoke with advised me to encourage people to wear safety glasses. He mentioned a noticeable uptick in pickleball-related eye injuries post-COVID, as many new players have taken up the sport.

However, you’ll encounter players who say things like, “I’ve been playing for ten years and never seen anyone get hit in the eye!” While that may be true for them, it only takes one incident to suffer a damaged retina requiring surgical repair.

Some players also think eye protection is unnecessary when not playing against hard-hitting opponents. But many eye injuries occur from errant hits, not just direct line drives. A ball can ricochet off the edge of your or your partner’s paddle and strike your eye before you even realize what’s happening.

“You really shouldn’t hit so hard”

There are many players who adamantly claim that pickleball is a gentle game. They advocate for hitting the ball softly and avoiding smashing high or attackable balls.

However, the notion that playing softly is the only way to play pickleball is simply untrue. While it may have been more prevalent in the past, the reality is that you need both a soft touch and an aggressive approach to be competitive in today’s game.

Despite claims that hitting hard at higher levels doesn’t work, reality proves otherwise. Professionals are increasingly driving ball because it’s effective.

“Don’t take your foot off the gas! Always play hard and fast”

While you shouldn’t let anyone convince you to stop driving hard balls, you don’t want to be a one-dimensional “banger” either.

Many players remain stuck in the 3.5–4 rating zone because they refuse to develop their soft game. They continue to rely solely on hitting hard shots, thinking that playing fast is the only option.

If you want to improve as a player, you need to be well-rounded. While hitting drive after drive may win you many games against weaker players, facing opponents of 4.5+ skill levels who can block and reset effectively will expose your lack of soft game and dinking skills, diminishing your chances of winning.

“You shouldn’t be hitting lobs!”

Lobbing isn’t commonly seen in pickleball, but when it does happen, things can quickly become contentious.

There’s a subset of players who harbor strong negative feelings toward the lob, and they’re often vocal about their sentiments when playing with others.

They may assert that lobbing doesn’t work or that it’s not allowed. Some might even claim that you can or should only lob once per game.

Regardless of their opinions, lobbing is a legitimate shot in pickleball and can be strategically employed whenever you choose.

However, it’s considered poor sportsmanship to constantly lob against older or mobility-impaired opponents in recreational play. In tournaments, however, lobs are always fair game, which is why it’s important to practice them.

“You play on your side of the court, and I’ll play on mine”

“Stay in your lane! Poaching is not allowed!” You might hear this from people who believe that each player should strictly cover their half of the court and nothing more.

But in pickleball, after the serve, the middle line essentially disappears, allowing players to move freely to cover any and all areas of the court.

In fact, there are several strategic reasons to cover more than half of the court at times.

So the next time someone insists that the pickleball court should be covered 50/50 in doubles, don’t necessarily follow their opinion.

“Forehand always takes the middle”

Yes, it’s most common for the forehand player to take the middle position. This is because forehands are typically easier to execute than backhands, especially for players who haven’t practiced their backhand much.

However, it’s not a hard and fast rule that the forehand player should always take middle shots in every matchup. The decision on who takes the shot is fluid and depends on the specific scenario. While it’s often the forehand player who takes the shot, there isn’t one definitive answer for every situation.

For example, sometimes the stronger player may have a better backhand than the weaker player’s forehand. Take Anna-Leigh Waters, for instance, who is incredibly dominant with her backhand. She often takes middle shots because of this.

Additionally, consider what happens when both players’ forehands are in the middle due to one being right-handed and the other left-handed. It’s clear that the situation isn’t simply black-and-white.

“Don’t be so competitive”

People play pickleball for different reasons. Some players, often the older crowd, enjoy the game primarily for socializing and light exercise. For them, pickleball is about having fun rather than intense competition.

There’s definitely value in this approach to the game. Many pickleball enthusiasts play solely for these reasons and aren’t overly concerned with winning.

However, if someone advises you not to be too aggressive or not to prioritize winning, don’t let that influence you. It’s perfectly acceptable to be competitive and strive for victory and improvement.

That said, it’s worth considering the preferences of the players you’re with. If you find yourself in a group that prioritizes fun over competition, you might consider seeking out more competitive play with like-minded individuals.

“The paddle doesn’t make a difference”

There’s a common misconception that it’s solely the player, not the paddle, that determines performance. While there’s certainly truth to this idea, it’s not entirely accurate.

Indeed, a skilled player can perform well with a cheap, mediocre paddle, and conversely, a poor player can struggle even with a high-quality paddle.

However, it’s also true that a skilled player can gain a significant competitive advantage with a great paddle, while a novice player can enhance their performance and accelerate their improvement with a quality paddle.

Anything unsolicited

Our last tip isn’t necessarily bad advice, but it’s poor etiquette.

Regardless of how valuable your advice may be, offering it without being asked is likely to be poorly received, particularly if it’s delivered in a condescending or exasperated manner.

Unsolicited advice is regrettably common in pickleball, and it’s particularly frustrating when the advice given isn’t even helpful!

Hopefully, those who engage in this behavior will recognize the error of their ways and learn to wait for appropriate moments to offer guidance to other players.


There you have it—a collection of questionable pickleball advice that you should steer clear of because you’re bound to come across it.

There are other nonsensical bits of advice I didn’t include in the list, such as people suggesting, “Don’t bother with spin” or “Don’t use two hands for backhands.”

But every list has to come to an end eventually.

What are your thoughts on this list? Have you ever given or received advice like this? Do you have more to add? Feel free to share in the comments below.

FAQs about Pickleball Tips

How can I get better at pickleball?

Improve Your Footwork and Positioning

What is the golden rule pickleball?

Fully Engage Your Body

What is the two-bounce rule?

After the ball has bounced once in each team’s court, both teams may either volley the ball (hit the ball before it bounces) or play it off a bounce (ground stroke).

What is pickleball etiquette?

Treat all players, officials, volunteers, staff, and spectators with courtesy and respect.

What 3 skills do you need to be successful in pickleball?

Hand-eye coordination, footwork, and agility 

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