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If you’re looking to improve your pickleball technique while off the court, then you may want to consider building a rebounder where you can practice on your own.
There are multiple factors that can impact your pickleball play, including net height, width of play area, and gap from the net to the kitchen or top of the playing area.
How to make a pickleball rebounder
For practice purposes, you can use a tall fence or even the side of your house to create a space to work.
To make a pickleball rebounder, you will need:
- a hard surface underfoot, such as asphalt or concrete
- ten feet of space from side to side
- a 7 foot gap that will serve as you non-volley zone
- a hard material, such as plywood, for the bounce field above the net
- a dead material, like a tarp or drop cloth, to serve as the net, and
- tape, to mark your ideal hit zones
The goal is to play the ball when it comes back over the net, off of the hard surface, and to count it out when it hits the net.
Create a bounce
A pickleball net should be no more than 36 inches at the sides and no less than 34 inches at the center.
Start with 35 inches for practice and mount your hard surface above that line.
Consider adding a small wedge at the bottom of the hard surface to create a slight angle of the bounce surface so the ball gets back to you with a little lift on it.
Use the tape to create two lines at the bottom of the hard surface, or the zone above the net.
Set one at 6 inches and one at 12 inches.
The 6 to 12 inch gap is a good volley zone, and the bottom to 6 inch zone is ideal for dinking.
Efficient pickleball is about keeping your energy under control while hitting volleys.
If you can just tip the ball over the top of the net, you can run your opponent ragged moving from their volley zone to the edge of the non-volley zone.
Nearly any material should work for your net. The goal is to stop the volley so you get in the habit of staying out of the net.
You want a material that has no tension on it so it can’t bounce anything back at you.
Net hits are something to avoid, so give yourself no chance to play a ball that goes into the net.
No plywood available
If there’s a tennis court in your area with a practice wall, you can use your tape and a tape measure to set up your pickleball net line and your kitchen line.
While doing this work, consider traveling with an inside ball. They don’t have as much bounce, but they are quieter and will reduce the chance you’ll annoy someone nearby.
Be very aware of the footing in this situation.
If you know where there’s a wall you can use, toss a broom in the car before you head over there so you can sweep the space and avoid tripping, slipping or rolling your ankle on a twig or other debris.
Finally, be aware of any unevenness on your playing surface.
Quick movements back can get hazardous if you’ve got to clear any unevenness, such as the edge of a tennis court of a running track.
You can also use tape indoors at a local gym. In fact, rough concrete block walls will add some interest to your practice as you try to determine which way the ball wants to go in the bounce.
Remember the three biggest measurements:
- the net is basically three feet tall
- the non-volley zone between the net and the top of the playing area is 7 feet deep
- the area you need to cover is ten feet wide
If your space is limited and you can’t hang plywood or find a wall you can mark with tape, you can still work on your pickleball skills.
Any item that can stand as an easel can serve as a bouncing surface.
You just need to make sure that you’re paying attention to that net line.
Lean a piece of plywood or a long folding table against a fence and mark up 35 inches.
If you have another piece of plywood to lay on the ground in front of the easel, pull it back four feet from the bottom of your “net.”
Stand on the plywood and just work on your volleys after the bounce.
Lay the plywood out perpendicular to your easel, get behind it, and practice your shuffle work.
Practice some hard hits and work your long game.
If you don’t have anything at all to use as a hard surface, stand 7 feet back from the easel and work on your volleys without the bounce.
If you’ve got a stretch of concrete or asphalt that you can mark up, snap a chalk line to show you where 7 feet is and stay behind it.
Remember, the goal is to move efficiently from side to side so you can volley successfully.
Stay back there and work on your grip, your stance, and your shuffle.
Don’t rush the net; you have to stay out of the non-volley zone or you commit a foot fault.
Width, Shuffling and Staying Loose
Playing doubles means that you’ll have a space that’s 10 feet wide and 15 feet deep to cover.
Your practice area doesn’t have to be that deep, but you do want to get in the habit of shuffling back and forth approximately ten feet as you practice.
When planning how to make a pickleball rebounder, make sure you have clearance from side to side.
While shuffling and waiting for the bounce, check your grip.
There’s a fair bit of flexibility in your options, but you want to get in the habit of loosening up your grip while you wait for the bounce.
Too much hand tension will tire you out and put you at risk of “scooping” the ball, which means you hit the ball too far up in the air and put yourself at risk for a spike or a body hit from your opponent.
When holding the pickleball paddle, watch for the “V” between your thumb and your first finger knuckle.
You want that to be right down the side of the paddle so the paddle is an extension of your arm.
If the handle of the paddle is laying flat against your palm, any wrist tension or excess motion will cause the ball to get “flicked” instead of a good solid hit.
Ways to Practice
Once your rebounder is up, you can practice in any number of ways.
Try to hit the ball in approximately the same spot on the rebounder and shuffle from side to side to switch from forehand to backhand.
If your forehand is easy to control but your backhand is loaded with pop-ups, take a look at your grip.
If your backhand looks good but your forehand hits all reach for the sky, take practice hitting forehands while focusing on your wrist.
The pickleball ball is quite light. One simple flick of the wrist at the end of your hit will send the ball away from where you intended it.
Building your pickleball skills by practicing on your own is a wonderful way to build confidence before you get back on the court.
However, make sure that you’re improving your skills so you can have more fun.
Not everything needs to be competitive all the time; in fact, excessively competitive play can take the fun out of the game.
Strive to find a playing partner who wants what you want, and if that means you both play fierce, then play fierce.
If that means you just volley, then just volley. Have fun!