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When you learn about the ins and outs of pickleball, one of the terms you’ll come across is “unforced errors.”
These errors occur commonly, and they’re related to your mental engagement with the game.
So what are unforced errors in pickleball?
An unforced error is a mistake that causes you to lose a point. It’s an error that you make or a mistake due to forgetting certain regulations.
Any violation of the rules can apply here, such as hitting the ball into the net or stepping out of bounds.
The error is unforced because an opponent hasn’t earned the point themselves.
Rather than scoring on you, you’ve given the point away. Your opponent’s skill had nothing to do with it.
What are unforced errors in pickleball?
They’re the errors that you bring upon yourself, regardless of who your opponent is or how skilled they are.
But once you’re aware of your most common unforced errors, you can start working to change them.
Keeping the ball in play
With some racket sports, players actively score points off each other for the majority of matches.
But pickleball is different.
The game is much more mellow, and unless the players are extremely skilled, most points are won through unforced errors.
Because of this, one key strategy is to keep the ball in play. In tennis, players tend to hit the ball as aggressively as possible to score points.
But in pickleball, the goal is just to hit the ball into your opponent’s court.
As long as you keep sending the ball back, your opponent has the potential to make a mistake.
The safest way to play is by hitting the ball down the middle of the court. Of course, your games will be more exciting if you employ more dynamic strategies.
It’s all about the play style that works best for you.
How to avoid unforced errors in Pickleball
When you first start playing pickleball, you’ll make a lot of unforced errors.
The more you practice and the more advanced you become, the more you’ll find yourself contending with unnecessary errors.
The first step is to identify your own errors. If you don’t know what mistakes you make most commonly, you won’t know how to fix them.
The next step is to do the actual fixing.
Evaluating your errors
It helps to take an active approach to self-evaluation. Instead of getting frustrated when you make a mistake, consider it a learning opportunity.
The next time you miss a shot, ask yourself why you missed it.
Tell yourself what to do next time, as this is significantly more effective than negative reinforcement.
Maybe you hit the ball into the net.
Take a moment to think, “Okay. Next time I will change the angle of my racket or approach the swing differently, and that way the ball will clear the net with room to spare.”
The instructions should be simple while reinforcing what you want to learn.
On that note, you should also be cautious about your negative thoughts. It’s easy to let frustration and irritation get the better of you.
But if you’re just breaking yourself down and berating yourself for making mistakes, you won’t actually improve. You’ll just feel bad.
Stay away from “DON’T” statements. You might be tempted to say, “Don’t hit it at that angle next time.”
But research shows that these statements can actually reinforce your bad habits.
It’s better to tell yourself what you will do instead.
Pickleball is a game that doesn’t have any bad shots. The best thing you can do is rid yourself of your feelings of judgment.
Some shots are pure, meaning they clear the net and land in the right place.
Some are topped, meaning they miss the mark. But every shot has neutral characteristics.
Don’t think of your shots as “good” versus “bad.”
Eliminating your errors
Half the battle is your mindset. Once you have a positive mindset, you’ll be empowered and motivated to make real progress toward your goals.
Negative self-talk just reinforces your negative doubts about yourself.
As you practice your shots, mentally walk yourself through each one.
A big component of pickleball is your footwork.
If you aren’t getting into place fast enough, you’re more likely to drop shots or hit them out of bounds.
Watch the trajectory of the ball, move into position, and bend the knees slightly.
If you’re missing your serves, then you just need to practice, practice, practice.
Make sure you aren’t using any bad habits, and if you are, train yourself out of them.
Practice is all it takes to get to a consistent serve.
Returns are also hard to miss, assuming you’re getting into position early. Pickleball is a slow-paced game with a slow-moving ball.
You don’t need the lightning fast reflexes of a tennis player.
The most important shot in the game is the third shot. There are two main techniques that you can use.
A third shot drop lands in your opponent’s kitchen, while a third shot drive is a strong shot across the middle of the court.
A dink shot should reach the peak of its arc while still on your side. Then it should gently come down inside the kitchen.
These are some of the most difficult shots to master, and you’ll have to practice.
Keep in mind that dink shots are about creating the perfect arc, not about skimming the top of the net.
Lobs are a type of high, deep shot that’s difficult to return.
The biggest advantage of a lob is that it increases your opponent’s chances of an unforced error.
These are also difficult shots to master, though.
The last note is that if you find yourself making the same error again and again, you might want to look into the cause.
You may be subconsciously reinforcing an improper technique or a bad habit.
Until you find the root cause of the problem, you won’t be able to solve it.
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