10 Pickleball New Year’s Resolutions You Can Add to Your To-Do List

The New Year brings plenty of excitement and big plans, but it can also be easy to lose steam! Now that we’re almost through the first half of January 2020, how have your resolutions held up? If you need some extra inspiration and ideas to commit to, whether big or small, we have some suggestions that could build your pickleball prowess in the months to come.

BOOST Training CampsResolution 1: Improve Your Pickleball Skill & IQ, Attend A Boost Training Camp

Drilling on your own is an important part of training, but having a professional observe your play can help to identify shortcomings you didn’t even know were present. At BOOST camps you not only learn proper techniques but develop a more tactical mindset so you know when to use them. Hosted by a number of highly qualified instructors at first-class court facilities, you’ll get to enjoy a deep dive into your favorite game while absorbing tons of functional knowledge.

Resolution 2: Find The Right Paddle To Improve your Game

It’s true that you can’t transform from a 2.5-rated player to a 5.0 simply by switching paddles, but those who’ve stuck with a single piece of equipment throughout their pickleball journey are often surprised by how huge a difference the right paddle can make. Everyone has their own unique play style and finding gear that complements it can make your whole game feel smoother and more intuitive. Check out some of PickleballCentral’s game improvement paddles to see what might take you to the next level!

If you want to take a look at paddles that have been proven “in the field” by a wide array of players, we also have a section dedicated to 5-star rated paddles that have at least 20 perfect reviews.

Pickle Palooza Logo

Resolution 3: Attend A Pickleball Festival

Pickle Palooza is a one-of-a-kind event that offers all the thrills of a tournament without the stress of competition. Palooza is located in Phoenix, AZ and runs from Feb 21-23 this year. It hosts court exhibitions and interviews with the pros, skill-based open play, paddle demos, one-on-one instruction and entertainment. It’s the perfect excuse for players to share in some pickleball-centric fun, and with enjoyable activities in the surrounding area (such as the Phoenix zoo, art museum and botanical gardens), you can make a true vacation out of it.

Resolution 4: Practice More

The best way to become a better player is often the simplest. Whether it’s playing a practice game or drilling specific skills, you always have the ability to improve through hard work and dedication. Of course, certain training aids can make the process easier as well. The two pickleball machines we carry, the Tutor and Lobster, allow you to practice more easily without a partner by sending lobs, spin shots and dinks your way.

Resolution 5: Play In A Tournament

Competition isn’t for everyone, but even if you’re a fairly laid-back player, participating in a tournament can be a great way to strengthen your abilities, make new friends and take part in the greater pickleball community. Tournaments are the perfect excuse to knuckle down on training and come out the other side knowing you played your best. There are also a number of exciting new tours taking place this year that will serve to bring pickleball to an even broader audience, so taking part in one of them will truly have you becoming part of the sport’s history!

A few upcoming tournament options include:

PPA Mesa Grand Slam Qualifier … 2/13-16
APP Hilton Head Pickleball Open … 3/19-22
PPA Georgia Open at Life Time  Grand Slam Qualifer … 3/26-29
International Indoor Pickleball Championship (Centralia, WA) … 4/1-5
PPA Dallas Grand Slam Qualifer … 4/2-5
APP Owensboro Pickleball Open … 5/8-10

History of Pickleball

Resolution 6: Learn The History Of The Game

Speaking of history, despite being a relatively new sport, pickleball has enjoyed a fast rise in popularity thanks to many incredible people who have done their part to spread the game to communities across the world. If you’ve ever been curious about how pickleball got started and turned into the growing phenomenon it is today, it’s worth taking a look at the book History of Pickleball. Written by pro players Jennifer Lucore and Beverly Youngren, it shares many insights and interviews that reveal pickleball’s past and where it’s headed in the future.

Resolution 7: Read to Improve Your Winning Strategies

Players learn in a variety of ways, and hitting a pickleball isn’t always the most direct path toward improvement. Sometimes you need to take a step back and dig into the reasons why skilled players do what they do. To that end, the book Winning Pickleball by top player Mark Friedenberg is a great way to get yourself into the mindset of a professional and learn about the mental side of the game. It’s incredible how a few minor tweaks in strategy can result in big improvements, and “playing” your opponent is just as important as knowing how to swing a paddle.

Glen Peterson

Resolution 8: Watch Some Videos To Improve your Game

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but sometimes it just makes for good practice! Pro Glen Peterson has filmed several videos that provide excellent tips to grow your game. When dedicating just a few minutes can provide you with new ways to improve, what do you have to lose? Check out his videos on solo wall drills you can try and his 5 tips for becoming a better player overall.

