Once you’re a pickleball player, you’re pretty much hooked for life. It’s a fabulous, fun and fast game, and even when you aren’t playing it, you can practice at home, alone, and without the need for a pickleball court. Here’s our step by step guide on how to practice and play pickleball at home along with exercises drills which can be used to do just that.
Things changed a lot globally because of the coronavirus pandemic and the effect of that on sports has been well-chronicled. Pickleball was also affected by the pandemic, but it’s a sport one can look to practice alone.
Below we have a ready-made guide on what you can do to help yourself practice and sharpen your pickleball skills.
You can also look to understand what’s skinny singles in pickleball, another way you can practice pickleball without needing a lot of space and with just two players needed to play it.
What You Need to Practice Pickleball at Home
All you need is the pickleball paddle, a (pickle)ball, and enough space so you’re not going to smash into anything. A garden or yard are helpful, but not a necessity, and an empty wall is great too but also not necessary.
You can go one step further and get a pickleball machine or pickleball robot, but let’s start off simply, assuming you are at home, with your paddle and a ball, wanting to practice.
Here’s what you can do once you have all of this.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like any sport, the more you play the better you get. It’s impossible to be on the pickleball court all of the time, even if you are rearing to go.
The most obvious thing, if you are a new pickleball player, is to practice your shots at home.
You don’t even need a ball to do this, just the paddle. You can watch pickleball online tutorials to get an understanding of the style, forehand, backhand, serve and volley – and you can do ‘air shots’ in your lounge, kitchen or dining room, depending on where you have space.
Watch this video, courtesy Better Pickleball. It features player CJ Johnson who has a great reputation in the pickleball world.
Although CJ is practicing on a pickleball court, you can get a great idea of shots and style, how to hold the pickle ball paddle, where to hold the paddle, and how to swing.
You can watch the drills and practice them in the air, again without a ball and without a wall or an opponent.
Master Your Shots, Especially Your Serve
The most important shot in a game of pickleball is the serve. In pickleball you only win a point on the serve, so you and your partner want to ensure your serve is excellent.
Pickleball serves are underhand, which is why this game is so popular too. The underhand motion is gentler than an overhead serve, putting far less strain on a person’s back, neck, shoulders and body in general.
Given the serve is underhand, it is pretty easy to practice in the kitchen, just watch out for the crockery!
Deb Harrison, another pickleball pro, demonstrates the pickleball underhand serve in this video. She put emphasis on arm movement, shoulder movement, posture, and without doubt, footwork.
Deb says that a pickleball serve is similar in motion to that of a bowling motion. You need to keep the blade of the paddle facing the direction that you are aiming the ball at, hit the ball square on, and just like tennis, follow through. This is an easy motion to practice at home.
Deb also talks about getting into a routine, even before you have hit your serve. Position yourself, hold the paddle, bounce the ball, and maybe bounce it again, settling yourself so you are 100% ready to serve. You see tennis players do this too; getting ready is an important part of the game.
Another thing you can do is practice how you hold the ball.
Fingers should be on top of the ball for the serve, rather than underneath it. Watch a demonstration, and then at home, practice holding the ball, practice your routine and just practice getting ready. It’s weirdly addictive; you are going to have fun doing this!
Practice your Pickleball Forehands, Backhands and Volleys
Again, and keep your eye on the above videos, you can get an idea of all your shots and the style you need.
Stand with good posture, keep your legs firm, bend your knees slightly, and even sway your body a little. Look at your footwork, and imagine you are leaning to the right for a forehand or leaning to the left for a backhand.
You can do this without space, quite easily, at home alone. Make forward movements or motions for our air volleys.
You can do this all without a ball, without a court, and without an opponent.
If you do have space at home, perhaps an empty garage or a concrete slab with a wall in the yard, then you can play using your ball too.
Draw or paint a line across the wall, at the same height a real pickleball net would be, which is 36 inches high. Aim the ball and your paddle to where your target would be on a real court, make contact with the ball against the paddle and practice, practice, practice.
How To Practice Pickleball Drills, Home Alone
The more drills you practice, the better your game becomes. The ideal is to practice on a real pickleball court with a real opponent, but practicing alone is an option too.
And think how surprised your real life opponent will be, when you suddenly get on the court and play the game brilliantly.
Accuracy is everything in pickleball. Whether it is your serve, swings or volley, you need to be accurate.
You want to place the ball in the right place, each and every time. Pickleball is a fun, fast game. You need to be quick on your feet and quick with the paddle.
When you play the actual game of pickleball you need to think quickly, using your muscle memory so that you can get the ball in the right place each and every time. You can do this by working on your accuracy at home.
Pickleball Volley Drills
Get a piece of tape, or a marker pen (provided you don’t mind a marker on your wall) and tape it on to the spot of the wall that you want to hit.
Stand back and then play against the wall, on your own, aiming for your tape or marker pen each time. You can have long rallies with yourself and the wall, and the more you hit the marker, the more you will be astonished at how your accuracy improves with practice.
