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How to Practice Pickleball Alone: Solo Drills Guide

Elderly male pickleball player wearing a dark gray top and black hat serving the ball during a game of pickleball.

Discover effective ways to practice pickleball alone, including drills, ball machine tips, and more.

Like any sport, practice and repetition is the secret to mastering pickleball.

Thankfully, you don’t need a doubles partner or training partner to hone your pickleball skills. There are numerous pickleball drills you can do all on your own!

The trick is knowing the right solo drills that will help you level up your skills. It’s not just about going to the court and hitting a bunch of pickleballs around.

In this guide, we’ll uncover helpful solo pickleball drills that will refine your game. We’ll dive into drills that require no extra equipment (not even a court), as well as training aids to assist in your development.

Ready to discover the secrets of solo practice sessions? Let’s get started.

Why practice pickleball alone?

In an ideal world, you’ll have a dedicated training partner (such as your doubles partner) that you can call up at any time to practice your pickleball skills.

But this is hardly the case. People have different schedules, and hardly anyone outside of professional players can practice 24/7.

Thankfully, practicing pickleball alone is not only possible, it’s very practical!

Here are some benefits of practicing pickleball alone:

  • You can practice whenever you want. Anytime you are free, you can hit the courts and practice your pickleball skills. You don’t need to wait for another person.
  • You can practice for as long as you want. You set your training schedule and duration when you practice pickleball alone. You’re not constrained by a training partner’s schedule or availability. Want to practice for three hours on a Saturday morning? Go for it.
  • You can practice specific shots. When practicing alone, you decide which shots or techniques you work on. A training partner may have different priorities or things they want to work on. This isn’t the case when you drill by yourself.
  • You can work in strength and conditioning. Your solo practice does not need to be limited to technique, mechanics, and hitting a bunch of pickleballs. You can include as much (or as little) strength and conditioning work as you want into your solo practice.
  • You can try new things. When doing solo drills, you’ll likely refine shots you’re already familiar with. However, solo practice also gives you the opportunity to develop new skills or techniques that you can break out on the pickleball court.

As you can see, there are numerous benefits of practicing or playing pickleball alone. While these things cannot replace real pickleball gameplay, they can help you develop skills that directly translate to success on the court.

What do you need to practice pickleball alone?

At the most basic level, solo pickleball work requires you to only have a pickleball paddle.

With just your paddle, you can do shadow swings of nearly every shot in pickleball. And with this type of drill, you can do it almost anywhere: at home in your basement or backyard, at a local park, and more.

If you visit your local courts for practicing pickleball alone, it’s best to have quality pickleball shoes. These shoes are specifically designed to support movement on a pickleball court, especially lateral movement.

Finally, when visiting your local courts for solo practice, having plenty of pickleballs is nearly a must-have.

Technically, you can practice alone with a single pickleball, but you’ll be walking back and forth a bunch. Having several pickleballs on-hand (i.e., 10 or more) will reduce the time you’ll spend retrieving balls and not practicing pickleball.

These are the bare minimum equipment items you need to practice pickleball, but there are several other items that can assist in your experience:

  • A basket to hold multiple pickleballs for easy grabbing and retrieval
  • Targets (such as small cones) to place on the court for concentrated drilling and shot technique
  • A designated hitting wall to practice multiple shots such as dinks, speed-ups, and more (in most cases, a brick wall will suffice)
  • A shot target wall (such as the Dink Master) to practice shot targeting and visualizing playing a real pickleball opponent
  • A pickleball machine to feed you consistent shots to refine your technique to the highest degree (keep in mind, however, that pickleball machines are usually expensive)

Helpful solo drills

Practice your serve

The serve is one of the most (if not the most) important shots in pickleball.

Your serve plays a strategic role in starting off a point and setting the tone for the rally. When executed properly, a strong serve can give you a near immediate advantage.

One of the best things about the serve: you can 100% practice it on your own.

Grab a box or a basket of balls and hit several practice serves in a row. Aim for consistent serves deep in the opposite service box.

Hitting practice serves is also a great opportunity to try new serves. Want to throw in a sneaky drop serve or perfect a high topspin serve?