Resolution 9: Give Back To The Game

Pickleball’s community is extremely inclusive. There’s often a sense of camaraderie even during heated competition, and its acceptance towards players of all genders, ages and backgrounds is unparalleled. Because of that, friendships have formed among many who may have never met otherwise. If you enjoy the idea of giving back to that community, it’s worth taking a look at several pickleball initiatives that give back to players. The Founders Courts project is aiding in the construction of courts on Bainbridge Island where the game originated. The Pickleball Legacy Scholarship Foundation (PLSF) helps support the next generation of players, and donations to the USAPA open up new opportunities for people to engage in the sport.

Resolution 10: Improve Your Grip In More Ways Than One

Many players are content with their paddles’ original grips, but sometimes you want a little extra tack to improve your hold or need to replace one that’s become worn over time. Thankfully, it’s fairly easy to switch your grip (see how here) or layer up an overgrip to provide better feel. Grips also provide a great opportunity to add a little flair to your paddle with fun colors and designs.

Alternately, if you want to keep your handle as-is but learn new ways to improve your grip security, you may want to experiment with different (hand) grip styles to see how they affect your ability to make different shots. To that end, you can explore various ways to hold your paddle by watching this video with Glen Peterson.

Why the Way You Hold Your Paddle Can Strengthen Play

Drilling skills, working on placement and learning new strategies are all necessary steps towards becoming a better player, but there’s a simple yet often overlooked factor that also comes into play: grip.

How a player holds their paddle affects how quickly they can respond to volleys and makes it easier or more difficult to perform certain shots. This has a significant effect on player readiness and comfort. As such, it can be useful to take a look at your primary style of grip to see if it’s truly supporting your game.

In the video below, Glen Peterson goes over most popular types of grip used by picklers.

The three styles are: Continental (hammer), Western (swatting) and Eastern (shaking hands). By referring to a chart like the one shown here, you can see that certain positions of the hand correspond to numbered segments of the handle’s bevels or corners.

Grip Positions

Grip Positions (Credit)

The continental grip favors backhands since the player’s knuckles are face the net. The western grip in contrast is more suitable for players who use a lot of forehand strokes, but makes it difficult to perform backhands. The eastern grip is the most popular since it strikes a balance between access to either style of swing.

Glen also notes that some players will put several fingers or a thumb on the paddle face in order to improve their orientation and awareness of their paddle in addition to strengthening paddle stability. This is similar to how some table tennis players hold a paddle, but it exposes the fingers to potential harm if a ball hits the wrong area.

Once you’ve decided which grip suits you, another thing to consider is what your overall paddle position looks like in relation to your body.

PrimeTime Pickleball shows that your paddle’s “ready” position doesn’t have to be fixed, but can be fluid as you adapt to circumstances throughout a game.

In the video, note that there are two extremes between holding a paddle in a backhanded position and directly in the middle of your body. The former allows you to easily block most volleys, while the latter is more balanced between offence and defense since it allows you to transition into forehand shots.

Which style you should use depends on whether you’re on the offense or defense and how far you are away from the net/opponents. The backhanded position allows you to react very quickly, so it’s ideal when you’re having to focus on slowing a ball down. As you switch to attacking, the paddle should simultaneously move into a more aggressive location.

Watch the video to see how you can alter your paddle’s placement depending on the situation.

Do you have a favorite grip style? How has keeping your paddle in the right “ready” position helped win points in your game?

Why You Should Try a Heavy Paddle Even If You’ve Dismissed Them Before

Heavy pickleball paddles are often presumed to fall under the sole domain of power players. You have more heft in your hand, so you can slam, smash and drive kill shots down the court all day.

This scenario is a reality for some players, but to shoehorn heavy paddles into such a niche role is a disservice to their versatility. You may even be missing out on the excellent benefits these paddles can provide if you’ve been presuming their weight is too much to handle.

Hilary Marold is one example of a pro player who bucks the stereotype of heavy paddles only being suitable for big and bulky athletes. She even believes that heavy paddles are particularly helpful to senior players, a demographic which is often advised to steer clear of anything that could strain their joints.

Hilary is known as the “Queen of the Courts” due to her extensive high-profile background in racquet sports. This includes multiple gold medals and hall of fame inductions within tennis, platform tennis, badminton, racquetball, pickleball and more, so it’s worth hearing her out!

In the video below you can listen to Hilary explain why she enjoys using the Paddletek Phoenix Ultra II, which weighs in at 10 – 10.5 oz.