If you are doing this as a volleyball drill, you can move around as much as you can so you can take the shots from different angles.
You can also shift the target around, either putting several targets on the wall at the same time (maybe in different colours) or by moving your one target around.
Forehand and Backhand Pickleball Drills
You are going to do the same as for volley drills, but you can stand further back now, imagining you need to get the ball over the net and on to the other side of the court.
The more you practice your strokes, whether with a ball and a wall or as an air stroke, the better your muscle memory becomes. If you do have a wall, stand the length of the pickle ball ‘kitchen’ away, as in, stand seven feet away.
You can start your wall rally with an underhand serve, or with a forehand or backhand, aiming at a target, similar to if you were playing the game.
Keep the rally going for as long as you can, working on your accuracy and style at the same time. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your game improves.
Don’t Forget to Practice your Legwork and Stance
If you don’t have a pickleball court at home, it really does not matter. You can easily practice your legwork, and your air shots, pretty much anywhere in your house.
Legs need to be strong and the stronger your stance, the more accurate your shots and the more quickly you recover from a shot. Your strong legwork will also give you more opportunity to hit the target each time.
Practice holding a paddle, imagine being ready for balls coming at you from all directions, move your legs accordingly and keep strong. If anything, you are going to great a great core!
Practice your movements from back to front and also, side to side. In pickleball there are a lot of lateral movements, even though the game is usually played as doubles, so do your forehands, and your backhands, and your volleys, and practice your legwork accordingly.
If you have the budget, and you are a serious player, then be a bit indulgent and buy yourself a pickleball practice machine. There are quite a few on the market, some of which are mentioned as follows. Read more on pickleball machines in our exhaustive guide here.
Pickleball machines can make life a lot easier when it comes to practicing alone, without having a hitting partner to play with.
- Spinshot Player Pickleball Machine (Check Price on Amazon Here)
- Lobster Pickleball Machine
- Lobster Pickle Two Ball Machine
- Pickleball Tutor Plus
- Pickleball Tutor Spin
- Simon X Practice Machine
- Simone 2 Pickleball Throwing Machine
They all have similar capabilities and it really depends on the quality that you want, and how much money you are prepared to spend. If you are a pickleball coach, or playing on a regular basis and/or professionally, a picklebook machine is a good idea.
Some of the factors you would want to consider before buying a pickleball machine to practice alone include:
- Weight of the Machine
- Ease of Manoeuvrability
- Size of the Hopper
- Possibility of Spin
- Speed-Altering Option
Weight of a Pickleball Machine
Ideally, you want a pickleball machine that is lightweight for you to carry and easy to transport between your home and the court or pickleball club.
If you are going for one of the larger machines, it is likely to be heavier. Have a space at the court / club where you can store it regularly, more likely if you are a coach.
If you are using the machine for your own improvement and practice, you will more likely want a pickleball machine that is smaller, lighter and easier to transport. You can look online at the various options; there are quite a few.
Ease of Manoeuvrability
This ties in with the weight of the machine.
If you are transporting the machine between home and the club or the court, it should be a machine that is easy to move around.
The Lobster Pickleball options are definitely smaller and lighter, but then so is the Pickleball Tutor Spin. Do your research online and read the reviews. You can also get the weights and sizes.
The whole point of using a pickleball machine is so that balls can constantly come at you, without you having to stop every minute or so to pick them up.
The size of the hopper is pretty important, and again, it depends on your expectations. If you are playing for your own benefit you may just need a smallish hopper. If you are a pickleball coach, it is likely to want a bigger hopper.
Is Spin Possible?
If possible you want to practice against spin, and against a variety of spin.
That is how your pickleball opponents are going to be playing, so you want to be ready for them. Pickleball machines comes with different settings, backspin, topspin or sidespin.
When you choose your machine, choose one that has spin options. Some machines need to be adjusted, whereas others just throw balls at you in a combination of spins so you never quite know what is coming your way.
This is important in a pickleball machine. It’s definitely preferable to buy a machine that has different speeds. If you are using the machine for coaching, you are going to be coaching teens and adults of various ages and capabilities.
Your capabilities will also be changing, the more you practice and you will move from a slow speed to a faster speed pretty quickly.
The bottom line is you can practice pickle ball alone. You can practice all your swings using ‘air shots,’ or you can play against a wall with marked targets. If you’re able to, you can use a pickleball machine, also known as a pickleball robot, at the court.
Final Words on Practicing Pickleball Alone at Home
Even in times when you cannot find yourself a court or a hitting partner (or both!), it shouldn’t let you use it as an excuse to not train your game of pickleball. After all, there’s a lot you can still do to hone your pickleball skills, alone, at home, which should keep you in a good stead.
Use the tactics mentioned above, watch the videos which speak pointedly about what those drills are and rest assured you would have sharpened your game by the time you land your feet on courts again.