Pickleball Footwork: Stop Before You Hit

Today we are going to review a mistake I see many people make on the pickleball court.  It is critical to learn proper pickleball footwork.  And a big part of that is learning to stop before you hit the ball.
pickleball footwork
Why This Happens

We have all seen this happen, and frankly, it has happened to all of us at one time or another.  We aren’t set (and balanced) when we make contact with the ball.  This can happen because:

  • We are charging forward to retrieve a shorter return of serve, and our forward momentum carries the ball well past the baseline; or
  • We are shuffling from side to side at the non-volley zone line and hit an off-balance shot that sails high over the net; or
  • We are former tennis players, accustomed to hitting a volley while moving but instead, in pickleball, hits the center of the net.
My Caution to Former Tennis Playerspickleball footwork

Like many of you, I was able to step and hit a tennis volley simultaneously.  However, that doesn’t work in pickleball and
here is the reason why.  Our tennis racquet had strings which would absorb the ball.  Our pickleball paddle does not have strings.  Instead, we must use proper pickleball footwork to absorb the ball and lift it over the net.

Stop Before You Hit
Last week I mentioned that the last two steps are the most important steps in pickleball.  Proper pickleball footwork sets a foundation for the shot and ensures proper weight transfer. Anytime I am going to step to the ball, I want to step prior to contact.  It is important for me to use my lower body to lift the ball over the net.
Many players mistakenly use their upper bodies as they step forward and hit the ball.  When you are hitting a softer ball, such as a dink or third shot drop, if you step and hit at the same time you will often add extra energy, making it more difficult to control. Instead, take the time to let your weight settle into the ground prior to every ball you hit.  This will help you utilize your lower body and make your shots more consistent.
Next time you play, make a concerted effort to examine your pickleball footwork. Focus on those last two steps and ask yourself did I stop before I hit the ball?


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