Hilary explains that paradoxically, heavy paddles often stress the body less than lightweight options. Their larger mass provides more speed and pop with less work from the player.

In an extreme example, think of whether it would be easier to return a ball with a banana leaf or a baseball bat. While the leaf is obviously faster and easier to wield, the bat adds far more of its own power during acceleration rather than relying on a player to throw all of their strength behind it.

She notes that heavier paddles provide better defense since their weight defuses the power behind slams. The paddle won’t vibrate or churn as much in the hand, allowing for an easier response.

For those who play outdoors, a heavy paddle will also offer more support when counteracting wind during a difficult serve or return.

If you experience sore wrists or arms during play, we believe it’s at least worth trying a heavier option to see if it can alleviate some of the tension that can result from using a light paddle. You might be surprised by the results! (Remember our 30-day test drive policy allows you to try equipment worry-free.)

If you’ve tried heavy paddles before to no avail, be aware that a paddle’s weight distribution greatly effects how it feels in the hand. Paddles that are head-heavy, those which focus most of their weight near the top of the face, often feel right at home in the hands of former (and current) tennis players. However, they might feel draining and awkward to someone who doesn’t want to battle against gravity during games.

Thankfully, there are options on both ends of the spectrum whether you want to try a paddle with a balanced weight distribution or something more specialized. If you love your current paddle but think there might be something to the weight debate, you can also give lead tape a shot and cheaply add more strength to equipment you already own.

For those wanting to test something new, the following are great options in the heavy paddle category:

Paddles with a Balanced Feel

Phoenix Ultra II – Up to 10.6 oz
Z5 Composite – Up to 9.2 oz
Vertex – Up to 8.9 oz
Phoenix Pro PTK – Up to 8.8 oz
Bantam EX-L – Up to 8.8 oz
Bantam EX-L Pro – Up to 8.8 oz
Wilson Tour Pro – Up to 8.7 oz

Paddles with a Head-Heavy Feel

Maverick (Standard) – Up to 8.3 oz
Saber Pro – Up to 8.4 oz
Invikta X5 – Up to 8.4 oz
Engage Poach Extreme – Up to 8.3 oz
Head Radical XL (Red) – Up to 8.3 oz

Paddles that Allow You to Choose a Heavy Weight

Prince Pro Series – Up to 8.3 oz standard weight
Selkirk Amped Series – Up to 8.4 oz standard weight

What are your thoughts on heavier paddles, and do you feel they’ve helped improve your game? Which heavy paddle do you think has the best feel?

Avoiding Pop-Ups in Pickleball

The dreaded pop-up can be tough to control even when you feel like you’re doing everything right. A shot flies towards you and you angle your paddle away from your opponent, but it still soars into the air so they can return an easy slam. How do you prevent this? Pickleball Kitchen provides some helpful tips.

In the following video Barrett Kincheloe describes 3 methods you can use to avoid popping pickleballs into the air so you won’t have to defend against a smash. For a quick overview, this advice includes:

Soft Hands

While everyone loves to have cushy, smooth skin, in this instance having “soft hands” refers to how you grip your paddle. If you have a tendency to use a death grip, then the tension in your muscles will follow through to your paddle and cause balls to ricochet off the surface.

Instead of grasping the handle so firmly, try to focus on holding the paddle only between your index finger and thumb. The remaining three fingers on the grip (middle, ring and pinkie) should only loosely be touching it. The side of the grip should be between the “v” of your index finger and thumb’s webbing.

This will feel a little odd and loose at first, and you may hit some balls into the net. But this softer grip is ideal for defusing the power coming from a fast shot and will result in it gently returning to your opponent, often in the kitchen.

Maintain Pace

It’s understandable that if you see a pickleball whizzing towards you, you may want to return it with an equal amount of punch. Yet this is a trap!

If you take shots quickly and at speed there’s a higher chance your paddle will be jostled upwards in the process, resulting in a pop-up. Even worse, you could return the ball with such power that it goes out of the court boundaries entirely, meaning you won’t even get a chance to play out the rest of the point.

Instead of swinging out of control, keep your paddle in a neutral “blocking” position with the face aiming towards your opponent and maintain the above-mentioned soft grip. The ball will lose speed and play can return to a calmer pace. Remember too that pickleballs will have less speed on them when they’ve popped up from the ground versus being taken out of the air.

Watch Spin

Spin isn’t only useful for changing the path of pickleballs as they’re traveling through the air or once they’ve hit the ground; it also affects how they come back off of paddles. Topspin in particular can be dangerous to handle since its motion naturally causes pickleballs to fly upwards when you return them.