Now is the time to make it happen.

Male pickleball player wearing a black top preparing to serve the ball during a game of doubles.

Shadow swings

Shadow swings refer to going through the motion of a particular shot or technique.  mimicking what you would do in a real pickleball game.

Shadow swings are great for practicing pickleball alone because literally the only thing you need for them is your pickleball paddle.

It doesn’t matter where you are, what shoes you’re wearing, or your apparel. You can always do shadow swings.

In most cases, pickleball players do shadow swings of their larger motions like their forehand and backhand drive.

When doing shadow swings, focus on maintaining good form, extension, and follow through. Remember, it’s not about blindly swinging your pickleball paddle.

Don’t forget your footwork, either. Start in the ready position, rotate your shoulders, and set your feet. As you swing through the “ball,” uncork your stance like you would with a real shot.

Shadow shot progressions and footwork drills

You can take the concept of shadow swings a step further with full-on practice points. Mimicking the moves and footwork you’d use during a point can help you when there’s a real opponent across the net.

Unlike normal shadow swings, this option requires you to train on an actual pickleball court. Otherwise, you can’t simulate the movements within the dimensions of a court.

Take a ball and hit a real practice serve. Then, after successfully hitting a serve, simulate the movements and footwork of a real point.

For example, a simulated doubles point can look like this:

  1. After your serve, move to the center of the court for a third shot drive (either forehand or backhand).
  2. Take a few steps forward and position yourself for a fifth shot drop.
  3. Take another step or two forward, position yourself at the non-volley zone line, and swing the paddle for one or two dink shots.
  4. Take a step or two backward and practice an overhead smash swing, winning the “point.”

You can act out any number of scenarios, depending on what you want to work on. This can work for both singles and doubles practice.

Throughout this process, remember to practice good technique and footwork. Doing so will help you develop muscle memory for real game scenarios.

Static drop feeds

Static drop feeds involve holding the pickleball in front of your body and dropping it in order to hit the ball and practice different shots.

This drilling technique is helpful when you don’t have a training partner or someone to do underhand feeds for you. With static drop feeds, you can hit as many practice shots as you want with consistent feeds.

With drop feeds, most pickleball players practice groundstrokes like forehand drives, backhand drives, and passing shots. While less common, you can also do drop feeds for drops and dinks.

To perform a static drop feed, here are the steps to do it:

  1. Position your feet for the appropriate stance, depending on whether you are practicing a forehand or backhand shot.
  2. Extend your hand that’s holding the pickleball so it will bounce in front of your body and slightly off to the side.
  3. Drop the ball and execute your backswing, positioning the pickleball paddle behind and below the point of contact.
  4. Contact the ball in front of your body, swinging from low to high. Follow through with the paddle high and across your body.
  5. Uncork your stance and rotate through the shot, pivoting on your front foot.

The most important thing to remember with static drop feeds is maintaining good form and technique. This involves contacting the ball in front, following through, and transferring your body weight through the shot.

Male pickleball player wearing a white top hitting a topspin forehand return of serve during a game of doubles.

Wall drills

If you’ve ever wondered, “Can you practice pickleball against a wall?”, the answer is a resounding yes!

A hitting wall can be a very effective pickleball training partner. It will always return the ball back to you, you can practice multiple types of shots, and it’ll practice for as long as you want to.

The biggest benefit of a hitting wall is that it can help you get multiple repetitions of shots like drives, drops, and dinks.

To get started, find a dedicated hitting wall at your pickleball courts or a brick wall with plenty of space to move. For added effect and realism, you can add a baseline and kitchen line with tape or chalk.

From there, you have several options for pickleball wall drills:

  • Hit multiple dinks in a row from the non-volley zone line, alternating between forehand and backhand dinks.
  • Hit a few dinks. Throw in a random speed-up (to improve your reaction times) that you subsequently counter. Then, continue dinking.
  • Hit multiple drives in a row while positioned just inside the baseline.
  • Execute a “forward and backward” drill where you start with a drive, move up to hit a drop, then move up again to hit one or more dinks. From there, retreat and hit the same sequence of shots in reverse.

