Do you want to improve your pickleball game but you don’t have a partner to practice with? No problem! There are actually quite a few ways to practice your pickleball game all by yourself. As an only child I found that I was attracted to sports that I could excel at without having practice partners. Sports and games like billiards, bowling, golf and even basketball were ones where I found great enjoyment with solo practice. In high school when I took up tennis, I figured out many ways that I could practice tennis even if I didn’t have a practice partner. As a pickleball player I have used many of the same solo practice methods that I used when I was a kid learning tennis. In this article I will share many of the ways you can improve your game even if you don’t have a partner.
Most players know what a good ready position looks like, and what good stroke production looks like, but oftentimes you just aren’t doing it the way you think you are. Just by facing a mirror and taking a look at yourself during important components of the swing can be very beneficial. When I work with new students and I have changed something about their mechanics, I like them to go home and practice in a mirror to see if they are making the correct changes. Using a mirror can be great visual feedback!
Just as tennis players do, hitting against a wall can be very good practice. It isn’t very hard to find a wall somewhere that you can bang a pickleball against. Just put some tape on the wall at net height and you even have a target area. You can practice serves, dinks, volleys and drives using a wall. I find that practicing full groundstrokes is a good way to also get some conditioning and work on footwork. If you want to get farther from the wall to get more of a feeling of hitting hard but you still want the ball to come all the way back, try using a foam training ball or the light felt training ball that is used for junior tennis. I’ve found that using a foam ball works great in my garage. There are also commercial rebounders made just for pickleball that are just starting to hit the market!
If you have access to an actual pickleball court but you have nobody to practice with, this is a great way to work on many of your individual shots. To do this the most efficiently it is best to have a large bucket of balls. With drop hits you just drop a ball onto the ground and practice hitting a groundstroke or even dink from various spots on the court to target areas on the other side of the net. A good practice session might include the following.
• 100 serves using various speeds, heights and placement
• 50 down-the-line forehand drives • 50 cross-court forehand drives
• 50 down-the-line backhand drives • 50 cross-court backhand drives
• 100 dinks to various spots inside the kitchen using both forehand and backhand
It was only a matter of time before pickleball ball machines hit the market. So far there have been two main companies manufacturing ball machines used exclusively for the sport of pickleball. If you have access to an empty pickleball court, you might think about purchasing one of these machines. I’m fortunate that my backyard is a pickleball court, so it is very convenient for me to set it up and start hitting. One big problem with these machines is using them outdoors in wet weather. I live in Oregon and most of the winter my court is damp. I’ve found that when the balls get wet they will not shoot out of the machines. This is the time of year that I do a lot of drop hitting and wall practice. These machines can be adjusted for speed, placement and height. You can even purchase a machine that will oscillate. You can basically practice every shot in pickleball by working out with a ball machine. I have found that this is particularly effective for players practicing their singles game. Again this practice will be most effective if you have the machine loaded up with a lot of balls, and also using a ball picker-upper will speed things up.