Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball

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Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball

When I first started playing pickleball I relied almost entirely on my athleticism to force my opponents to hit one more ball.

And it worked for a while.

But as I began improving my game and playing more competitive rec games and opponents I really wanted to learn the key things to begin going from a 3.0 to a 4.0+ player.

Not just the things on paper that you can self analyze by looking at skill rating definitions on sites like USA Pickleball. Not just by continuously showing up for rec games and hoping to get better. The things that actually made a big difference.

Since then I have surpassed 4.0+ and through my own training and learning from playing with players far better than I am (or was), and watching and devouring pickleball pro players content (podcasts, tournaments, clinics, YouTube, and so much more) I wanted to make a list of the top five tips I have for pickleball players to make the jump from 3.0 to 4.0+ rating.

There are tons of other things that could likely make it onto this list, but I personally think focusing on these things will make a massive difference in many players game, and adding too much to a list like this could actually give you too many things to think about and work on - which could end up having the opposite effect we're looking to have here.

That said, if you have any tips you think should be added to this list please don't hesitate to comment below and let me know.

What was the best tip you've ever received while improving your own game that helped you go from 3.0 to 4.0 in pickleball?

Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball

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Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball

Number One: Stop Hitting Balls That Are Going To Go Out

Coming in at number one on our list of the top five tips to improve your pickleball rating and go from 3.0 to 4.0+ is to stop hitting balls that are going out.

This is actually a tip I saw Zane Navratil mention on his social media (like on his YouTube channel that made it on our list of the top ten pickleball YouTubers), and he was actually referring to not only going from 3.0-4.0, but even much higher than that.

The funny part about this tip is that it can help you improve from 2.0 to 3.0 and 3.0 to 4.0 and even 4.0 to 5.0 - because while your shot selection is getting better - so is your opponents.

When we first start out we're just chasing down every ball and wacking it back over the net instead of letting it go out. Then we get a bit better of an eye and we let the ones that are going out the side go out, but our hands get much faster as we improve, and so do our opponents. Then we have balls flying at us rapid speed in our hands battle and now we have a whole new job to let them fly out as they shoot forward at us...and at first it can feel like a real guessing game. 

Take some chances, develop a better eye, and watch your game improve by letting your opponents do the work for you by allowing them to miss.

Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball

Number Two: Not Every Shot Has To Be A Winner

Coming in at number two is something I never personally struggled with but something I see far too many people I work with have a hard time grasping.

The next tip I have for you to improve your pickleball rating from a 3.0-4.0+ is learning that not every shot you take has to be a winner.

Now there is a difference between this and being a banger. While some (or even most) bangers do have this issue - people who are NOT bangers can also have this.

When you go up against players far below your level in pickleball you may find that a large majority of shots CAN be winners - but this isn't going to be the case as you improve and start playing against people that are better as well.

If you go to a beginners level open play you'll notice that they play what I like to refer to as "high pickleball" which means that they leave to ball up high on almost all of their shots, allowing for easy put-aways (winners).

Unfortunately you have people looking to improve their pickleball rating that believe they can get away with playing the same way they do against the beginners (or lower rated players) as they do with the 4.0+ guys and girls. It's not going to happen. You're going to need to learn to take your time, have patience, make resets, and wait for your opportunity to put the ball away. You will need to set the point up with your partner for the winner. 

Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball

Number Three: Part Of The Game IS Played In The Transition Zone - AKA No Man's Land

The third tip on our list of tips to improve your pickleball rating and go from 3.0 to 4.0+ is the fact that part of the game IS played in the transition zone - or what some people refer to as "No Man's Land".

When I first started playing pickleball the people I played with immediately told me I couldn't play in no man's land. I needed to avoid it at all costs and either sprint up or stay back. They demonized the transition zone and made it seem like the game only took place either up at the kitchen or back at the baseline. 

As I moved up to more competitive levels and watched pro level play far more, I noticed that the transition zone is something you're going to need to get comfortable in. 

Yes, you do want to make your way up to the kitchen, but you're going to have a far easier job getting their if you train in the transition and make it your friend. 

Heck, sometimes you're even going to prefer being there over the kitchen when you and your partner find yourself in hot water and need to reset the point. 

Which brings us to our next tip...

Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball

Number Four: Reset, Reset, Reset

Next up on our list of the top five tips to go from 3.0 to 4.0 in pickleball is learning to reset.

Actually, what I wrote is: Reset, Reset, Reset.