Pickleball machine

If you’re really serious about your pickleball training, and you don’t mind spending some money, a pickleball machine may be the perfect match for you.

A pickleball machine, very similar to a tennis ball machine, feeds you balls to practice your pickleball shots and techniques.

The main benefit of a ball machine is that it can feed you several balls with varying heights, pace, spin, and more. And, in most cases, it’ll feed you the same ball (i.e., the settings you want) every time.

Pickleball machines are highly versatile. You can practice nearly every shot in pickleball with a ball machine (outside of the serve).

With a ball machine, you can work on:

Basically, if there’s something specific (i.e., a particular shot) that you want to work on, it’s likely that a pickleball machine can help you with your training.

Ball machine drills

Now that you know what pickleball machines are, and their potential benefits for pickleball players in training, let’s talk about specific drills.

There’s virtually no shortage of pickleball drills you can set up with a ball machine, as long as your machine has the necessary capabilities (e.g., feeding the ball with spin).

Here are some potentially helpful pickleball drills you can execute with a ball machine:

Drive, drop, and dink drill:

In pickleball, you usually have to hit a variety of shots to win even a single rally. Thankfully, a ball machine can help with that.

For this drill, configure your ball machine to feed balls with varying depths: one near the baseline, one near the middle of the court (transition zone), and a few to land near your non-volley zone line.

Start at the baseline and hit a forehand or backhand drive (your choice). Then, move up in the court and hit a forehand or backhand drop, aiming for it to land in the opposite kitchen. Then, move up again and hit a few dinks, focusing on control and finesse.

For added effect, have your machine throw in a “speed-up” shot while you’re at the NVZ. Counter this ball, then retreat the baseline to repeat the process.

Side-to-side groundstrokes drill:

This drill is particularly useful for singles, where you have to cover the entire court by yourself with quick lateral movements.

Configure your ball machine to feed balls deep near one corner of your side of the court, where the baseline meets the sideline. Adjust the settings so that, after it feeds a ball, it swivels to feed a deep ball near the opposite corner.

Alternate between forehands and backhands to return the balls fed by your machine. Focus on maintaining good technique, switching between down-the-line and crosscourt shots (like you would use in a singles game).

For added effect, have your ball machine apply topspin to the ball. Advanced players usually hit their groundstrokes with topspin for greater control and a trickier bounce.

This drill is not only great for working on your passing shots and groundstrokes, it’ll prove to be an effective cardiovascular exercise.

Crosscourt dinking drill:

Crosscourt dinking is a difficult skill to master in pickleball.

Many players are comfortable hitting their dink shots straight ahead or with a slight angle, but hitting dinks with a sharp angle usually proves more challenging.

Many pickleball machines can help you with this important technique.

Simply set up your ball machine at the corner of the kitchen on the other side of the net. Configure it to feed soft, low-bouncing balls that land in your NVZ.

From there, hit several repetitions of controlled crosscourt dinks back in the direction of the ball machine. Aim for consistent placement and technique, bending your knees and swinging from your shoulder.

Once you’ve hit several balls in one direction, move the pickleball machine to the other side of the kitchen and repeat the process.

Return of serve and volley drill:

Practicing your return of serve and subsequent movement to the kitchen line is simple when practicing with a ball machine.

For this drill, configure your pickleball machine to feed balls deep in one of your service boxes. Either side is fine, depending on whether you’re working on a forehand or backhand return of serve.

Make sure the machine is set to feed two to three balls in a row, with the same depth and pace.

Position yourself behind the baseline, just as you would for a real return of serve.

Once the machine feeds the ball, move forward to return it. After you hit the ball, run up to the kitchen line. From there, return the next ball or two (depending on your settings) with controlled deep volleys or drop shots.

The purpose of this drill is to practice situations where your opponent would hit a third and fifth shot drive. As you prepare to hit your practice volleys, maintain a solid stance and stay in the ready position.

Do you need a pickleball machine to practice pickleball alone?

While a pickleball machine can certainly help you practice a variety of shots and techniques, you don’t need one to practice pickleball alone.

