Making one of these rookie strategy mistakes?

We made a list of the top :nine: basic pickleball strategy mistakes we see being made at mostly the entry level and the low intermediate level.

Which is not to say that they don’t still persist for some people at higher levels beyond that. :woman_facepalming:

They do! :cry:

But, if you want to progress :chart_with_upwards_trend: further, then these mistakes DEFINITELY need to be cleaned up.

And, of course, because videos :video_camera: is what we do at PrimeTime Pickleball, we made a video compilation of these 9 strategy mistakes including detailed explanations as well as side by side :dancing_women: of the good :white_check_mark: and the bad :x: with slow motion.

Top 9 Basic Pickleball Strategy Mistakes:

1. Wandering into court after serving.

A good deep return near the baseline will be at your feet and very tough to hit. Stay back behind the baseline after you serve. This will allow you to have forward momentum as you hit your 3rd shot.

2. Standing too close to the baseline to return the serve.

A deep serve will be hard to return. Your momentum will be going backwards instead of forward toward the net. Instead, stay back behind the baseline to give yourself more time and space. This will allow for an easier return on a deep serve. You also have a much higher chance of having forward momentum while returning and being able to get to the net.

3. Dead dinks.

Dinks with no spin or no real variety in location. These will make it too easy for your opponent to press you with more aggressive dinks and/or if popped up, easily smashed back at you.

4. Being to easily pushed back from the non volley zone and not scouting back up right away.

If you drift or get pushed back away from the NVZ Line, be sure to get right back up before your opponent plays the shot. Otherwise, your opponent has more space available to them at your feet. Also take deeper dinks as dink volleys to hold your position.

5. Trying to win the point from the baseline (banging).

GET UP TO THE NET! It’s very hard to win from the baseline against opponent(s) at the net unless you can overpower them which will become difficult or near impossible as you move passed a basic level of play. Have more of a “get up to the net” mentality.

6. Rushing to the net without regard for the type of shot you’re coming in behind.

Some players just “drive and rush” up to the net. You may be coming in behind a shot that your opponent can drive or dip back at your feet before you are able to get all the way up to the line. You want to assess what kind of ball you are sending your opponent as you may need to “work” your way in towards the net. Don’t just run in blindly. Assess your shot and act accordingly.

7. Being a spectator on the court.

Don’t just watch where your ball goes from your shot. Anticipate where your opponent might go with his next shot and get in position and be ready to be able to make a good return on his next shot. As soon as your done hitting, get back into good court coverage position alongside your partner to best cover your side of the court from their next shot.

8. Avoiding your backhand at ALL costs.

Running around to hit your forehand all the time will get you out of position more often and make it tougher to recover in time. You’ll never develop confidence in your backhand if you never use it. Develop it. Use it. You’ll be glad you did as your game will jump to an entirely new level once you have a reliable backhand.

9. Playing with too small of a margin.

Aiming or targeting shots too close to the lines. If you’re aiming for the lines you’re going to hit out, A LOT. If you instead aim AT LEAST two feet inside the lines and then miss your target by two feet in either direction your shot still end up in the court.

Do you see yourself on the list?

  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

If you do, how many out of the 9 are you making?.

Did we miss any that you see all the time at the entry and low intermediate level?

Let me know by replying here and we may add it in a future video. And, reply with anything else you’d like to share…


@cjandy21 we need to memorize all of this goodness and hold each other accountable!!


Such great advice thank you. I’ve been working hard on building confidence in my backhand. I used to try my hardest not to use it now I drill it weekly. The one I do probably the most that I didn’t think about before reading this is the aiming I’m always trying to get such a good shot I hit some out. When thinking about aiming for less line and more inward is such a better idea and I do need to think farther a head on shots after my shots so thanks this gives me things to think about and stop doing to improve love the post. :metal:


Yes! Work that backhand! This is so very important. It’s always music to my ears (or eyes in this :eyes: case) to see someone that is embracing their backhand and working hard to level it up :arrow_heading_up:. It will get there.

And yes, most people could stand to “pull their lines in” more. The less control one has, the more they should pull those lines in.

It sure is fun to hit those “flashy” :boom: shots but those typically aren’t what leads to the win when you think about how many of the flashy attempts were missed just to get that one flashy shot landed. The odds are not in your favor.


