CJ Johnson Headshot
CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

Make 2022 Your Best Pickleball Year Yet!

Most pickleball players want to improve; to grow in the game and their understanding of this awesome sport. That is a good first step for those players who are interested in improvement.

BUT …

Intention without action will not get you where you want to go.

If you want to continue your growth in pickleball, you need to take action. Below we share with you several specific things you can do to make 2022 your best pickleball year yet.

1. Improve your body

Do not overlook your body in 2022. You need a balanced, healthy, flexible, injury-free body if you want to play your best pickleball. Pick one area to focus on: the all-important balance, say. Then, adopt some exercises for you to work on that area. Here is an example of several balance exercises that CJ put together: https://youtu.be/0UaEPF5GxGk.

Once those become a habit, continue down the list: core, legs, arms, etc. And do not forget stretching (Jill is always reminding me of this part of life).

Your body is the vehicle that allows you to play pickleball. Take care of it and play not just longer but better as well.

2. Improve your mind

Body? Check.

But what about the mind. Most players’ games suffer from mental distractions: getting upset, frustration, loss of concentration, nerves, you name it. You will not play your best if your mind is occupied with things other than the next shot (being in the moment as it has come to be called). Working on the mind requires off-court reading and reflection.

This link will take you to where you can find some of our favorite mental training books, including Coach Pete’s book (in case the link does not take you there: https://wearepickleball.com/resources/).

You can hear our interview with Coach Pete on your podcast, Pickleball Therapy – link here (in case this link is no bueno: https://open.spotify.com/episode/59IhIbzw9EGL3KnGWaRqS3?si=ebxgU4TEQRWEy3T6mVev-A). This is a great series to listen to on the way to the courts (keep the mind balanced).

 Give your mind some attention and it will pay back great dividends on the court.

By the way, thinking of the game in this way is part of our Three Pillars of Pickleball™: Mechanical, Strategic, and Athletic (where the body and mind reside). If you do not yet know about the Three Pillars, link here and we will send you a copy of it.

3. Improve your footwork

The most important thing you do as a pickleball player (other than enjoying the game) is to be in the right place at the right time. You can have the best shots in the universe. But if you are not in the right place, these awesome shots do you no good.

You can make sure you are in the right place by improving your footwork. CJ has a great introduction to footwork, which you can watch here (the link in case: https://youtu.be/3VwRY0sDvYM). If you want more footwork, join us inside the WeArePickleball Success Path™ or at one of our camps. Footwork is part of the holistic approach to pickleball.

4. Improve 1 shot

We all want better shots. It is best is to start with one shot. Improve that one. Then move onto the next one. And so on.

As you decide which one to start with, think of foundational shots first. An example is to master the dink before you move to the third shot. The third shot is, after all, simply a longer dink.

Also consider combined efforts. An example of this is the drop serve and return of serve. These two shots are substantially similar in execution. Working on one will help with the other.

Together with your footwork, shot mechanics are part of the Mechanical Pillar. The “how to” of pickleball. It is important to work on all Three Pillars along your path to improvement.

5. Increase your understanding of the game

The last pillar is the Strategic Pillar: the “what to do when” pillar. Having great shot mechanics and footwork is awesome. But you also need to know what shot to hit when.

Is a punch volley or a block volley better here? Should I hit the hard forehand Banging just hit my way or let it go? We just got lobbed – what now?

All of these are examples of where your understanding of the game will tell you what to do. You will sometimes hear CJ or me refer to it as “seeing” the game. This skill comes through repetition and focused game study. The magic in pickleball starts once you really start to see the game – it is like a fog lifts and everything becomes clear on the court.

If you are curious about how to do this, and want to learn some more about how to “see” the game at the same time, check out this game breakdown video (the other games in the match are linked there if you want more) (Link: https://youtu.be/1ZZC5MmRcqg).

