You may be thinking, CJ, what’s up with the title of this post? How are you going to win more points by using less power?
There’s a trend toward the pickleball power game, and while I agree power has its place, it isn’t everything.
Most players would win more points if they were more concerned about the placement of the ball versus how hard they hit the shot.
How many times have you been in a position to put the ball away, and your opponent keeps returning it? Every time the ball comes back, you hit it harder and harder, and you either hit it out or they finally reset the ball, and you end up not winning the point.
I think we’ve all been in the position where we keep reacting and use power as a default to try to win a point.
In many cases, power isn’t the answer; it’s placement.
Here’s a general rule of thumb I like to teach about the pickleball power game; hit the ball as hard as you can without sacrificing placement.
Let’s talk about the use of power vs. placement on a few typical pickleball shots.
True or False-A powerful serve is the BEST serve
The best serve is one that causes a weak return. Once you’ve mastered getting the serve in a well-placed serve can cause more problems than a power serve. Even new pickleball players get used to the power pickleball game very quickly.
How well do you place your serve?
Can you make a player use their weakest shot for the return? Say their backhand.
Are you able to make a player move to get the ball, especially someone who might not be very mobile?
Are you able to hit a higher, softer serve to the back of the court? Something that your opponents may not be used to seeing.
There aren’t many ACEs in pickleball, and your serve doesn’t need to create a fault, but if you can position your serve to create a weak return or perhaps to pull the receiving team out of position, then it’s a good serve.
True or False? A powerful return is the best return
If you said false, you’re right.
A good return is one that creates a problematic third shot for the serving team or makes it harder for them to get to the non-volley zone. If you choose to hit a hard return to the serving team, you may cause them trouble on that third shot, but it also lessens the time you have to get to the net. You might get a more significant advantage and win more points by hitting the ball soft and deep so your team can take advantage of its position at the net.
Have you ever thought about an angled return that pulls your opponents off the court and opens up the next shot for your team? Since you have less court to work with, when using an angle, placement is the premium, not power.
What if you happen to see your opponents standing far behind the baseline, a short, soft return to their weak side may create the fault you’re looking for?
True or False? A powerful overhead is the best overhead
I’d say false for this one as well.
A well-placed overhead out of the reach of an opponent in between opponents or directly at their feet is the best overhead.
By nature, this is one of the most powerful shots in pickleball. I also see a tendency to miss easy overheads. We focus on hitting it hard, instead of placing it, so an opponent has a more difficult time returning it.
A well placed overhead out of the reach of an opponent, in between your opponents, or directly at their feet is the best overhead. After all your opponents have made a mistake and give you a high ball, now is your opportunity to finish the rally.
A power pickleball game is an option, but I hope you see by the examples above that power rarely trumps location.
Remember, only hit it as hard as you can without sacrificing placement.
If you’re ready to explore some options to enhance your power pickleball game, check out this playlist.
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)