@jordan these are awesome things to practice! Let’s def hold each other accountable!

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@nicole giphy
Big fan! Love the videos!! So many times, especially when teaching, someone will start talking about something they learned in a pickleball video and more often than not I can finish their sentences because it’s something we all learned from PrimeTime Pickleball!

I consider myself to be beyond beginner/intermediate and I find myself doing all of these every now and again. Thanks for putting this list together! It is awesome!!

I think it’s important to point out this isn’t just a list to check off as far as if you do these things or not, but realize how much of an advantage you can gain on your opponents by spotting these mistakes if you thoroughly understand them. For example, if you see your opponent wandering into the court after the serve then you should hit your next return deep in their direction.

Sometimes it’s hard to discern between fundamental strategy and fundamental form/mechanics. As far as strategy goes, the only thing I could really come up with, not on the list, that I see a lot of rookies struggle with is just plain having a knowledge of fundamental strategy at all. The whole basic concept of deep serve, deep return, drop/drive, get to the net, make opponent hit up on the ball and why these are common practice. Frequently people have somewhat of an understanding of each part but they have never put the parts together to form a basic strategy.

You have a lot of great videos but this one is by far one of my favorites! Thanks, for sharing!


Big fan! Love the videos!!

Thank you! :blush: We’re always happy to learn when someone is finding our videos helpful.

I find myself doing all of these every now and again

Yes, these mistakes can definitely persist through higher levels so it’s important to keep an eye on them and clean them up when you catch yourself slipping.

advantage you can gain on your opponents by spotting these mistakes

This is an EXCELLENT point. Don’t just be aware of when you are doing this but be sure to exploit it when you see others doing one of these mistakes. This might be a good topic for a future video. Great idea!

Sometimes it’s hard to discern between fundamental strategy and fundamental form/mechanics.

Funny you should mention this…we have a technique mistakes video coming out very soon in a format just like this video. In fact, I literally have it open in my editing software right now and am working on it. Strategy mostly has to do with shot selection (where you hit) and court positioning (where you stand) where as technical is stroke mechanics (how you hit, how you move). That’s probably the simplest way to think about it.


@nicole I would really love to learn from the strategy and court positioning video you mention. It seams like there are very few videos showing strategy. For example: if this happens you should do this to counter/attack. I have wanted to get to the point like chess players. They are thinking and strategizing many moves ahead. It seams like most people focus on individual shots and not putting them together to form a game plan. I would like to see a playbook developed that you could work on with a partner that you could signal to your partner and you both understand what the plan of attack will be for that serve. Right now it feels like at my level anyway most points are all reactive and opportunistic.

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@smcshinsky I understand you perfectly. All I can say about that at this point is… stay tuned! :smirk:


Can’t wait to see it!! :raised_hands: :100: :fire:


One thing that I have found is that the higher up in skill level you go, the less you make these rookie mistakes. That is what limits the points that are just give away points. 5.0 you don’t make those give away points very often!


Exactly! Pros win because they make fewer errors in terms of their shot selection, court coverage and of course…execution.

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This is it exactly.

However, I feel like as I have played better and better competition these exact same mistakes are still present but at the level of the competition.

For example, I consider myself to be pretty decent at dinking, I drill dinking a lot and typically don’t feel like my dinks are a liability part of my game. Earlier this year I was playing with a well known high level pro and every time I hit a cross-court forehand dink to his forehand, he was doing damage. It didn’t take long to learn that was a bad idea so I stopped doing that but afterwards I thought about why that was. The thing I concluded was basically Dead Dinks. It was far from dead dink as shown in the video but because of the pace he was used to, my dink wasn’t low enough, quick enough, and positioned well enough and might as well have been thrown in the category of a dead dink. I’ve since torn into the whole thing with the mental image of those dinks and practiced to improve them to where next time should be different.

I think it’s true that at high levels you see less mistakes and more winners, but these 9 things are still present in a way relevant to that level.


Excellent point @Landon!

What might feel like a pretty neutral (can’t attack but not defending either) dink to one player, may be an attackable dink to a player with the skillset to do so.

Even if, in the grand scheme, against most players, that very same dink would generally not be attackable. It all depends who you’re playing and similar things that we mention in the list do apply, though in a different context, at higher levels.

Thanks for brining this up!