Relishing Pickleball: 12 Common Mistakes and How to Fix Them (Mistakes 7 and 8)

David Zapatka

This 12 common mistakes column began after playing with some very excited and highly motivated new pickleball players at our community courts recently. After playing a couple games, this question was posed to me, “What should we do to improve and become 3.5 players?” We reviewed the first six mistakes over the past three months. This month we take a look at two more.

7. Not taking center court shots as the forehand player. This mistake happens at all skill levels. Communication is vital. Unless one or both of the players is backhand dominant, and there are some players who prefer their backhands, the player with their forehand in the middle of the court should take the middle shots. How far over the centerline should they go? This answer varies in partnerships. Consider 12 to 18 inches. There is one caveat to this maxim, though. If the backhand player can get to the ball earlier at the kitchen line, and has a high percentage shot available, that player should take it. Taking time away from the opponents and the element of surprise are both advantageous.

8. Poaching when you shouldn’t. Now that I’ve told you it’s okay to go 12 to 18 inches into your partner’s court, there’s a limit to this type of action. A poach is defined as taking a shot on your partner’s side of the court. Poaching is a higher skill strategy. It’s effective because of the element of surprise, it takes time away from the opponents, and, since it’s normally hit with a forehand, it’s a stronger shot than your partner would have hit with a backhand (poaches using a backhand are possible but are much more difficult). However, poaching for no reason hurts the partnership. First of all, it’s risky. You better hit a winner because when you’re both on the same side of the court, the other side is wide open for the opponents to hit a winner. Unless you’ve discussed this strategy with your partner, and you’ve both agreed to its use, it’s disrespectful of your partner and reduces the enjoyment of the game. Who wants to play with a ball hog? We’re out here to play and have fun!

Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment, or have some pickilicious news you would like to share? Email David Zapatka at [email protected].