The split-step is a foundation of footwork in pickleball and one of the most important techniques for successful positioning. It is used automatically and habitually by every top pickleball player but is often skipped with recreational players. For those of you who have been skipping this step, this will improve your game immediately and help you to be in the correct position during a point.
The split-step is simply a small hop you take while in the ready position that allows you to react and move explosively around the court in any direction. Rather than rushing straight to the non-volley line and being caught off guard, this simple hop allows a player to be in the best position to react, adjust, and hit the next ball.
HOW TO SPLIT-STEP
When you split-step, you do not need a big jump. The small hop should only be an inch to half an inch above the court. It is also best to stay on the balls of your feet so that your footwork is light and so you can push off and explode toward the direction of the pickleball. While you are doing the small hop, it is also important to have your paddle up in a ready position and legs bent slightly at the knees.
WHEN TO SPLIT-STEP
The split-step should be done every single time your opponent is about to make contact with the ball. When you are timing the split-step, you want to start your small hop as your opponent is winding up to hit the ball and be back on the ground after he makes contact and you figure out where he has directed the ball. You should be at the top of your hop as your opponent makes contact.
In doubles, a lot of players have the misconception that they need to rush from the baseline to the non-volley line in one quick sprint. However, if you are making your way between the baseline to the non-volley line, it is better to take 2-3 split-step stops before making it to the line rather than rushing to the net in one sprint and being caught out of position. Incorporating the split-step on the way will improve your game quickly since you are in the most ideal ready position.
Christine McGrath resides in Los Angeles, CA. She was the highest female prize money winner for pickleball in 2015. Christine is a 2016 US Open Pro Champion, 5x Tournament of Champions medalist, and 6x Nationals VII medalist. She also enjoys the outdoors, dirt biking, snowboarding, and spending time with family.