Pickleball: Play the Percentages

It is a statistical fact that errors rather than outright winners determine the outcome of pickleball matches.  It is the same in tennis!  That is why you need to learn to play the percentages when you play pickleball.

play the percentages

I think most people would say that I am a pretty aggressive player on the court.  And I certainly try to be.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t play the percentages.  In fact, playing the percentages is essential whether you are a recreational player or an advanced player.  Today, let’s review how you can play the percentages when you play pickleball.

Play the Percentages:  Play to Your Strengths

In an earlier post we discussed knowing our strengths.  Hopefully, you have examined your game and know what shots will give you the highest probability of success.  If so, play to your strengths.  If you can dink till the cows come home, why are you trying to smash a well executed dink?  If you have power from years on the tennis court, why aren’t you smashing that high, floating return.

If you have a physical limitation or weakness, develop a way to compensate for it.  A friend needed a strategy to help her aging body get to the line.  Rather than hitting a low, flat return of serve, I suggested she hit a high, floaty shot deep to the baseline.  Though it may not look pretty, it was effective…giving her the time she needed to get to the line and get set before the opposing team had a chance to get their paddle on the ball.

Play to your strengths.  Develop strategies for your weaknesses.

Play the Percentages:  Reset the Point

playing the percentages

When a ball is coming at you hard, your first inclination might be to continue smashing the ball.  But if you are out of position, hurried, or flinching this strategy typically won’t work.  Don’t focus on winning the point.  Instead your focus should be resetting the point.  Getting back to neutral.  Live to fight another day!

I am convinced that shot selection is the greatest distinction between an intermediate and advanced player.  An intermediate player is typically looking to hit a winner.  They want to be the hero, ending the point with a flourish, far too often.  They start the war too soon.  They respond to every slam, with another.  Advanced players, reset the point.  We appreciate the value of  getting back to neutral.  We know our opponent will seldom fall based on one punch.


These are just a few of the things you need to understand as you learn to play percentage pickleball.  Playing the percentages is just one of the 3 strategies that I believe EVERY player can use to improve their game.  These three strategies don’t require extraordinary physical capabilities or years of practice.  In fact they can be utilized by every player, whether he be a 2.5 or 4.o player. The truth is, I used these three strategies every time I play.


In fact I’ve written an ebook, 3 Pickleball Strategies that Will Improve Your Game, that can be used by any level of player. Want to learn more?  Click here.