CJ Johnson Headshot
CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

Want To Learn How To Be Good At Pickleball?

Recently Sheri sent us this question: We live in an area that lacks a qualified pickleball instructor. Since both of us are over 60, what can we do to play smarter and more competitive pickleball?

First, we want to congratulate Sheri for posing this question. Just because we are getting older doesn’t mean that our desire to learn has diminished. Learning how to be good at pickleball is not an easy task.

Since this is a subject we talk about frequently, we thought we would both answer the question to give you both our perspectives (CJ & Tony).

CJ: According to our recent survey, most pickleball players told us how they get their pickleball information:

    1. Online-specifically YouTube
    2. At the courts from fellow players
    3. Google search
    4. Online Course

The amount of pickleball information available online is growing exponentially. When I posted my first video on Better Pickleball in 2016, only two other channels were devoted to instruction, Third Shot Sports and Deb Harrison.

Now it seems like there’s a new pickleball channel weekly. Don’t misunderstand; just because the channel or instructor is new doesn’t mean it’s bad. It does, however, mean that you, as a consumer of that information, need to be diligent about getting information that will help your game, not send you down a rabbit hole.

That said, my advice is if you want to learn how to be good at pickleball, find an online trusted resource and go step-by-step with their advice.

Tony and I focus on providing you actionable content: things that you can actually bring into your game and will not take distract you from your objectives. You can find a ton of free searchable instruction, tips, and strategy videos at our YouTube channels: Better Pickleball or In2Pickle. You can also find helpful content in our Pickleball Therapy Podcast and our Blog posts to help you in your journey.

We are also fans of Nicole at Primetime Pickleball, Barrett at Pickleball Kitchen, Simone Jardim, Deb Harrison, and Mark Renneson at Third Shot Sports. Like us, they’ve been coaching pickleball for several years. They’re passionate about the sport and knowledgeable. I’m confident in saying that all of us will be continuing to promote and teach pickleball for years to come.

While this is the most cost-effective approach, it’s also the most time-consuming and can lead you down some side trails that will delay your progress. It requires you to be your own coach. You’ll need to diagnose the issues and then do some research for the proper solution. Not the easiest or most straightforward path, but it can be done.

Tony: I have to agree with CJ here. Lots of content out there. Some good. Some maybe not be the best.

The thing about content is that while it is good to know what you learn, you need to do something with it. This means that you have to take what you learn out on the court and work on what you learned. There are several things you can do to put into action the things you learned, from ghost drills, to wall drills, to self-dropped ball drills. Rather than repeating it all here, I am going to link to a blog we wrote that goes into these in some detail.

The key is that you need to act on the information.

CJ: Knowledge without action is not really going to get you where you want to go. Improvement requires both.

One option that is available to you if you want to learn and do it at the same time is to attend a pickleball camp. This allows you to be on the court with some of the best pickleball coaches in the world, no matter where you live. It’s a great way to get information that you can take home and learn to apply.

Not all camps are equal. We happen to think that ours are the best 😃; we combine small class sizes with a holistic approach to the game. That said, there are some other good camps out there. If you can get on court with a coach like Deb Harrison, Simone Jardim, Sarah Ansboury, Kyle Yates, or John Sperling, you will be in good shape. If you are thinking about a camp, it’s best to do your homework before committing. We put together a camp selection guide here: https://wearepickleball.com/is-a-pickleball-camp-right-for-you/

Tony: At our camps, we focus on the Three Pillars of Pickleball.

One of the pillars that players often overlook is the Strategic Pillar. This is not the same as just knowing this strategy or that.

The Strategic Pillar is “seeing” the game. You understand how the game is played and know what’s going on out on the courts. Should you hit the ball to the left or right? Long or short? Should you move to the left or right? Whose ball is that?

Those are all Strategic Pillar questions. You can learn a lot about the game by studying game videos. I do not mean just watching a game for its entertainment value. I mean watching it to learn pickleball strategy from it.

We do a lot of that inside WeArePickleball – our game breakdowns are a thing we are known for. It is something that you can watch and learn from no matter where you are in the country and can really help you “see” the game.

CJ: As Tony mentioned, critical game study can be so helpful.

Along the same lines is online learning. It is something that players sometimes resist because they think that you must be on the court to learn. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have helped hundreds of players through online training. It has been awesome to see how much improvement our members have made with the online learning tools we make available to them. 

We are putting the finishing touches on our updated WeArePickleball Success Path and will be opening it for new members in March 2022. To kick it off, we’ll be doing a free 3 part mini-series on how to improve your game. Come to the mini-series and get these keys to the game. You can then decide whether our Success Path is right for you. It is a no-lose for you ☺️. Keep an eye on your emails; we’ll be announcing the dates soon.

Tony: I wanted to provide a brief word of caution. As CJ noted above, the number two most used source of improvement information on our survey was information provided by other players at the local courts.

Unless that player is a top coach in your area, it’s probably best to be careful with the advice given to you by your fellow players. CJ and I both started our YouTube channels in response to all the free (and bad) advice we were getting at the local courts.

Coaching is more than doling out a tip here and there. A good coach understands the fundamentals of teaching and how people learn. They know it’s not just about the how. When a person has a greater understanding of the why, that’s when breakthroughs happen.

After all, how many times have you had to “unlearn” something you heard at your local courts. I think every one of us heard some version of “run to the non-volley zone no matter what.” (If you’re playing on the return side, that’s fantastic advice. If you are on the serve side, not so much 🤦 and this results in bad habits that then have to be unlearned).

Conclusion

CJ: Yeah. A lot of the advice out there, while well-intentioned, can cause lots of grief for players. Knowing which advice is right and which not can be a tricky proposition.

I would sum up our advice as:

    1. Find a source for information that you can trust. Tony and I are pickleball professionals who have dedicated ourselves to helping players, like you, improve in their games and, more importantly, improve in their relationship to pickleball. You know you are in good hands with us.
    2. Understand that you have to apply the information you learn – you have to put it into action. It is helpful to have some sort of action plan. You can download our Three Pillars of Pickleball, with an action plan, here.
    3. Give yourself time and space to learn. It is a process.
    4. When you are ready, join us along the WeArePickleball Success Path or come to a camp (or do both – they are different learning experiences). These are significant steps that you can take to accomplish your pickleball objectives.

Whatever you decide, Tony and I will be here for you. As Tony likes to say “We’ve got your back.”

Hope to see you on the courts.

4 Comments

  1. Arneitha Johnson on January 31, 2022 at 5:35 am

    Thanks for the info. Very helpful and insightful. I’m turning 80 in a few weeks, and love the game. Only started playing a few months ago.

    • CJ Johnson on January 31, 2022 at 1:35 pm

      Welcome to pickleball Arneitha. Hopefully we’ll see you on the courts one day.

  2. Karen Leonard on February 1, 2022 at 5:57 pm

    You all are great and provide great information and practical information. Can’t wait for you both to come back to the Sacramento area. Hoping maybe for a clinic at Rollingwwod Athletic Club in Fair Oaks, CA. Thanks for all you do.

    Karen Leonard

    • CJ Johnson on February 2, 2022 at 2:51 pm

      Hi Karen, we’re glad you find the information helpful. We plan to come back to the area in late October. If you have contact information at the facility can you email it to us at [email protected]?

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