Why Drilling Is The Key To Getting Better At Pickleball

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Pickleball Drilling

Pickleball is probably the most inclusive sport I have ever played, which is one of the reasons I love it so much.

That said, there are going to be some players that are okay playing socially and to just get a quick workout in, and others that are actively looking to improve their game over time.

In the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell he discusses the 10,000 Rule, which he argues that the key to achieving true expertise in any skill is simply a matter of practicing, albeit in the correct way, for at least 10 000 hours.

To build on this we can also take a look at the book Peak: Secrets from The New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, where they discuss the art of deliberate practice - with the key word being deliberate.

So, yes, repetitions matter, but being deliberate and training the "right" way matters more.

In this article we will be taking a look at the importance of drilling in pickleball and specifically learning what some of the best players in the world have to say about it.

In my experience with pickleball I've learned that drilling is kind of like therapy; everyone can benefit from it, some people find it boring, others find it a waste of time, but if you find the best way to learn from it you can become a master with your ultimate goals.

How To Drill For Pickleball

What Is Drilling In Pickleball?

First things first. 

Let's discuss what counts as "drilling". What is drilling in pickleball? And what are some places we can learn new drills?

Drilling in pickleball is practicing specific shot selection (like your serve, backhand, dinking, etc. etc.) by the means of countless repetition, outside of practice within rec play and tournaments (drill sessions catered to specific shots).

This can be done in several different ways; like with a partner going through different drills, against a wall by yourself, training your serve with repetition, and countless other ways.

You should likely be switching it up and doing multiple different variations of these things, but making sure you get the reps in is going to be the most important part.

Solo Pickleball Drills: How Can I Drill By Myself For Pickleball?

One question I am asked a lot is how to drill by yourself.

There are a few ways to solo drill in pickleball, but I will start by saying that the majority of the time having a partner is almost always going to be more effective and ideal.

Here are a few ways you can solo drill in pickleball:

  1. Pickleball Wall Drills
  2. Drill Your Serve
  3. Drill With A Ball Machine
  4. Do Self-Drop Drive and 3rd Shot Drop Drills (Feed yourself the ball)

There are a lot of good places to find some good solo drills, one of which is following Christian Alshon on Instagram, where he posts videos like the one you see above of him drilling specific shots on the wall.

I also recommend Briones Pickleball on YouTube, where he shares some great content and where I learned some great self-feed solo pickleball drills when I was first starting out.

There are a few ways to solo drill in pickleball, but I will start by saying that the majority of the time having a partner is almost always going to be more effective and ideal.

What Are The Pro Pickleball Players Saying About Drilling?

From this point on in the article I'll be sharing videos of pro players that give their thoughts on drilling.

When discussing "how to get better at pickleball" the most common response is going to be drilling.

There's no avoiding it.

If you want to improve your game you're going to need to get more reps for specific types of shots, and the best way to do that is drilling.

Take Riley Newman here, as an example of a pro player discussing drilling:

In this clip Riley goes as far as saying that he would recommend players drill as much as 80% of the time and play games 20% of the time.

He's specifically talking about players at a 3.0-3.5 range, but I have seen pro players say very similar for players 4.0+ as well.

That's why drilling is one of the things that was added to my list of the top five tips to go from 3.0 to 4.0+ in pickleball.

To beat a dead horse and really reinforce my point, here are some clips of other pros, Zane Navratil and Alex Neuman discussing their thoughts on the importance of drilling.

These are just a handful of the top pros giving their biggest tip to lower level pickleball players, and there are many more occasions where this would be the case.

Getting in the reps makes a massive difference, and to Riley Newman's point: when you're playing rec games at lower levels you're simply not getting enough reps when it comes to dinking, speed ups, counters and higher level gameplay at the net because the majority of points are ending too soon to be able to get enough touches to call it significant practice.

Have you seen the clip of the John's brothers point going for over a hundred hits in a single point during a professional tournament? That's probably more touches than you've got for your dinking in the last week of rec play, all in one point.

Professional Pickleball Player Weekly Training Schedule (Catherine Parenteau)

We're so lucky in that the professional pickleball world is very open with their training, drilling, and overall "world" with us amateurs out there looking to improve our game.

Below we'll have a drilling session from Ben Johns, the best male player in the world, and here I'm going to be sharing a full week training schedule from Catherine Parenteau, one of the very best female pickleball players in the world (and one of my personal favorite players).

You'll notice that she says:

"Non-tournament week - Pickleball drilling 5-6x a week (Mostly 1 on 1)"

And on top of that she is in the gym 5 days a week as well - but makes no mention to rec games or gameplay other than the drilling.

To me this is extremely significant.

One of the best players in the entire world is showing us firsthand that her gameplay is almost exclusively coming from tournaments and drilling sessions.

Obviously she gets in far more tournament gameplay than we do, but even if we break it down and look at the overall matches she's playing in tournaments throughout the year, a rec player that plays 5+ days a week for a few hours a day is actually getting in more overall "matches", but far fewer "touches" on the shots that matter.

How Does Ben Johns Practice? Ben Johns Drilling Routine:

What better way to begin closing out the article than share the drilling routine of the best pickleball player in the entire world?

Trick question, of course.

Ben Johns recently shared his drilling routine on YouTube for everyone to see and learn from, so we are lucky enough to be able to have it right here in this article with the other videos and quotes from the pros.

I have watched Ben discuss tips for beginners and players looking to improve or make the jump to pro on countless occasions, and drilling is something that repeatedly comes up in all of those discussions.

His drilling routine is going to be specific to shots that he is looking to improve, but you'll notice that he's also drilling with Collin for specific reasons - catering the types of drills they do to the style of game they play.

When Ben was first dominating the singles lineup he didn't really have much of a two handed backhand - but as the game continued to grow and competition got better we saw him drill it and learn it and put it into action, quickly implementing it into games and having a solid passing two handed backhand now; all because he's able to get the reps in to be able to do that.

Fun Tools For Drilling In Pickleball

There are some tools that can also be helpful to add into our drilling sessions, so I did want to make note of them here considering I personally love using the majority of them.

I personally don't own a ball machine, but I have played with a few different ones at least once or twice each, so the below list is making mention of my personal favorite from those gameplay sessions.

Keep in mind, my decision is heavily based on ease of use, and price point.

Some fun tools for drilling in pickleball include:

  1. Franklin Sweet Spot Trainer Paddle (Get 10% Off With This Link to JustPaddles)
  2. TopSpin Pro (Train yourself to put topspin on the ball)
  3. The Dink New 10 Foot Mini Net for Drilling (Get 10% Off with Code "THESLICEPICKLEBALL")
  4. Pickleball Lobster Machine (Ball Shooter for Self Drilling)
  5. Pickleball Dink Pad (Attach to a Wall to Practice Shot Placement)

There are some other great options, but these are a handful I specifically recommend.

If you have any other suggestions for readers of The Slice please don't hesitate to comment with them below 🙂

Closing Thoughts on Drilling in Pickleball

The big takeaways here should be two clear points:

  1. Being Deliberate With Your Practice Matters 
  2. Getting Enough Reps of Specific Shots Makes a Big Difference

And, drilling can do both of these things for you being that you're able to specifically hone in on deliberate practice via reps of very specific shots that you choose.

If you want to find some of the best drills to do, you can also check out some of the best pickleball YouTube channels on my list here: the top ten pickleball YouTubers.

If you're looking to start drilling you may also be as obsessed with pickleball paddles as I am, in which case you should also check out my pickleball paddle reviews and/or even take my Pickleball Paddle Quiz to figure out which paddle is the absolute best for you.

Drilling In Pickleball

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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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