If You're Below 4.5 and Want to Improve in Pickleball, Do This

Improving in pickleball can't just involve playing, like the players in this photograph are.

Top 5 pro James Ignatowich here. Pickleball players at level 4.5 and below should be drilling 60% of the time if they want to continue to improve.

Drilling is more important for 3.0s - 4.5s than it is for 5.0+ players.

It’s no secret that what goes on in 5.0+ games is significantly different from 3.5 games in almost every way. Sometimes, it’ll look like two different sports entirely.

In some ways, 3.5 pickleball is more fun. It’s less structured, there’s hardly any dinking, and frankly, you never know what will happen next. However, for these reasons, it’s arguably even more important for 3.5’s to develop a consistent drilling routine.

Since there’s less consistency of point structure in 3.5 games, drilling is the only way to develop that consistency!

  • Games at the 5.0+ level typically consist of structured points where players are getting a variety of consistent repetitions hitting dinks, drops, speed ups, and more.
  • 3.5 games don’t have that same structure. To break out of the 3.5 level, you need consistent repetitions hitting the same shot over and over, which is what 3.5 gameplay lacks. 

For 3.0-4.5 players in general, I would recommend a drill/play ratio of 60/40, in favor of drilling.

This is only for those who are very serious about getting better - I understand that drilling can be “boring”, and that’s ok. If you just want to have fun and play games all of the time, that’s cool too.

For 3.0-4.5’s, the drills don’t need to be complicated. Get a drilling partner and dink back and forth, work on drops with one player up at the kitchen and one at the baseline, and practice volleys, resets, serves and returns.

Read Next: Best Way to Improve Your Pickleball Drive? Slow it Down

While these drills are pretty straightforward there are certainly some best practices to follow in order to get the most out of them. 

James Ignatowich is giving out hot takes like this, instructional videos, and strategy input from other top pros in his weekly coaching newsletter! Click here to subscribe and catch up on previous editions.

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