Have you ever went up against an opponent who you just couldn't get the ball passed and put it away? Have you ever heard the term "make them hit one more shot"? 

This all comes down to mastering the reset.

And resetting is even more than just that. 

If you master the ability to reset the ball you develop the ability to continuously set yourself up for the next play and master multiple things we've already covered on this list (not every shot has to be a winner, and the transition zone can be your friend).

There are a couple places you'll need to really learn how to reset the ball. The first is obviously at the kitchen or even the transition zone whenever you and/or your partner find yourselves in trouble. You'll need to learn how to be Collin Johns out there with your resets. When your opponent's paddles go up, think seesaw and drop yours down and be ready to reset the ball. Mastering the reset is important because instead of just getting a paddle on it and popping the ball up, your goal is to send a soft shot back into the kitchen and allow yourself (and your teammate) to regroup and get back in it.

Another spot you'll want to recognize, which a lot of players have a hard time with, is during your hands battles. 

I know, that sounds crazy, right? Well many players find themselves getting in a zone when the ball is sped up and they just begin smacking it back at their opponent leading to either a popped up ball or one sent out the back because the positioning just wasn't there.

Instead, remember to learn your resets at the kitchen line both while your opponent has a very clear advantage, and also during hand battles that you find yourself slightly out of position for. 

Patience, again, is key.

How to Improve Your Pickleball Rating

Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball

Number Five: Drilling Is More Important Than Rec Games (At A Certain Point)

At number five on our list of the top five tips to improve your pickleball rating from 3.0 to 4.0+ is something you'll hear from almost any pro you ask: drilling is more important than just playing rec games.

I've heard this from countless pros and I continue to hear it more and more whenever they're asked their number one suggestion for players to get better.

Riley Newman has even stated that he believes that should be 80% or more drilling with 20% or less actual play time while trying to improve your game (once you're at a certain level like 3.5-4.5 range).

A lot of people don'e realize this and they try to get as much play time as possible in to get better - and while that will work to a certain level - it's not always going to cut it.

There's definitely a difference between intentional practice and just regular rec games, and Riley also made a note when giving that tip that you just will never be able to get the amount of reps needed for your small game while playing rec games; you have to get them in while drilling.

It's like the 10,000 Hour Rule in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. You need to put in the hours and get the reps in.

So find a drilling partner our two and get out there and start dinking.

Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball

Bonus Tip: You Need To Develop A Better Pickleball IQ

Since five isn't enough for me, I'm also sending you off with a bonus tip to help you improve your pickleball rating (and game overall, of course) and help you move from 3.0 to 4.0+.

This tip is for you to develop a better pickleball IQ.

Pickleball IQ refers to your knowledge of the overall game and how it is played, but also an awareness you'll need to begin noticing things you're doing wrong (or could do better).

Of course you can slowly develop this on your own (and will), but in order to really increase your pickleball IQ you're going to want to begin watching pro level games like the PPA and MLP events - as well as even potentially watching and analyzing old matches played by some of the best players in the world.

Hitting YouTube and finding pro level tips also helps, and it really comes down to being a better learner.

You'll quickly begin learning things like better positioning and court awareness, knowing when to get aggressive and when to watch for your opponent to potentially begin getting aggressive (so you can get on defense) and so much more.

Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball

Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball Recap:

  1. Stop Hitting Out Balls
  2. Not Every Shot Has To Be A Winner
  3. Some Of The Game IS Played In The Transition Zone
  4. Reset, Reset, Reset
  5. Drilling Is More Important Than Playing More Games
  6. Bonus: Develop A Better Pickleball IQ

These are our top five tips (and a bonus) to help you improve your pickleball rating and go from 3.0-4.0 and even higher.

Many of these tips are the same things players at a 4.0 level are still looking to improve on to take their game to 4.5 and 5.0+ so being aware of them early will be extremely helpful for any player to be able to intentionally improve on all aspects.

There is still much more out there you'll need to learn and discover about your own game - so this surely doesn't cover ALL the tips you can find for improving your pickleball skill and rating - but hopefully it was helpful for you and gave you a new awareness.

What was the number one tip you've received that has helped you personally improve your own pickleball rating? Comment below!

Top Five Tips To Go From 3.0 to 4.0+ In Pickleball (1)

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About the Author

Owner and Creator of The Slice Pickleball and Superhero Jacked
Pickleball and Caffeine Addict, Bibliophile, Writer, Dog Dad

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