To counteract this, Barrett recommends angling your paddle slightly toward the ground and aiming lower than you would normally. This will reduce the spin’s effectiveness and keep the ball closer to the net. If you’re unsure when balls have spin on them, an easy thing to look for is if they appear solid in the air as opposed to being able to see their holes.

Check out the full video for more information about all of these steps and examples of their effects in motion:

Hitting a Consistent and Powerful Serve

Your serve is the one shot you have 100% control over during a pickleball game. You can visualize ball placement, take a breath and send the ball exactly where you want it. But it can be surprisingly difficult to develop a reliable serve even when you have all these factors in your favor.

The following are a few tips that will help players improve the consistency of their serve and increase the power behind it. To start, we have a number of guidelines from pickleball instructor CJ Johnson. She lays out four points that all players should keep in mind. They are:

1. Keep the ball in front of your body. Regardless of whether you’re performing a backhand or forehand serve, it’s easier to keep both the ball and your target in sight like this instead of keeping it at your side or getting fancy.

2. Don’t use a big drop when releasing the ball from your hand. Keep the ball relatively close to your paddle and don’t use any large motions which could make it more difficult to determine the ball’s trajectory.

3. Follow through in the direction of the target with your paddle and arm. The “target” should be your opponent in the court box diagonally opposite you.

4. Develop a pre-shot routine. You’ll want to aim for your opponent’s weak point (normally their backhand), make note of any potential interference from the elements (such as sun glare and wind) and breathe. Some players include a bounce or two before their serve and this is fine as well.

To hear about these steps in depth, check out CJ’s video:

If you’d like to add more strength to your serve, Barrett of Pickleball Kitchen will show you the proper technique. Some players believe that you have to have a lot of power in your arms to develop a powerful serve, but this isn’t entirely true. While being fit and strong certainly helps, a powerful serve actually comes more from the motion in your hips than the arm or wrist.

You’ll need to develop a smooth hip rotation and also work on when you “break” your wrist. This isn’t as painful as it sounds! More specifically, when you swing there’s a certain point near the end of your follow-through where you’ll want to flip your wrist upwards to put more spin and punch behind the ball. Watch the video to see this demonstrated:

These tricks should help any player feel more confident when performing one of the most important shots in the game. What are some of your favorite methods to ensure your serves always go where intended?

How Did Thick Core Paddles Become One of the Hottest Pickleball Trends?

Over the past several years paddles with thick cores have risen in popularity and versatility. With major manufacturers such as Selkirk, Paddletek, Prince, Onix and GAMMA all offering thick core options, there’s a reason players have turned to this style of paddle and found it improved their game.

Many of those reasons are explained on our Thick Core Paddle guide where you can hear from a number of paddle manufacturers regarding why they’ve ventured into the world of thick core paddles and how their construction has changed over time. This is definitely a style that’s here to stay and players of all levels should give them a test if they’re looking for something highly controlled and stable under pressure.

One of the first thick core paddles to hit the market was the Selkirk Amped Omni, which was created in conjunction with pro player Glen Peterson. We recently had the opportunity to speak with Glen about his initial thought process behind the design and what he believes this style’s greatest strengths are. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of thick core paddles, Glen explains them clearly:

“The idea of a thicker core appealed to my desire for a more stable paddle that generates more consistent shots across the surface. I hoped that a thicker paddle would be less likely to twist in my hand when the ball struck near the edge. Theoretically this made sense to me as a thicker core could have a lower modulus of elasticity. Practically, it just seemed the right direction the same way larger frame structures in other racquet sports improve performance.

“I cut a paddle out of a piece of 2 inch foam just to see what the thicker template felt like in my hands, and it felt great even though I couldn’t hit a ball. I then took two half inch cores and glued them together to create a usable paddle but with no edge guard. This 1 inch thick paddle was a breakthrough for me. Brian Ashworth hit with it and agreed. The challenge was creating a thicker paddle without dramatically increasing weight. Selkirk took on this challenge and made the Omni paddle with 5/8 inch thick core.  While an 1/8” thick seems small, it is a 25% increase in thickness.

“The key advantage is more consistent ball performance coming off a larger portion of the paddle surface. While it might seem a thicker core would generate more power or ball speed, the opposite seems true. I get more control, touch and consistency even when I miss-hit the ball. And I get all the power I need. Players like Ty McGuffin are able to generate amazing power even with the thicker core. Players who want tons of power with shorter strokes might prefer thinner paddles with smaller but dramatic sweet spots.

