By: CJ Johnson | August 31, 2016 |

Play Better Pickleball by Getting to the Ball Faster

Picture of a girl with a pickleball paddle in front of her chestIf you have stepped on a pickleball court you have probably heard down the middle solves the riddle, hit at the feet you will defeat and keep your paddle up but just why and how does any of this help you play better pickleball? Today, let’s examine keep your paddle up.


Perhaps you watch pickleball strategy videos on YouTube to learn to play better pickleball. Tournament videos clearly show that reaction time differentiated winning and losing teams. Some things that influence reaction time like age, previous sports played and eyesight can’t be controlled.

One thing players can control is the distance the paddle needs to travel from shot to shot. The less distance the better the reaction time which could be the difference between winning or losing a point.

Prem Carnot, the Pickleball Guru, devotes an entire chapter to Paddle Up in his book Smart Pickleball. According to him, most players think the paddle is up when in reality it isn’t. That certainly was the case for me when I first started playing pickleball.

At a recent clinic with Sarah Ansboury one of the first things she asked us to do was get in our ready position. She talked in depth about creating a “neutral” position with your body and paddle, the importance of knowing and maintaining your neutral position and how to move your opponent from their position to gain an advantage and attack.

Here are 5 things you can do to improve paddle position and ultimately play better pickleball by decreasing your reaction time

  1. Keep the paddle up

Warning: If you watch a lot of Youtube videos, you may see some of the top players keep a slightly lower paddle, most of the players that do that are younger with fast reaction time. 

For us mere mortals, it’s best to have our paddle in front of our chests and turned slightly to the backhand side. Think of a clock and tilt the paddle edge to 10. Now, get in your ready or neutral position and make note of your paddle position.

  1. Up in pickleball is different from up in tennis

The tennis racquet is longer which naturally puts our hands near our belly and the racquet head near the face. If my hands are at my belly in pickleball the paddle is even with the net and that’s where a lot of balls end up, in the net.

  1. When moving forward the paddle tends to be lower

It’s natural to run with your arms at your side but that’s not the best place for the paddle.  It’s awkward to have both hands on the paddle while running so I try to keep the paddle in my peripheral vision while moving.

  1. After multiple shots, the pickleball paddle tends to drop

This is especially true during the dinking game, even for the best players in the game. The paddle starts high but gets lower in anticipation of the next dink. Unfortunately, that leaves you out of position and vulnerable to an attack. Thinking about lightly touching the paddle with my other hand helps me move the paddle back to my neutral position more consistently

  1. Use the pickleball paddle to track the ball

This is Sarah Ansboury’s concept and it helped me improve my reaction time.  Click on the link above for a video explaination of the concept.

Not sure of your paddle position? Watch the video below for a couple EXTRA TIPS. BTW, in the video, I accidentally say increase your reaction time but I mean get to the ball faster or DECREASE that time. Sorry!

IF this was helpful, feel free to share!


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)