Top 15 Pickleball Myths and Strategy Misconceptions Debunked

Est. Reading: 9 minutes

Since its inception in 1965, pickleball has come a long way. Every year, the rules are revised and improved to ensure fairness to every player. However, some people got confused, and so pickleball myths were born.

Another cause of the proliferation of myths about pickleball is the need for more research. In today’s post, we collected and debunked those myths, including the most common misconceptions of the strategies.

Historical and Common Myths

Undoubtedly, pickleball has a rich history. Slowly, people from different walks of life became interested in the sport until it became America's fastest-growing sport since 2021. But like other phenomenal things, pickleball also has some myths that must be debunked. Here are the most common ones:

#1 The Sport Was Named After a Dog

This rumor started when Joel Pritchard, one of the three inventors of pickleball, was interviewed in 1969 (or 1970). At that time, the then-lawmaker thought it would be more interesting if people learned the name ‘pickleball’ was taken from their family dog’s name, Pickles. And he was right. The public became more intrigued about the sport.

However, Peggy Pritchard-Olson, Joel’s daughter, clarified that ‘pickleball’ came from ‘pickle boat.’ The term referred to the last boat to finish the race, whose rowers were chosen randomly from other boats. And while it’s true that Pritchard owned a dog named Pickle, the family pet was brought to their home years after the sport existed. 

#2 It is a Softer Version of Tennis

To this day, many people (especially haters) insist that pickleball is just a softer version of tennis. While it’s true that tennis is a faster sport than pickleball, the latter is not a slower version. Apparently, some think pickleball is softer than tennis because it has an area on the court called the non-volley zone, commonly called the “kitchen.”

Unlike tennis, where players usually volley, pickleball players are not allowed to volley in the kitchen. Pickleball courts are only about 25% the size of tennis courts, meaning players have a smaller space to move around. But if you watch professional pickleball matches, you’ll see players running, jumping, and going sideways to chase the ball. 

#3 It is a Totally Safe Sport

Pickleball is a sport for all ages, including older adults. As proof, Florida has the second-highest percentage of people ages 65 and above in percentage. Yet, it is dubbed the most pickleball-obsessed state. And although pickleball is not a contact sport and is generally safe, it doesn’t necessarily mean players don’t get injured at all. 

As mentioned earlier, pickleball requires repetitive rotations and quick movement in different directions. Therefore, players are prone to overuse injuries such as tennis elbow, shoulder impingement, knee osteoarthritis, and low back injuries. Thus, pickleball players must exercise before playing and practice proper techniques.

#4 Dinking is Boring

Well, I must admit this myth is partly true. If you’re unaware, a dink shot is when you hit the ball softly at the kitchen line and make it land in your opponent’s kitchen. If you keep the ball low, your opponent has no choice but to dink, too. Most dinking battles seem boring, especially if players exchange dinks several times.

But pickleball haters don’t realize that a dinking battle is a step closer to the most exciting part of pickleball. The more aggressive it can be, the higher the chance a player or team will make a mistake. Once the ball gets high - boom! It’s time for the receiving player to launch a powerful drive. Welcome to the element of surprise!

#5 Pickleball Noise Causes Hearing Loss

The complaints against noise in pickleball courts are not a secret, especially from homeowners. Some disputes even wind up in a legal battle. However, saying that the pickleball noise can cause hearing damage is false. Audiologists like Nicole Laffan (assistant clinical professor at Bouvé College of Health Sciences) have confirmed it.

But yes, this noise in pickleball can be annoying and needs to be addressed. So, in late 2023, USA Pickleball added the Quiet category for the sport’s equipment. The sport’s governing body collaborated with experts and manufacturers to develop long-term solutions. Proper planning is also essential in building pickleball courts close to neighborhoods.

Strategy Misconceptions

As pickleball became widespread, many experienced players became coaches and posted tutorials online. Most of the advice was proven effective, while others raised some eyebrows. So, in this section, we’ll discuss the misconceptions in some notable playing strategies.

#1 You Can Use Any Paddle

Unfortunately, this advice is mainly given to beginners who want to buy a pickleball paddle for the first time. Well, indeed, we are always free to choose the ones we like. However, not all paddles are equal, and some factors must be considered. As a newbie in pickleball, you should choose the right paddle for you.

You see, pickleball paddles come in different sizes and handle lengths. If you choose the wrong paddle grip size, you may feel uncomfortable. The surface material, core, and weight also matter a lot. In short, don’t choose a paddle by just looking at it. So, before buying one, I strongly recommend reading our Pickleball Paddle Guide.

#2 Some Paddles Have a Bigger Sweet Spot

If you’ve been searching for pickleball paddles to buy, you have most likely come across the term ‘sweet spot.’ Yes, some paddle manufacturers claim that their products have a ‘larger sweet spot,’ which is questionable to father science.

But what is a ‘sweet spot’ in the first place? It is defined as the spot on the paddle’s face where the ball’s contact has the highest level of accuracy. Hence, there’s a huge chance of mishits or lack of accuracy if the ball comes into contact with the other spots of the paddle’s face. So, how do you find the sweet spot of your pickleball paddle?

Mathematically, the sweet spot of an object should be at its center of gravity. However, Pickleball Science’s in-depth analysis concluded that a single paddle may have a different sweet spot location depending on how a player uses it. In that case, the players can discover the bigger sweet spot, and manufacturers cannot just produce it.

