By: CJ Johnson | January 29, 2022 |

Want To Learn How To Be Good At Pickleball?

Recently Sheri sent us this question: We live in an area that lacks a qualified pickleball instructor. Since both of us are over 60, what can we do to play smarter and more competitive pickleball?

First, we want to congratulate Sheri for posing this question. Just because we are getting older doesn’t mean our desire to learn has diminished. Learning how to be good at pickleball is not an easy task.

Since this is a subject we talk about frequently, we thought we would both answer the question to give you both our perspectives (CJ & Tony).

As we prepare to jump in, remember that our teaching can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Our Free 3-Part Miniseries is part of our effort to help players like you (players who are interested in improving – otherwise, you would not be reading these words :)). Click here to get your invitation to the Miniseries. You will be glad you did.

CJ: According to our recent survey, most pickleball players told us how they get their pickleball instruction:

    1. Online-specifically YouTube
    2. At the court from fellow players
    3. Google search
    4. Online Course

The amount of pickleball information available online is growing exponentially. When I posted my first video on Better Pickleball in 2016, only two other channels were devoted to instruction, Third Shot Sports and Deb Harrison.

Now it seems like there’s a new pickleball channel weekly. Don’t misunderstand; just because the channel or instructor is new doesn’t mean it’s bad. It does, however, mean that you, as a consumer of that information, need to be diligent about getting information that will help your game, not send you down a rabbit hole.

That said, my advice is if you want to learn how to be good at pickleball, find an online trusted resource and go step-by-step with their advice.

Tony and I focus on providing you with actionable content: things that you can bring into your game and will not distract you from your objectives. You can find a ton of free searchable instruction, tips, and strategy videos on our YouTube channels: Better Pickleball or In2Pickle. You can also find helpful content in our Pickleball Therapy Podcast and right here on our website to help you in your journey.

We are also fans of Nicole at Primetime Pickleball, Barrett at Pickleball Kitchen, Simone Jardim, Deb Harrison, and Tyson McGuffin. Like us, they’ve been coaching pickleball for several years. They’re passionate about the sport and knowledgeable. I’m confident in saying that all of us will be continuing to promote and teach pickleball for years to come.

While this is the most cost-effective approach, it’s also the most time-consuming and can lead you down some side trails that will delay your progress. It requires you to be your own coach. You’ll need to diagnose the issues and then research the proper solution. Not the easiest or most straightforward path, but it can be done.

A great resource is the one mentioned above: the Miniseries. There is no risk to attending, and you know that when Tony and I bring you content, it is because it will help you improve your game (no noise here). If you’d like to attend click this link for your free ticket.

Tony: I have to agree with CJ here. Lots of content out there. Some good. Some maybe not be the best.

The thing about content is that while it is good to know what you need to learn, you need to do something with it. This means you have to take what you learn out on the court and work on it. You can do several things to implement the things you learned, from ghost drills to wall drills, to self-dropped ball drills. Rather than repeating it all here, I will link to a blog we wrote that goes into detail.

The key is that you need to act on the information.

CJ: Knowledge without action will not get you where you want to go. Since you need both and you don’t have anyone locally who can help think about attending a camp. 

In addition to the Miniseries, another option available to you is to get on-court instruction at a pickleball camp. There are camps large and small but this allows you to get on court with a coach no matter where you live. It’s a great way to get information you can take home and learn to apply.

Just like the online space, there are new camps popping up every day. You will be in good shape if you can get on court with a coach like Deb Harrison, Simone Jardim, Sarah Ansboury, Kyle Yates, or John Sperling. If you are thinking about a camp, do your homework before committing. We put together a camp selection guide here:

Tony: But it’s not just about mechanics and too often that’s what happens at a camp. In all our teaching, we focus on the Three Pillars of Pickleball.

One of the pillars that players often overlook is the Strategic Pillar. This is not the same as just knowing this strategy or that.

The Strategic Pillar is “seeing” the game. You understand how the game is played and know what’s going on out on the courts. Should you hit the ball to the left or right? Long or short? Should you move to the left or right? Whose ball is that?

Those are all Strategic Pillar questions. You can learn a lot about the game by studying game videos. I do not mean just watching a game for its entertainment value. I mean, watching it to learn pickleball strategy from it.

We do a lot of that inside the Better Pickleball Academy– our game breakdowns are what we are known for. It is something you can watch and learn from no matter where you are in the country and can help you “see” the game.

CJ: As Tony mentioned, critical game study can be so helpful.

Along the same lines is online learning. It is something that players sometimes resist because they think that you must be on the court to learn. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have helped hundreds of players through online training. Seeing how much improvement our members have made with the online learning tools we make available to them has been awesome

An integral part of our comprehensive Pickleball System is the game studies in there, from a single rally all the way to complete games. You can find out more about the Pickleball System during our 3-Part Miniseries on how to improve your game. You can then decide whether the Pickleball System is right for you. A no-lose for you ☺️. Make sure you are receiving our emails and keep an eye on your emails; we’ll be announcing the dates soon.

If you are not yet receiving our emails, click here to stop messing about and get on there.

Tony: I wanted to provide a brief word of caution. As CJ noted above, the second most used source of information by players who responded to our survey was information provided by other players at the local courts.

Unless the player providing you advice is a top coach in your area, it’s probably best to be careful with the advice given to you by your fellow players. CJ and I both started our YouTube channels in response to all the free (and bad) advice we were getting at the local courts.

Coaching is more than doling out a tip here and there. A good coach understands the fundamentals of teaching and how people learn. They know it’s not just about the how. When a person has a greater understanding of the why, that’s when breakthroughs happen.

After all, how many times have you had to “unlearn” something you heard at your local courts. I think every one of us heard some version of “run to the non-volley zone no matter what.” (If you’re playing on the return side, that’s fantastic advice. If you are on the serve side, not so much 🤦 and this results in bad habits that then have to be unlearned).

Conclusion – Finding (and Applying) the Information that is Right for You

CJ: While well-intentioned, a lot of the advice out there can cause lots of grief for players. Knowing which advice is right and which is not can be a tricky proposition.

I would sum up our advice as follows:

    1. Find a source for information that you can trust. Tony and I are pickleball professionals who have dedicated ourselves to helping players like you improve in their games and, more importantly, improve their relationship with pickleball. You know you are in good hands with us.
    2. Understand that you have to apply the information you learn and put it into action. It is helpful to have some sort of action plan. You can download our Three Pillars of Pickleball with an action plan here.
    3. Give yourself time and space to learn. It is a process.
    4. When you are ready, join us inside The Pickleball System (come to the Miniseries to find more) or come to a camp (or do both – they are different learning experiences). These are significant steps that you can take to accomplish your pickleball objectives.

Whatever you decide, Tony and I will be here for you. As Tony likes to say, “We’ve got your back.”

Hope to see you on the courts.

CJ Johnson

Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)