When I first embarked on my pickleball journey, one of the first questions I needed to answer was how to practice pickleball alone.
Even though I come from a recreational tennis background, the thought of showing up to the court never having held a pickleball paddle was a frightening proposition. My first step was to develop several pickleball drills to do by yourself. I started by hitting the ball against a wall in my house using nothing but some painter’s tape at the 3-foot mark to indicate the height of the net (a pickleball net is actually 34 inches high in the middle).
This simple drill allowed me to get a feel for what the pickleball ball feels like off of the paddle. It also is a great way to work on your hand speed, a helpful skill to develop if you want to be successful on the court.
Pickleball Indoor Wall Drill
But some days, my work schedule is too busy to get onto the court. Sometimes, I don’t have the time to drive to the nearest court or wait around for an opponent. So I needed to figure out a way how to practice pickleball alone. Without a big budget or big backyard, I knew my options were limited: enter the Sports Tutor Multi Twist pickleball machine. Running on six new ‘D’ size alkaline batteries, this bad boy is as turnkey as it gets.
Step 1: Remove from box.
Step 2: Insert batteries.
Step 3: Load up to 24 pickleballs.
Step 4: Press “ON” and go, go, go!
Throwing a ball every five seconds, the Multi Twist can be adjusted to throw between 10 – 20 feet. And weighing in at under 11 lbs. with a handy-dandy carry handle up top, I would consider the machine highly portable. Heck, I’d imagine at 11″ x 11″ x 26″, it can even fit into larger luggage. The ‘D’ batteries provide eight to 10 hours of throwing power, giving the machine a decent lifespan.
You can easily position the Multi in various spots to work on different pickleball shots and skills. And if you’re looking to mimic a more realistic ball flight, place a 1 – 2″ wedge on the backside bottom of the machine for a lower toss.
The Multi Twist is great for tennis players and junior players, as it can handle a multitude of tennis ball types, too.
OK, so there is no spin, no remote control, no on-the-fly speed adjustment–this machine is as bare-bones as it gets. But I can appreciate the devices’ utilitarian purpose. and if you temper your expectations, I believe the Multi Twist can improve your pickleball game. Plus, you would need to spend north of $800 for a “real” pickleball machine. Like most things in life, the Multi Twist is what you make it.
If you are looking to practice pickleball by yourself at a reasonable price point and work on simple drills, the Multi Twist is the pickleball machine for you.
Practice Your Pickleball Serve
Unlike tennis, pickleball only gives you one shot to get your serve in. And since only the person/team serving can score, it’s fair to say that the service is a big deal. Start with accuracy; practice hitting balls that land beyond the kitchen in the appropriate box, alternating between the right and left service boxes.
Once you are hitting 99% of your shots in on serve, start working on hitting the ball deep. The longer you can keep your opponent at the baseline, the better your odds of winning the point.
Already accurate and deep? Start experimenting with placement and spin. Consider placing a target if you’d like to hone in on a specific spot.
When practicing a pickleball serve alone, I like to use 10 balls. Anything less, and I’m spending too much time on retrieval; anything more, and I tend to rush and get sloppy. Plus, be aware of who is playing around you, as you do not want to send balls scurrying to other courts and interrupting points. Consider using a pickleball ball tube to avoid extra bending when picking up balls.
Pickleball Outdoor Wall Drill
We’ve talked about the importance of never giving up any of the first three shots: the serve, return, and third shot drop: those shots are simply setting up your scoring opportunity. To that end, I love to visit a local handball wall, equipped with nothing more than my paddle, a ball, measuring tape, painter’s tape and chalk.
After you draw the kitchen line seven feet from the wall, mimic a net by using a strip of tape placed 36 inches from the ground (an official pickleball net is 34 inches at the center point).
Twenty-two feet from the wall, you will want to draw a line on the ground with chalk. This is where you will practice your serve and immediately follow up with a dink. You can also alternate by practicing your serve and advancing towards the net and dinking. While this might not be a real-world shot sequence, it will help you work on serving consistency, footwork, court placement, and dinking.
Alone? Elevate Your Game With Meditation
We often hear about staying “calm during the storm,” and I think those words are valid if you want to take your pickleball game to the next level. As the sport evolves and bangers become commonplace, the non-volley line can be an intimidating place to be! This Pickleball Rookie has learned the hard way that matching fire with fire is a fool’s game. However, staying relaxed while under fire, and engaging in a more defensive battle, results in more wins.
Meditation is a great way to quiet your mind and a superb activity to partake in before playing pickleball. If you have trouble sitting still, consider walking meditation. Practicing pickleball alone is a noble cause, and recommending meditation to your toolkit is recommended.
Focus on Lateral Exercises
Pickleball requires a lot of side-to-side movement. From shuffling sideways at the non-volley zone to covering your side of the court; just because the court is “small” doesn’t mean you won’t be in motion.
With recent hype regarding pickleball-related injuries, focusing on lateral movement can help support balance and rotation, ultimately preventing common injuries. Read more about lateral exercises.