Quick, Easy Exercises to Improve Hand-Eye Coordination for Pickleball

If you’ve taken pickleball lessons for beginners, you’ve likely heard, “Keep your eye on the ball”. That seems to be the rallying cry of every pickleball coach. It is excellent advice, but sometimes more is needed to improve your game significantly. No matter how intently you lock your gaze on that little plastic ball, sometimes you swing and miss. Thankfully, you can do exercises to help your paddle hand align with your ball eye and improve your hand-eye coordination.

Hand-eye coordination is your brain’s ability to coordinate the movement of your hands with the input of your eyes. Targeted drills can improve this ability and increase your pickleball skill level. Here are five quick, simple hand-eye coordination exercises you can do to level up your pickleball game:

1. Wall Bouncing

This exercise is a favorite among pickleball coaches because not only does it work on your hand-eye coordination, but it also hones your paddle control. Because you practice with your pickleball paddle and ball, you are creating muscle memory that applies directly to your game.

Stand about six to eight feet away from a wall. Use your paddle to bounce the wall against the wall. Concentrate on keeping your eyes locked on the ball. When the ball bounces back to you, hit it again.

You are essentially playing pickleball with yourself. See how long you can keep your rally going. As your skills improve, vary your distance from the wall, the height of your shot, the angle of the ball, or your power and speed.

2. Catch

A simple game of catch is for more than just parents and kids. It’s also great for pickleball players.

For this drill, you and your partner stand facing each other and throw the ball back and forth. Catch with one hand and throw the ball back with the other. Switch so that sometimes you catch with the right, toss with the left, and then you catch left and throw right.

Vary the speed of your exchanges. Once you can reliably catch the ball, increase the difficulty by throwing it so that the receiver must reach up, across their body, or down to grab it, rather than focusing on throwing balls that are easy to catch.

One other variation of this game adds an element of footwork. Instead of standing directly across from each other, you and your partner walk parallel to each other as you throw the ball back and forth. This drill helps with hand-eye coordination and developing your control and reflexes.

3. Paddle Catch

Once you’ve mastered basic catch, you can level up to paddle catch. Instead of throwing the ball, each participant hits it to the other player with their pickleball paddle. You’ll then need to quickly switch your paddle to your other hand so you can catch the ball when it comes back to you. That requires even more coordination, which is excellent for your pickleball game.

As with regular catch, you can add an element of walking to this drill to make it even more challenging and get your feet in on the coordination practice.

4. Juggling

Not only is it great for hand-eye coordination, juggling is a fantastic exercise because you can do it anywhere. All you need is a ball (or a piece of fruit or bean bag; we recommend leaving the chainsaws and flaming torches to the professionals). Have a few spare moments between work meetings? Grab your ball from the desk drawer and juggle for a minute or two.

Add a second and then a third ball as your juggling skills improve. Watch YouTube videos to learn different juggling techniques if you need even more of a challenge. Juggling trains your brain to coordinate your movements with visual inputs, which will help you connect paddle to ball on the pickleball court.

5. Reaction Time Training

To be a great pickleball player, you must react quickly to whatever your opponent does with their shots. This skill is where reaction time drills come in.

One basic reaction time drill starts with you standing facing away from your partner. They yell out “stop” or “go.” When they say “stop,” you do nothing. When you hear “go,” you quickly turn around and catch the ball they’ve thrown at you. While this doesn’t have to be a pickleball, we recommend something small and light so that it won’t hurt if you don’t turn quickly enough to avoid being hit.

This game builds your reflexes, shortens your reaction time, and forces your hand and eye to coordinate efficiently to catch the ball as soon as you turn and see it.

Aim to do these exercises at least two or three times a week. Consistent practice will not only improve your pickleball game, but it can also come in handy in other sports or for cooking, driving, typing, or even just for catching your dropped keys before they land in a puddle.

Video

Quick, Easy Exercises to Improve Hand-Eye Coordination for Pickleball