Conclusion

All of the above are areas that you should work on in 2022. BUT … do it in chunks that you can digest. There is no benefit in using a scattered approach where you never finish any one thing. Focus your energies in a few areas. For example: improving balance, the dink, and reading Coach Pete’s book. Even if you are doing other things, like walking each day, make sure your balance work stays on the radar until it becomes a habit. Keep using your drilling time working on the dink until you have seen significant improvements with it. And keep reading Coach Pete’s book until you are done – re-reading sections as needed.

Once you have made progress with these, you can layer in other areas. Always striving to maintain a balance where you continue to grow without becoming overwhelmed.

If you want to know more about self-study in general, you can check out this article we wrote on the subject. And, as always, if we can be a resource to you along your path to improvement, we are happy to help.

Helping you become the best pickleball player you can be is what we are all about.

Stay well and let’s make 2022 your best year yet.

14 Comments

  1. Shirley Kowalski on January 1, 2022 at 2:44 pm

    Great analysis of how to improve I have also liked your thought of reviewing one’s goals for the lowest hanging fruit.

    • Tony Roig on January 2, 2022 at 2:09 pm

      Thank you Shirley. Hope you are well up there and staying warm :).

  2. Stacy Dripchak on January 1, 2022 at 2:55 pm

    Wow, you guys really hit the nail on the head…I started playing PB over two years ago. Having a tennis background really helped & hurt my beginning journey! Lol (I believe it’s called “the soft game”)
    After Reading your article, I must admit it could have saved me many months of frustration….I actually totally agree with the 3 pillars approach & the key to intentional play-spot on! Working on “One shot at a time”, even if it takes a year to master it 60-75% of the time….or even “one thing”, & incorporating in your game in regards with footwork. I want to split step, defend by taking a step back and having my paddle in ready low position, giving myself more time…it’s endless the improvements we can make, to our game to improve!!! That must be why it’s so addicting! This article is the best sound advice anywhere on the planet-Take the time to read, it will save you hours in the long run!

    • Tony Roig on January 2, 2022 at 1:49 pm

      Thanks for your feedback Stacy. Hope the next player sees this article sooner in their playing career :). Keep working at it.

  3. Jim Kerschen on January 1, 2022 at 5:00 pm

    CJ — I can’t tell you how much watching the ball from my opponent’s paddle to mine and back has improved my game. I think it has given me a full point improvement in my game. My opponents think so as well. Additionally, it has made the game move more slowly for me somehow (even though it is not) — I guess that’s what you mean by being “in the zone”.

    • CJ Johnson on January 2, 2022 at 6:08 pm

      Hi Jim, congratulations on your success!

  4. Royston Rodrigues on January 1, 2022 at 9:00 pm

    Very well explained. Thanks

  5. Rebecca Brady on January 2, 2022 at 4:35 am

    Thank you. Your help is greatly appreciated!!

    Next time I play pickleball, I will follow these steps for sure.

    • Tony Roig on January 2, 2022 at 1:46 pm

      Awesome. Let us know how it goes. To a great 2022

  6. Elaine St. John-Lagenaur on January 2, 2022 at 6:58 pm

    Hi all, and HAPPY NEW YEAR: Very inspirational advice…especially breaking it down into improving on one shot/skill at a time. THANKS! (From Elaine:)

  7. Barry L Baker on January 4, 2022 at 12:27 am

    Many thanks for all your insights and just laying out a doable path that I have followed and will continue to follow as I remain on my path of improvement. B Baker in NC

    • CJ Johnson on January 5, 2022 at 1:48 am

      Thank you Barry. We’re glad we can help you on your pickleball journey!

  8. Helen on January 11, 2022 at 1:40 am

    Thanks got the hood work you are doing. There is simply too much information on the internet and having waded in to much of it I have decided to stick with Better Pickleball, In2Pickle and wearepickleball as well as a couple of others. Now if I add a new one I delete one of the couple of others. Your instructional videos are well thought out and feel very open hearted.

  9. Helen on January 11, 2022 at 1:41 am

    There is simply too much information on the internet and having waded in to much of it I have decided to stick with Better Pickleball, In2Pickle and wearepickleball as well as a couple of others. Now if I add a new one I delete one of the couple of others. Your instructional videos are well thought out and feel very open hearted. Thanks for keeping it simple!

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