Footwork is Key to Your Pickleball Success

If you have ever been to one of my clinics I talk a lot about how to properly use your body.  Since our point of connection to the ground is our feet, today we talk about footwork…your key to pickleball success.

I get the question: What’s a good drill to improve my footwork? This week I cover one of my favorites. I’ve noticed one of the biggest issues people have when they are moving on the court is picking up their feet. Too often I see shuffling and a compressed posture.

In this drill I cover something we call Shadow Strokes, which means I am going to mimic my shots without actually hitting the ball. The goal is to get better at taking big dynamic steps, all while creating forward momentum, pointing our toes toward our target, opening up our hips and being ready to take the shot if the ball comes our way. Watch the video and see.

Focussing On Footwork

Players tend to focus on their paddles or even the ball way too much. Our control, power, and speed come from using your entire body properly.  Our support system for our body is the ground.

Our connection to the ground enables us to push off of something and accelerate from the lower body. Too often players lead with only their upper bodies. This will result in becoming off balance and promotes too much unnecessary movement.

Sarah Ansboury Pickleball Footwork

I emphasize all the time that we move most efficiently when we move from the ground up. This is precisely why it is important to focus on your footwork.  Proper footwork will ensure you:

  1. Get to the ball efficiently,
  2. Get there in a way that prepares you for the next shot, and
  3. Engages your lower body so you can transfer your weight into the ball.
Compare These Forehand Footwork Pics

Compare the photos above.  In both, I am hitting a forehand…however, there is a big difference.  In the second photo, I am stepping across my body with the opposite foot.  This will cause me to make contact with the ball behind the ideal position.  

It also results in transferring my weight sideways.  Ideally, I want my weight moving forward.  I also notice that I tend to become a bit more compact when I step this way.  Feeling tight, or jammed up, is never a good thing in pickleball.

Of course, many players naturally step across their body when they move to the ball…however it would be preferable if I stepped with my dominant foot, (the same foot as my paddle hand) when hitting a forehand.

Compare These Backhand Footwork Pics
Pickleball-Footwork-Crossover Step-Backhand

Now, look at my backhand.  Which photo do you think shows the preferred footwork?  If you said the second one or the one on the right, you are correct.  This is more difficult with a backhand however, I step with my left foot.  

By moving this way I keep my contact point in front of me.  I am able to transfer my weight more easily, which enables me to recover for the next ball more efficiently.  As noted above, by stepping this way my paddle is farther from my body allowing my shoulder to move more freely.

Footwork Is Key To Balance

One of the most important things about footwork is that it maintains your balance. Often players move more than necessary and are not only exhausted but also never fully recover from the previous shot. Instead of taking lots of tiny steps, I prefer to take one larger step.  This allows my weight to move underneath me.  This ensures my hips and shoulders can rotate. So next time you play pickleball, cheek your footwork.  Try to step out instead of across.  Our goal is to always have our weight going forward at the end of every shot.

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