As with any sport, mastering Pickleball requires practice and dedication. Engaging in effective drills can help refine skills, improve reaction time, and boost overall performance on the court. These drills benefit beginners by helping them practice and improve their skills. However, even advanced/pro players use these simple Pickleball drills to improve their fundamentals and elevate their game.
So whether you’re a beginner or on the pro tour, these drills are designed to improve your basic skills. Therefore, suitable for players of all levels.
Pickleball Drills For All Levels
1) Dinking Cross Court Drill
The Dinking Cross Court Drill is a specific exercise designed to improve a player’s ability to maintain control, finesse, and consistency when dinking in pickleball, especially when directing the ball diagonally across the court.
Purpose of the Drill:
- Control over power: Learning to keep the ball within the bounds of the court, especially when directing it diagonally.
- Precision: Hitting the ball to a specific part of the court.
- Consistency: Maintaining a rally without making unforced errors.
- Movement and positioning: Adjusting your position in response to your opponent’s dinks.
- Players start at opposite kitchen lines (the non-volley zones) diagonally across from each other.
- The goal is to continuously dink the ball back and forth, aiming to cross it over the net diagonally. The objective is to keep the ball low, ensuring it just clears the net.
- Players should maintain this cross-court dinking pattern, trying to prolong the rally and keep the ball within the boundaries of the court.
- After a set number of successful exchanges or after a specific time duration, players can switch sides to practice dinking from both ends of the court.
- Targeted Dinking: Place a target (like a cone) in a specific part of the cross court. The objective is to dink the ball such that it either hits or lands near the target.
- Movement: Instead of standing statically, players can move around within the kitchen area, simulating the movements they might make during an actual game.
- Improves soft game skills, which are crucial when you’re close to the net.
- Enhances accuracy and consistency.
- Builds patience, teaching players not to rush or force a winning shot but to wait for the right opportunity.
2) Transition Drill
The Transition Drill, often referred to as the “Third Shot Drop Drill,” is designed to help players effectively transition from the baseline to the net. This transition, particularly the third shot, is a critical component in pickleball strategy, allowing players to move from a defensive position at the baseline to an offensive position at the net.
Purpose of the Drill:
- Skill Development: Improve the third shot drop, a soft shot that arcs over the net and drops into the opponent’s kitchen (non-volley zone), making it difficult for the opponent to attack.
- Positioning: Train players to transition quickly and efficiently from the baseline to the net, getting ready for the next volley or dink.
- The drill begins with one player (or a team of two in doubles) at the baseline and the other player (or team) at the net.
- The net player initiates the drill by hitting a deep ball to the baseline player.
- The baseline player then aims to hit a third shot drop into the kitchen, trying to make the ball land softly and close to the net.
- After executing the third shot drop, the baseline player moves swiftly to the net, preparing for the next series of volleys or dinks.
- After several repetitions, players switch roles.
- Continuous Play: After the baseline player moves to the net, players can continue the rally, simulating a real-game scenario. Once the point ends, they can reset and repeat.
- Target Practice: Place targets within the kitchen to encourage precision on the third shot drop. Players can aim to make their shots land near or on these targets.
- Strategic Play: Mastering the third shot drop allows players to neutralize an opponent’s advantage, giving them an opportunity to take control of the net.
- Improved Movement: This drill enhances footwork and movement on the court, teaching players to transition swiftly and position themselves effectively for the next shot.
- Consistency: Regular practice of this drill helps players become more consistent with their third shot drops, making it a reliable weapon during matches.
3) Skinny Singles Drill in Pickleball
The Skinny Singles Drill is a pickleball exercise designed to refine a player’s shot accuracy, ball control, and court movement. The term “skinny” refers to the narrowed play area, as players will only utilize half the court width.
Purpose of the Drill:
- Shot Accuracy: With a limited court width, players must be precise in their shot placement.
- Control: Emphasizes ball control over power, given the constricted playing space.
- Movement: Enhances side-to-side footwork and positioning.
- Consistency: Encourages players to maintain rallies for extended periods, leading to better consistency during match play.
- Both players start on the same side of the court, with one player at the baseline and the other at the net.
- Using only the half-court width (sideline to centerline), players engage in a rally.
- The baseline player tries to maneuver the net player with deep shots, drops, or passing shots.
- Points can be played out as in a singles game, but only within the half-court boundaries.
- After a set number of points or a specific duration, players can switch roles and/or sides.
- Full Transition: The baseline player, after a few exchanges, can attempt to move to the net, turning the drill into a transition exercise.
- Serve and Play: Start with a serve and play out the point as in a real skinny singles game.
- Improved Shot Selection: Playing in a constricted space forces players to think about shot selection, improving decision-making during matches.