#3 Pickleball Transition Zone is a “No Man’s Land”

This pickleball myth has been the subject of several debates, and some still believe it’s true. In tennis, the transition zone is between the service and half-court lines. Tennis players are advised not to stay in that area, especially in defense mode. This is why it is also called a dead zone or no man’s land.

In pickleball, this transition zone is between the baseline and the non-volley kitchen line. However, unlike in tennis, pickleball players can stay in that area and use it as an advantage. As USAPA instructor Sarah Asbury advises, it’s about controlling your body, keeping the paddle in front of you, and finding the ideal contact point of the ball.

While you’re in the transition zone, watch the incoming ball. If it bounces in the kitchen near the kitchen line and high enough, you don’t need to rush forward to return it. You can also respond with the drive if your opponent hits it harder. And yes, you must be ready to go to the kitchen line anytime but don’t call the transition zone a no man's land.

#4 You Must Stop to Hit the Ball

This strategy is more of a misconception than a myth since some players think that stopping here refers to ‘not moving.’ Yes, it’s correct that you must stop before hitting the ball. But if you make a total stop, you simply block the ball, not return it. This stopping technique only applies when responding to a power shot.

But if you’re softly returning the ball (such as in dinking), you must transfer your weight forward, which is essential in adding power to your shots. So, the next time you’re about to hit the ball, try to put some pressure on your body and back foot. Just ensure you don’t lose momentum to return to the ready position as quickly as possible.

#5 Get to the Kitchen Line Right Away

This is the most commonly misunderstood advice for beginners. In fact, I think some recreational players also follow it because they don’t fully understand its concept. Yes, it’s true that you should get into the kitchen line quickly. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should go there right away and stay for the entire game.

In doubles, a good rule of thumb is to get into the NVZ line only if the ball is coming to you, even if your partner is already there. But of course, you should communicate with your partner correctly. Otherwise, he might rush to your side and take the shot, and you might collide with each other. Also, make sure you have a plan before going forward.

#6 Split Step Myth

One of the most common advice is to do a split step right before your opponent hits the ball. Yes, split stepping is an integral part of being in a good position to go in different directions quickly. But should you really not do it right after your opponent hits the ball? 

Here’s the thing. Even if you look closer at your opponent’s paddle just before hitting the ball, you still won’t know how and where the ball will travel, right? But if you do the split step after the ball is hit, you’ll better understand where it will land.

If you watch some pro games, you’ll notice some players doing the split step only when the incoming ball almost crosses the net. I’m not saying that split stepping just before the ball is hit is wrong. My point is that there are also other options, and you can choose one that is better.

#7 Third Shot Drop is Better Than a Drive

Most experienced players prefer the third shot drop over the drive, probably because it helps neutralize the game's pace. On the other hand, a third shot drive pressures your opponent, especially if they are out of position. However, saying that the third shot drop is a better option is not entirely true, even if the return of serve is low.

The truth is that choosing between the two depends on several factors. If the return of serve is short and has a high bounce, and you think you can hit a powerful drive, go for it. But you better stick to the drop if you doubt it might go out of bounds. You must also consider your opponent’s position. Otherwise, they might quickly get the fourth shot.

#8 Forehand Should Take the Middle

In pickleball doubles, there’s a saying, “Down the middle solves the riddle.” It means that the offensive team targets the middle of the court, hoping that their opponents will get confused as to who will make the return. 

Apparently, a common misbelief is that the player on the left side should take it using the forehand. Interestingly, this myth comes from believing that the forehand is stronger than the backhand. This is false since some players have a better backhand than forehand. 

On the other hand, a forehand player might not always be in the best position to take the ball. Therefore, you and your teammate should discuss this before the game and communicate properly.

#9 Poaching is Bad

Poaching in pickleball doubles occurs when a player crosses over to the teammate’s side to intercept the shot. Some players (and coaches) don’t recommend this, saying it could offend their partners. Yes, this is true if you’re an advanced player and your teammate is still a beginner. You also should not poach every time you want to.

However, poaching is also an effective strategy, especially if your teammate is weak and always the target. But then, this technique requires you to leave your space open. If your opponent is fast, they will return the ball to your side and win the rally. So yes, poaching is not bad, as long as you communicate with your partner and do it properly. 

#10 Younger Players Can Easily Beat Seniors

This is the most ridiculous myth I have ever heard, and I’m not sure if people still believe this. While it’s fair to say that older players are slower than younger players, it does not mean you can easily beat them. Well, some only play for fun and have no intention of winning. In that case, you can beat them all you want, but they don’t really care.

However, if you’re in your 20s and playing against a 60+-year-old player in a competitive game, do your best to win. If you feel like smashing the ball, do it, but please avoid body bagging. But remember, pickleball is also like chess, which requires mental alertness. Some seniors have played pickleball for years, so don’t assume you’ll always win.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve busted some common pickleball myths, I hope you’ll better understand the sport and its playing strategies. Regardless of your skill level, always open your mind to learn new things to improve your game.

How about you? Do you know a myth or misconception about pickleball besides what I mentioned above? Please share them in the comments below. Who knows? I may be able to help you debunk them.

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