The main benefit of a pickleball machine is getting multiple practice shot repetitions in quick succession. This is especially helpful when you’re trying to develop a new skill.

While not as efficient as a ball machine, you can achieve similar results with training methods like wall drills, static drop feeds, and shadow swings.

Female pickleball player wearing a black top and black visor hitting a one-handed backhand return of serve from the back-right corner of the court.

How much does a pickleball machine cost?

A pickleball machine can cost anywhere from approximately $125 dollars to $3,500 dollars and beyond.

The price of a pickleball machine depends on factors like:

  • The brand of the machine
  • Features and capabilities
  • Portability
  • Storage capacity
  • Customizable settings (e.g., different speeds and spins)
  • Remote control
  • Smart device connectivity

When it comes to a pickleball machine, the more you’re willing to spend, the more features and benefits you will receive.

If you’re looking to work on very specific and low-key things, like hitting soft dinks across the net, some low-cost options will likely suit your needs.

But if you’re trying to seriously upgrade your pickleball training and develop multiple shots and techniques, paying the premium for a high-end pickleball machine may be the better option.

Solo drilling can elevate your pickleball game

While actual pickleball game experience is the best way to level up your skills, there are several training methods and practice drills that can help you hone your technique.

The best part? You don’t even need a partner. There are several effective ways to practice pickleball alone.

If you want to keep your skills sharp enhance your pickleball game, grab your paddle, develop a solo practice plan, and get to work. You’ll be bringing your refined skills and technique to your regular pickleball games in no time.

Frequently asked questions

How do you practice pickleball indoors?

Practicing pickleball indoors is easy, depending on your location and the equipment available to you.

If you’re at an indoor pickleball facility (of which MANY are popping up around the U.S.), there’s no limit to your training options. You can rent a ball machine, hit practice serves with a basket of balls, or get a guided pickleball lesson from a teaching pro.

If you’re indoors at home or another non-pickleball facility, you may have to get creative. One option is doing shadow swings of your forehand, backhand, and other strokes. There are also pickleball training devices like the Pickleball Eye Coach that you can use indoors. And, as always, you can work on your strength and conditioning.

How can I practice pickleball at home?

There are many ways you can practice pickleball at home, depending on the equipment you have on hand.

Here are a few options for practicing pickleball at home with no extra equipment:

  • Shadow swings of your forehand, backhand, serve, etc.
  • Footwork drills with quick steps to increase lower body strength and agility
  • Utilizing pickleball training devices (like the Pickleball Eye Coach) to develop muscle memory and consistent contact point

If you have an outdoor wall that can serve as a hitting wall (such as a brick wall), your at-home practice options increase dramatically. Hitting against a wall can help you quickly elevate your pickleball skills. You can get multiple practice shot repetitions and refine your technique.

Key takeaways

  • Practice and repetition are crucial for mastering pickleball, and it can be done solo without the need for a doubles or training partner.
  • Solo drills improve skills and can be performed with minimal equipment, sometimes not even requiring a court.
  • Practicing alone allows flexibility in scheduling, duration, and focus on specific shots or techniques, including strength and conditioning work.
  • Basic equipment for solo practice includes a pickleball paddle, quality shoes for court movement, and multiple pickleballs to minimize retrieval time.
  • Additional helpful items for practice include a ball basket, targets for precision drills, a hitting wall for various shots, and a pickleball machine for consistent shot practice.
  • Solo drills include practicing serves, shadow swings for stroke mechanics, simulated game situations to improve footwork and strategy, static drop feeds for groundstroke practice, and wall drills for shot repetition.
  • A pickleball machine offers advanced practice options, allowing for customized drills with varying ball speeds, spins, and trajectories to refine specific skills.
  • Cost of a pickleball machine varies widely, from approximately $125 to over $3,500, depending on features such as portability, capacity, and customizable settings.
  • Practicing with a pickleball machine is not essential but can enhance training by providing numerous and varied shot repetitions.
  • Even without a machine, players can effectively develop their game through solo drills, including shadow swings, static drop feeds, and wall drills.
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