Pickleball drills don’t have to suck, even if you do. You can increase your game skills now with these eight drills I’ve laid out for you. I’ve put them in order of easiest to hardest, so if you’re a beginner, start at number one.
If you’re an advanced player, you can skip right to number four on this list. No matter where your experience or skills may be in pickleball, the only way to get better at the game is to practice. You can practice alone using wall drills, but to improve in pickleball, you have to play. Most of these drills require at least one added person to practice with.
Beginner Pickleball Drills
Starting a new sport can be intimidating, but pickleball is the kind of game that you can learn easily and can play even if you aren’t very athletic. As with any sport, you want to be properly equipped and outfitted, though.
Before you start drilling, you may want to take a look at some of the various types of balls, paddles, or shoes that are designed just for pickleball. Once you’re set, you can hit your local club or league to get on the court.
Check around your area; some pickleball courts are indoors, while some are outdoors. If you live in a cooler environment, you will need access to indoor courts to play year-round. Pickleball was born in Florida, where court location is less important.
If you are just starting out in the game and there is snow on the ground, look for a club with indoor courts. They are popping up all over the place.
1. Wall Drills
Bouncing the ball against a wall can be as boring as it sounds, but at least you can do these drills by yourself if you have to. To run wall drills, you need to decide the type of shot you want to practice. For instance, if you’d like to practice your underhand swing, stand about twenty feet from the wall and practice your pendulum swing to work on your swing and connection techniques.
2. Serving Drills
Practicing your serve is essential for beginner players. At first, it can be really difficult to land your serves where you want them to go. Serving drills can be done alone as well but are more fun if you work with a partner and combine serving with returning volleys and other parts of the game. You can use the wall for serving drills, which allows you to repeat serve after serve. Even though that is what a drill is, it can get boring to hit balls at the walls. You can mix up this drill by using an empty court as well.
3. Five-Minute Volley Drills
These kinds of short, focused drills are great practice for beginners because the goal is to keep the ball going, not score points, or make fancy shots. The entire goal of this drill to spend at least five minutes with the ball in the air, never touching the ground. I suggest using this drill often when you’re starting; you must learn to meet the pickleball ball on the court and consistently connect your paddle with it. You can do that best if you work on keeping the ball in the air and hitting it regularly.
Being an advanced player in pickleball is defined in about a hundred different ways, but in this case, I’m speaking more about someone who has the essentials down and is looking to improve on the court. That is a very loose definition of ‘advanced.’
The following drills can be used by any player but are best used by those who have put some in and mastered the basics. You can get better at pickleball on the court by playing games, or you can spend time improving your techniques and strategies to become a more well-rounded player overall. Increasing your pickleball game comes with practice and dedication.
4. Timed Dink Warm-Up Drills
I told you short, focused drills are great for beginners, but they are also effective for more advanced players. Times warmups are great for more advanced players who want to improve their dinking shots to improve game strategy.
In this drill, two players on opposite sides of the net use only dink shots for a set amount of time, usually two to five minutes.
Both sides should want to keep the volley going, but only using dink shots.
This drill works best if you have one player setting up the other to perform the dink shots. Once the timer ends, you can switch so that you each have a turn doing dink warmups.
Setting the timer on things keeps it fresher, allowing change to different exercises after short periods to keep things interesting. Once each person has a turn, you can move on to another drill or repeat this one if you find you need to.
5. Dink versus Dink Games
This is another great way to drill, taking the timed dink warm-up drill, and extending it for a whole game or to a set amount of points. Both players can use only the dink shot, including to serve the ball.
You can set higher challenges to make it more interesting, like not allowing kill shots until after the fourth dink. In my league, we often do this one-armed, not allowing any play at all from either the dominant or non-dominant hand, depending on the exercise. Using these variations can increase the challenge and develop new skills.
6. The Dink Lob Drill
The Dink-Lob is an advanced drill that requires four players to execute well. To do this drill, all players stand at the non-volley line and dink the ball for several shots (usually four to six) before the designated lobber connects with a lob shot.
After the lob, the volley stops and repeats with another person as the lobber. There are few ways to change this drill up or give it a fresh face. You can alter the number of hits before the lob, but it gets hard to follow when each player must dink more than once in a round.
If you start adding complicated steps, it gets confusing. Try keeping it simple. Keep doing this drill until everyone in the foursome has at least one turn as the lobber.
7. Three-D Game
Yes, you play every game in at least three dimensions already. In this case, when you want the “D”s, it stands for deep-deep-dink. This type of game drill uses a deep serve, a deep return, and a dink on the third shot. Use this advanced drill once you have practiced the earlier dinking drills.
A deep serve is a strong shot that directs the ball to the opponent’s baseline. A deep return is when your opponent returns the ball deep into your baseline. The third D, the dink, belongs to the server. You know what a dink shot is because we covered them extensively before you reached number seven. Take turns being the server/dink shot and playing and the deep return player to get the most out of this drill.
8. Dead Partner Drills
Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of this one? That’s because they’re my own invention. Dead partner drills were born from playing with someone who took out their phone to text every two seconds during a match.
After that match, I was joking with some friends, and we agreed that a dead doubles partner happens often in our mixed league. We have a variety of ages and player levels, so sometimes you play with people who are lower skill than you, and sometimes you are the dead partner. You can play this drill with two or four players. It’s great for laughs if there are four of you on the court, so I recommend using real people to sub in as the dead partners.
To do the dead partner drill, pair up as doubles teams, but assign one person on each team to be the Dead Partner. Their role is to stand around, get in the way, and miss shots.
This is one of my favorite drills, not because of how much it helps you get better at pickleball but because with a group of good-humored people, you’re going to finish this drill laughing. I don’t know if you knew this, but laughing is good for your core muscles, and I always hear how important that is.
I’ve laid out these eight pickleball drills for you, friend. All that’s left is for you to get out to the court and put them to use. With these drills, I’m sure you can produce plenty of your own variations to keep things interesting.
I think keeping fun and laughter in your drills will keep you wanting to play. I hope you have a ton of fun practicing these pickleball drills yourself.