Overcoming the Yips: Strategies for Pickleball Players


Imagine a professional football kicker who suddenly can’t make a field goal, despite being one of the best in the league. Or a baseball catcher who inexplicably struggles to throw the ball back to the pitcher. These scenarios illustrate a perplexing sports phenomenon known as the yips. The yips occur when athletes are unable to execute a skill they have performed flawlessly countless times before.

Understanding the Yips in Pickleball

In pickleball, the yips most commonly manifest in the service box. This rectangular area lies behind the non-volley zone, between the baseline and the kitchen line, diagonal to the server. When a player fails to serve the ball into the service box, they lose their turn to serve, leading to frustration for both the server and their partner. This specific issue is often referred to as the “pickleball serve yips.”

Effective Strategies to Overcome the Yips

If you find yourself struggling with the yips, and the problem persists beyond a single game, consider trying the following strategies to regain your serving confidence.

1. Change Your Serve Technique

One effective approach is to alter your serving technique. In an interview with DJ Howard, a renowned pickleball coach, he suggested that players struggling with their serve should try something entirely different. For instance, if you normally serve right-handed, try serving left-handed. Alternatively, switch to a different type of serve. By changing the underhand serving motion, you may break the mental state causing the yips. Ensure that your new serve is legal and adheres to pickleball serving rules.

Consider experimenting with the following serves:

  • Deep serve into the corners with topspin
  • Backhand serve
  • Lob serve
  • Power serve
  • Drop serve or provisional drop serve

2. Change Your Equipment

Drawing inspiration from golf, where the yips are a common issue when putting, consider changing your equipment. Some golfers suggest buying a new putter to overcome the yips. In pickleball, try using a different paddle. A new paddle can provide a fresh start and may help prevent the yips when serving. Plus, there are many affordable paddles available on the market.

3. Relax Your Arm and Grip

National pickleball champion Matthew Blom has discussed the importance of relaxing your arm and grip. While his discussion wasn’t specifically about the yips, excessive tension in your arm can hinder fine motor skills. Pay attention to how tightly you grip your paddle and try loosening your grip. Ensure your arms and shoulders are relaxed before serving.

4. Practice Target Drills

Sometimes, the pressure of a game can trigger the yips. If nerves are the issue, try to stay calm on the court and engage in target practice drills. Set up cones and focus on hitting the ball as close to the cones as possible, rather than merely aiming for the service box lines. Practice crosscourt dinks and other shot types, including serves. Once you feel more confident hitting smaller targets, the larger service box should be easier to hit.

Final Thoughts

Pickleball players are always striving to improve their game, and the yips can significantly impact performance. If you experience the yips, don’t give up. Try the strategies mentioned above or change your equipment to see if it helps. Any effort to break out of the rut and overcome the yips is worthwhile.

Have you experienced the yips? What did you do to overcome them? Share your stories in the comments below!


1. What are the yips in pickleball?

The yips in pickleball refer to a sudden inability to perform a skill, such as serving, that a player has previously executed flawlessly many times.

2. How can I overcome the yips in pickleball?

To overcome the yips, try changing your serve technique, using different equipment, relaxing your arm and grip, and practicing target drills.

3. Can changing my pickleball paddle help with the yips?

Yes, changing your paddle can provide a fresh start and may help prevent the yips when serving.

4. Are there specific drills to help with the yips in pickleball?

Yes, target practice drills, such as setting up cones and focusing on hitting the ball close to them, can help build confidence and improve accuracy.

5. What should I do if I feel nervous during a pickleball game?

If nerves are causing the yips, try to stay calm on the court and engage in target practice drills to build confidence and reduce anxiety.

What do you think?

Written by Billy Pickles

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