By: CJ Johnson | January 18, 2017 |

The #1 Mistake Killing Your Pickleball Game

When you started playing, you saw rapid improvement, but as time went on, you plateaued. You feel stuck at the same level and don’t understand what’s keeping you from progressing. Sound familiar?

The #1 mistake killing your pickleball game is that you don’t understand your strengths and weakness.

This seems to be a common thread throughout most of our lives. By my 38th birthday, I was tipping the scales at over 250 plus pounds. However, I would describe myself as a big girl who was fit. This despite wearing a size 20 and having a hard time breathing after climbing a short flight of stairs. Big? Fit? I was OBESE  and out of shape! Even with all this evidence around me, I refused to see the truth.

A few years back, Dove produced a series of commercials where women described themselves to a forensic artist. The artist couldn’t see them and drew a sketch based on what he heard. Then a friend came in a described the same woman to the artist, and he drew another sketch. The women were stunned when they viewed the drawings side by side and realized that in every case, the friend’s perceptions were more realistic. Self-perception isn’t always accurate.

How does this translate to what’s killing your pickleball game?

Typically a pickleball match is won by the team, making the least number of errors rather than the team hitting the most winners. If you have been playing any length of time, you’ve probably improved by merely making fewer unforced errors.

If you want to get back on the road to improvement, you need to exploit what you do well and correct some of your weaknesses.

I was working on overheads in a group, and someone I play with regularly was in the same group. Each time a ball went up, she swung wildly and hit 8 out of 10 out. Another player suggested she slow down and focus on her accuracy. She quickly replied that this was usually a good shot for her, and she was just a little off tonight. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that one of my go-to shots is to give her a lob and then duck as the ball sails long. Imagine how many times you have played with someone who keeps hitting the same shot into the net or out of bounds?

An honest analysis of the shots played during a game will help you better understand what’s dependable and what’s killing your pickleball game!

Get Your Free Pickleball Shot Inventory Form

Now that you have filled out your form and you are aware that your self-perception might not be accurate, what can you do to confirm your suspected strengths and weakness?


Chances are you have a camera on your phone and can get a clip and a tripod for less than $25 at Amazon. Set up a video the next time you play and review a couple of games. Does the footage confirm or change your assessment?

Fellow players

People you play with regularly might be of assistance. Keep in mind that the feedback you get is only as good as their understanding of the game. Here are some questions that can provide you with the information you seek.

When we play against each other, is there a shot you like to hit to me because you think I’ll miss it?

Is there a shot you avoid hitting to me because it’s one of my better shots?

If we are partners, which shots are you confident I will hit, and which ones do you think I might miss?

Ask a couple of people that you play with and see if their answers are similar.

Take a lesson

There are a lot of teachers out there, some good and some not so good. Keep in mind that just because someone is a great player doesn’t mean they are a great teacher and vice versa. Understanding athletic movement and, more importantly, how to communicate is a unique skill. Ask your friends who they are taking lessons from or consult the IPTPA for teachers in your area.

Online Coaching

Don’t have anyone living close? A Better Pickleball Video assessment will help.

Watch Youtube

Subscribe to the Betterpickleball  Youtube channel. It’s different from other pickleball coaching channels because we focus on meeting the needs of the player over 50.

Now that you know a little more about your strengths and weaknesses, here’ how to get better!








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)