“Perhaps the only unexpected drawback to this type of paddle is that it’s harder to pick up a ball lying on the ground with the edge of the paddle since it’s thicker!

“I see paddles becoming even thicker with innovative core materials and improved paddle science. Additionally, I see ball development as being an important factor in paddle improvements. If balls become softer and less brittle, the paddles will change accordingly. Current top paddles are optimized for the Dura Fast 40 Ball which is preferred by most top players.”

Glen’s predictions have proven true so far, with manufacturer Prince introducing two new paddles featuring 9/16″ thick cores in 2018. The Prince Spectrum Pro and Response Pro have both proven popular and feature a unique oval-shaped design. The thick core makes these paddles very rigid and transfers energy evenly along the sides, top and bottom of the design. This effectively expands the sweet spot and lets players make use of space that would be “dead” in other paddles nearer to the edge guard.

Onix released their .625″ thick paddle, the Outbreak, in 2018 as well. It uses a carbon fiber face to create a soft feel that reduces vibration from impact, increasing stability and letting players maintain control over their shots. Paddletek’s Pro Series with 9/16″ cores was released later that year and included the Tempest Pro, which uses a graphite face. This combo is thought to create one of the best feeling paddles available, allowing players to hit against any area of their paddle’s surface without experiencing decreased responsiveness.

GAMMA was another major manufacturer which saw the strengths of thick cores and expanded the market in 2019. The Compass, Shard and Legend added more shape and weight variety to the mix and have shown the sweet spot can be broadened with this technology no matter the paddle’s shape or weight. With many top players enjoying these options and variety, there’s something that will satisfy everyone looking to try thick core paddles.

One of the only potential downsides players may want to be aware of when looking at these paddles is the fact that their handles tend to be more square-shaped and boxy due to the thicker construction. While several of the paddles mentioned above do come in small grip circumferences (4-1/8″), they generally have more of a structured feel to them.

Many players have found that they’re able to easily adapt to this shape after a few games with a thick core paddle, but this is something to be aware of when considering the various choices. Another option is to add an overgrip to these paddles for the purpose of softening up the more defined edges of the handle.

There are currently nineteen different paddles from six manufacturers collected on our Thick Core Paddles page, and with the way development is going, we expect this number will continue to grow. Learn more about all of these paddles here.

Win Tricky Points on Your Serve with the Nasty Nelson

To piggyback on our post about the lesser-known Erne Shot from earlier this month, today we have another technique that’s not seen often and is far more controversial: the Nasty Nelson.

Although this shot is legal, some see it as unsportsmanlike and it may leave a sour taste in players’ mouths. If you decide to use it, make sure you’re either playing among good-natured friends or in a high level competition where opponents should be ready for anything!

Timothy Nelson

Timothy Nelson

The Nasty Nelson was given its name by Scott Lipitz after watching Timothy Nelson make use of it.

The goal is to cause the receiving team to commit a fault. This technique is a serve aimed at the receiver’s partner instead of the usual crosscourt box. If the opponent’s partner hits the ball before it reaches the court—either with their paddle or body—then the point goes to the serving team.

The reason this works is due to pickleball’s service rules which state:

4.C.2. Interference. If the serve clears the net and the receiver or the receiver’s partner interferes with the flight of the ball on the serve, it is a point for the serving team.

Just like a ball is still in play if someone chooses to hit an “out” ball before it actually drops outside the court’s boundaries, if the partner blocks the ball from landing on the wrong side of the court (usually due to not moving fast enough or raising a paddle to protect their body), you get the point.

Although this shot may sound harsh, it’s a viable part of the game and can even be a wise strategy. The “cleanest” way to use the Nasty Nelson is if you notice the receiver’s partner positioning themselves aggressively near the center line.

Since the partner is already close to the legal side of the court, it’s easier to tweak your serve and pop them before they realize they need to get out of the way. It’s (literally) their fault for not realizing they’re blocking the serve’s flight path!

The Nasty Nelson can still be attempted when the partner is at the center or outer edge of their court, but it’s more difficult to achieve under those conditions and may not win many friends.

You can see the shot executed below. In this instance the receiving partner isn’t particularly close to the center line, but the Nasty Nelson is unexpected and he notices the ball heading toward him too late. Despite this surprise attack, all the players take it in good stride!

If you want to see Timothy himself use this shot on an opponent far from the center line, check out this video at 7:04. Just be warned that the rest of the highlights contain strong language.

Do you think the Nasty Nelson’s reward is worth the risk? Even if you don’t want to use this shot yourself, it’s a good one to know so you don’t get caught off guard.