Pickleball isn’t just your grandma’s game. If you spend an hour on the court with pickleball pro Tyson McGuffin, you’ll understand why. The athlete, pickleball teacher and father is one of the most accomplished professional pickleball players right now: he’s a five-time Grand Slam champion and four-time national champion. His energy, smile, and signature hair convey a youthful, infectious energy that will inspire you to find your local spot and learn to dink, volley, and lob. If you’re already a regular player (or even a pickler newbie), McGuffin offers these pro tips to take your game to the next level.
Less is more
If you are an experienced tennis player or just very competitive, you may be compelled to smash the ball at the first opportunity. While tempting, McGuffin advises against this tactic. “I always tell new players that less is more, or the less you have, the less that can go wrong,” he says. “Rather than rushing the game, make more thoughtful moves on pickleball court so there is less room for error.” This strategic approach reduces the chance of error, especially as you learn the rules of the game. Finally, keeping the ball in play and trying to outlast your opponent can be more promising than an overhead or drop shot.
Power and control come from the ground up
As with most racquet sports, the power comes from the legs, not necessarily the arms. “All of your power and control comes from the ground up,” advises McGuffin. “Use large body parts like your legs and shoulders instead of your wrist and stand up straight.” Staying in a semi-crouched “ready position” and shifting your weight pays dividends in terms of ball control and strength.
Early preparation is key
By staying alert and ready, you can position yourself to make solid contact with the ball and the racquet’s sweet spot. “Get your feet and hands in the right position as early as possible,” McGuffin recommends. The fastest way to better accuracy and more power is to return to the ready position as soon as possible after the last shot.
Take it slow
Even in pickleball, slowness and steadiness prevail. This is particularly relevant advice for beginners. “New players naturally tend to want to speed up the game, especially when they’re uncomfortable on the court,” says McGuffin. “I always remind new pickleball players that they have more time than they think. It’s important to get in the right position before your opponent makes contact with the ball.” If you’re in the right position at this point, you can follow your opponent’s shot and be in the best place to return it.
Check out the kitchen
If you’re new to Pickleball, one of the most important areas to learn on the court is the “kitchen.” This area between the net and the first white line (also called the non-volley line) is a non-volley zone, meaning you must bounce the ball before hitting it. The kitchen is an important part of pickleball strategy. “The game is won and lost at the kitchen line,” says McGuffin. “The team that can better control the kitchen line has a huge advantage. Therefore, it is important to improve these skills.”
Invest in quality gear
“To focus on your game, you need the right gear,” advises McGuffin. While it’s obvious that you need a pickleball bat and a ball, investing in a pair of pickleball shoes is also important for taking your game to the next level. Unfortunately, typical running shoes are not enough. McGuffin swears by the Skechers Viper Court Pro Pickleball shoes, which he has been competing and training in since last spring. “The improved grip and traction helps with stability and can handle the quick moves I like to make on the court,” says McGuffin.
Point your belly button at your goal as you serve
In pickleball, the underhand serve must be hit deep and back into the diagonally opposite service box. The purpose of a serve is simply to get the ball in play, but placement is important. “On serve, your throwing arm should be pointing toward the ball. “At the net post, your hips and belly button should be facing the target and the palm of your dominant hand leading the shot,” McGuffin instructs. “They also have to hit across the field into the opposite penalty area and aim for depth to push back the returner.” Keep playing!