How To Lose Games

Good notes from some Florida pickleball group:

How to Lose Games

For beginners to advanced players -always remember that about 75% of  all lost volleys are from unforced errors.  Let me say this again, 75% of all lost volleys are unforced errors. The following are common mistakes that we all make that can give up points or lose serves.   Usually, there are only 11 points in a game. You make a few of these mistakes, your opponents make a few good shots and you’ve lost the game.

These are a few recommendations with tongue in cheek on how to lose a game of pickleball but they are very real.

1.       Serve really hard.  A lot of balls will go into the net or over the baseline
2.       Stand in the playing area to receive a serve.  When players return the ball deep you can try to reach behind you to hit it.
3.       Return serves hard.  This causes lots of hits to go into the net or over the end line and gives you less time to get to the non-volley line so you’re still trying to move in when the ball gets back to you.  You get lots of chances to hit balls at your feet this way.  (If you return the serve soft and deep your opponents have to let the ball drop before they can hit it, …..You could actually win the volley.
4.       Aim smash  shots at the side lines.  One of the really great ways to lose points! Often we miss the lines for a fault when a softer shot in the same direction but nearer the middle of the court would work just as well.  As the ball goes out of bounds yell “Darn, I just missed”.
5.       Rush your shots when you have the time to make a controlled shot.  This causes all kinds of mistakes.  Your paddle makes contact with the ball at all sorts of angles.
6.       Stand close to the center line.  You can take a good shot away from your partner and you leave the outside area of your court uncovered. When your opponents hit the ball into that open space yell “Nice shot!”
7.       Stand close to the side line.  This leaves the middle of your court open and makes you vulnerable to the dreaded center-line shot.  Your opponents will love it and you get to make a lot of eye contact with your partner!
8.       Snap your wrist on overhead slams. A nice follow-through helps control the ball but we don’t want to do that do we? A lack of follow-thru and the slightest mistake in timing can cause the ball to go awry in almost any direction but usually into the net.
9.       Poach a lot.  Though a good shot at times this leaves your part of the court open for return shots to the space you just vacated. Your opponents will drool over all that open space.
10.   Watch where you are going to hit the ball.  This adds a third element to hand-eye coordination and greatly reduces the probability of making a good shot plus your opponents will know where you’re trying to hit it.
11.   Back pedal to return a hard hit shot toward your feet.  No one can consistently make controlled shots when moving backwards and you can’t get into a set position before the ball gets to you.  Watch out though, if you trip and fall backward it could be very dangerous.
12.   Hold your paddle low, below the waist.  It’s very hard to get your paddle into position when you have to raise it quickly. Great for driving the ball out of bounds at all angles.
13.   Stay back from the non-volley line.  This leaves lots of room for your opponent’s low shots and even if you get to the ball you are moving.  You can hit the ball with more control when you are stationery so play back near the base line and give your opponents lots of room to place their winning shots.
14.   Don’t be patient at the non-volley line. When you are faced with a dinking game end the rally quickly, commit a fault, and let them have the stupid point.


Keeping Score 

Pickleball scoring to an outsider is nearly indecipherable — “Zero, Zero, Two” to start the game. Even as a player, a pickleball insider, there are still many nuances to master to become a proficient scorekeeper. I am sure that all of us have at least once been in a game where not only you, but your partner and the opponents have all seemingly lost track of who is serving, from which side the serve is to be made and what the score is. “Were you a 1 or a 2?” “What’s the score?” Adding insult to injury, someone leaves disgruntled. Remember, Rule #1 is to have fun; and it’s no fun when there is a disagreement over the score.


There are three simple actions you can take to improve your chances of always knowing the correct score.

1.       Announce the score before every serve

Not only is it a rule, it’s just good communication and sportsmanship. By saying the score before every serve, you are reinforcing it in your own mind as well as in the other players’ memory. This increases the chances that if you forget the score, especially after those long, vigorous rallies, someone else will remember it correctly.


2.       Speak clearly and loudly

The gymnasium echoes, there is background noise, your opponents are 44 feet away and many senior players suffer from some form of hearing loss. Speaking clearly and loudly in conjunction with using accentuated articulation or a staccato cadence increases the chances that everyone hears your score announcement.


3.       Ensure that you are in the correct position on the court

Whether serving or receiving, when your team’s score is even, your starting server, the player who served first for your team at the start of the game, must be on the right-hand side of the court and vice-versa. This is from the IFP Official Tournament Rulebook — Section 5, Paragraph 5.B.4. Remembering this will help you return to the correct serving or receiving position, especially when you and your partner have performed a switch during a rally.

Author: Bob Welch

Retired high tech sales executive. Native son of Boston, MA Graduated MBA from NYU and BSME from UMass/ Amherst