Improve your Pickleball Results - Play Process Pickleball

This week in our podcast we are covering an interesting topic: process vs results. Adopting a processcentric approach to your game is really the only way to obtain repeatable consistent results. It is what the best players do. You can find our Podcast, Pickleball Therapy, on most platforms.

Let's get into it.

If you want to improve as a pickleball player, you need to understand – and then embrace – process pickleball. Being driven by outcomes or results will not allow you to see when you win bad or lose good. And if you do not see those, how will you know what you need to improve to become the best pickleball player you can be?

A specific pickleball point to illustrate.

You cross over for a poach on a high ball. It’s gonna be amazing. Ball is shoulder high and you are on it. You hit it. Bam. You turn to your partner for a paddle tap on your winner but wait – your shot caught the top of the net. Side out.

Too often we judge this outcome a failure. You missed the putaway. Must have done something wrong.

But did you?

The ball was shoulder high. Your partner was not there to put it away (thus the reason for your poach). Were you wrong to attack the pop up there?

Let’s look at it another way before rendering our final judgment.

What were the other options? You could have not poached the ball. If so, the ball would have traveled farther behind the NVZ. It is unclear whether your partner would have even been able to attack the ball at all. Any attack would have been farther back and likely at a lower ball.

You could have poached it but not attacked it. If so, what would you have hit? A dink from a shoulder high ball? Those usually end in disaster.

I am leaning towards the poach being the right play.

Why is it the right thing? Because, at the time of the poach, it was the most optimal play for your team.

Whether the shot was successful or failed does not determine whether the shot taken was the right decision at the time the decision to poach was made. This is one of the most critical concepts for you to understand if unhindered improvement is your objective.

It is so important that I want to show it to you from the other side of the coin: the bad winning shot.

You are moving forward after the serve and are about 6 feet behind the NVZ line. Your partner hits an amazing long dink into the corner handcuffing the opponent at the NVZ. 95% chance of a pop up. Sure enough, it is a pop up.

You wait for the ball and hit a glorious smash volley for a winner. To make it more exciting your shot clips the top of the net in dramatic fashion. The crowd goes wild.

That is a bad winning shot.


As soon as your partner hit the amazing long dink you should have closed the 6-foot gap up to the NVZ line. You then would have been in position to hit a less amazing but way more reliable winning shot.

Here is where not knowing the difference can get you. The shot you hit when you did not move in was a winner – but will it be the next time? How about the next? Pickleball is, like every other game, a game of probabilities. High probability shots win games. Over and over.

If you had moved in to put the ball away your chances of hitting a winner would be higher than standing still and hitting the winning volley from 6 feet behind the line.

I am going to throw you one more curve ball:

            I would rather you move forward and miss the volley than stand still and win the rally.

I am not interested in winning a point here and there. I am interested in winning games. And more games. And then matches. And, with some work and a little luck, tournaments.

To do this you need to understand that process, and not results, is how you measure your performance as a pickleball player.

Intense perhaps – but the truth.

Sound Process = Sound Results

Good luck out there.



Mike C

Mike C

I always try to hit the right shot in the right moment. More of those shots will be executed properly as I get better. I think you need to think like a 5.0 when you’re still a 4.0.

Robin Barnett

Robin Barnett

So right, tony. I encourage people all the time if they are in the right place, attempting the right shot … especially if they miss it. I encourage poaching from a tentative partner: “hey, that’s your shot to claim and hit … no need to apologize for a miss”. I’ll have a partner look at me funny when I miss a few shots that I would normally hit … because I was experimenting with a new technique, grip, paddle weight, testing an opponent, etc.. That’s how you get better - prioritizing learning and improving over winning a recreational game… or to avoid being embarrassed.

Carl Stenberg

Carl Stenberg

Very thoughtful.

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Message from Tony:

These blogs  are written to make players think about their pickleball game on and off the court . If they challenge players to think about the game from a different perspective, I feel that I have done my job. Remember to enjoy the game and try not to get stuck in the weeds.