- Enhanced Footwork: The confined area requires quick footwork and positioning adjustments.
- Stamina and Endurance: Long rallies in this drill can enhance a player’s physical endurance.
4) Sideline Drill
The Sideline Drill focuses on honing a player’s accuracy and control when aiming for the sidelines of the court. Striking the ball down the sidelines can be an effective strategy to stretch opponents out of position, create angles, and limit their shot choices.
Purpose of the Drill:
- Accuracy: Develop precision in hitting the ball down the sidelines without causing it to go out.
- Control: Enhance the player’s ability to control the direction and pace of shots.
- Footwork: Improve footwork and positioning to execute sideline shots effectively.
- Two players take their positions on opposite sides of the court. This drill can be practiced from the baseline, midcourt, or even close to the net.
- One player moves the other around the court, but the receiver continues to aim for the sideline shots.
- After a set number of shots or a specific duration, players can switch sides to practice hitting down both the forehand and backhand sidelines.
- Target Placement: Set up targets (like cones) near the sideline. Players aim to hit or get the ball close to these targets.
- Depth Variation: Alternate between deep sideline shots and short, angled sideline shots to practice different lengths and angles.
- Strategic Advantage: Effective sideline shots can put opponents on the defensive, pushing them out wide and opening up the court for the next shot.
- Improved Consistency: Regular practice of this drill enhances the reliability of sideline shots during match play.
- Versatility: Players get accustomed to hitting both deep and angled sideline shots, making their game more unpredictable.
5) Lob and Smash Drill
The Lob and Smash Drill focuses on two contrasting shots in pickleball: the defensive lob and the aggressive overhead smash. Mastering the dynamics between these two shots can add a layer of complexity to a player’s game, giving them both defensive and offensive options during play.
Purpose of the Drill:
- Defensive Lobs: Improve the ability to hit high, deep lobs that travel over the opponent’s head, pushing them back.
- Overhead Smashes: Enhance the technique and accuracy of smashing overhead shots downward into the opponent’s court.
- Positioning and Footwork: Develop proper movement and positioning to effectively handle lobs and set up for smashes.
- Player A starts at the net, while Player B is positioned at the baseline or midcourt.
- Player B initiates the drill by lobbing the ball over Player A, aiming to push them back from the net.
- Player A, upon seeing the lob, moves back, sets up, and attempts an overhead smash to return the ball aggressively.
- The drill can either reset after the smash or continue into a rally.
- After a set number of repetitions, players switch roles.
- Targeted Lob: Place targets near the baseline, and the lobbing player tries to make the ball land close to or on these targets.
- Targeted Smash: Set up targets in various parts of the court, and the smashing player aims for these with their overhead shots.
- Continuous Play: After the overhead smash, players can engage in a rally, integrating other shots into the play.
- Defensive Recovery: The ability to hit effective lobs can get players out of tight situations, especially when opponents are aggressively positioned at the net.
- Offensive Dominance: A well-executed overhead smash can end points quickly, providing players with a powerful offensive tool.
- Adaptability: Players become adept at transitioning between defensive and offensive plays, making them more versatile on the court.
6) Volley Drill
The Volley Drill focuses on refining one of the most fundamental and frequently used shots in pickleball: the volley. Being proficient in volleying is vital, especially in doubles play, where quick exchanges at the net are commonplace.
Purpose of the Drill:
- Quick Reflexes: Develop rapid hand-eye coordination to handle fast exchanges.
- Control: Enhance the ability to place volleys accurately and with the desired pace.
- Technique: Ensure proper paddle positioning and body stance during volleys.
- Footwork: Improve quick and efficient movement for better net coverage.
- Both players position themselves at the net, across from each other.
- Player A initiates by hitting a controlled volley to Player B.
- Player B returns the volley, and the exchange continues in a rapid back-and-forth manner.
- The goal is to maintain a continuous volley rally without letting the ball bounce.
- Players should aim to move each other laterally across the net, practicing different angles and placements.
- One-Handed vs. Two-Handed: Players can practice both one-handed and two-handed backhand volleys to improve versatility.
- High and Low Volleys: Mix up the heights of volleys to practice handling both chest-level and knee-level shots.
- Depth Control: Players try to volley with varied depths, switching between short, soft volleys and deeper, more aggressive volleys.
- Cross-Court Volleys: Instead of volleying straight ahead, players can angle their shots to cross the court, aiming towards the sidelines.
- Net Dominance: Improved volleying skills can help players dominate the net area, increasing the chances of winning points.
- Pressure Application: Consistent, controlled volleys can put opponents under pressure, forcing them into errors.
- Versatility: Players become more adaptable in handling a variety of volleys, whether they’re hit with pace, spin, or at tricky angles.