Pickleball Self Evaluation By Kevin Stanley

Pickleball Self Evaluation By Kevin Stanley IPTPA Level 2 International Pickleball Coach

This form is deigned to help you self evaluate yourself in your pickleball skillset and to help you recognize your readiness to make necessary changes to improve on that particular skill based on your readiness level to do the task that challenges us.

For ANY task we do in life, we can categorize ourselves as one of the following, in terms of our readiness, willingness and ability to do that task.

(UI) Unconscious Competent (You don't know that you don't know)

(CI) Conscious Incompetent (You know that you don't know)

(CC) * Conscious Competent (You know that you know)

(UC) Unconscious Competent (You don't even know you know, but you do it naturally and instinctively)

People who are unconscious incompetents usually are not aware of the task they should be doing. They never knew they needed to know therefore they have no opinion on the task. At this readiness level we need to be TOLD what to do.

People who are conscious incompetents for a particular task are the readiest, willing and able to learn. They have recently been made aware of the task and they have a genuine interest in learning, since they know that they did not know! They now know they don't know, and they are like sponges, ready to soak up new information. At this readiness level we need to be SOLD and ENCOURAGED on why we need to do the task.

* People who are conscious competent about a particular task are the toughest to coach! This level of readiness to do a task is like the teenager in life. At this level we often think we already know this information and we tend to be resistant to learning. Defiant: We know that we know! We can recognize this readiness in ourselves when we find ourselves NOT wanting to hear someone else tell us we are wrong. At this readiness level to do the task at hand we often need to be involved in the decision to do so, and a good coach helps us think its our idea to do so.

People who are unconscious competent for the task are the easiest manage. They don't even know that they know, they just do it! People in this particular readiness to do the task, we simply encourage and reinforce their skillset and make minor suggestions as needed.


Rate yourself in the following Pickleball Skills

Circle which level you feel that you are at in each skill below. Make notes for yourself in each category identifying what you feel that you need to learn to improve on that skill. Find a resource to help you learn that skill... a coaching session, a video or a written source of help. Many of these resources can be found on my Coach Kevin's Pickleball Tips, private Facebook page.



My Pickleball Paddle Grip

1. I am unaware that there is a proper pickleball grip.

2. I am aware of the proper pickleball grip, and I attempt to maintain this grip, but I find it awkward and hard to maintain.

3. I am aware that there is a proper pickleball grip. I successfully hold my paddle at 15 degrees consistently and I'm able to adjust to the proper grip during a game scenario.

4. I am aware of the proper 15% pickleball grip (handshake grip) and I maintain it 90 prevent of the time. I am also comfortable to change that grip for groundstrokes and drives as needed, in a game scenario. I also adjust my grip to neutral for varying my serve as needed.

5. I am an UI CI CC UC

Why you need a proper pickleball grip and what to do to make sure your Pickleball Grip is Correct

15 degrees is calculated to be the idea angle for you to execute a reset, third shot drop, or dink shot. Once you can visualize that most of your shots are hitting the ball in an upward direction you will then realize that rather than turning your wrist for very shot and trying to replicate the 15 degrees, it makes sense to have your paddle at 15 degrees most of the time. Plus, its easier on the wrist.

The grip is called a hand shape grip. If you hold your hand as if to shake someone’s hand, your hand should be vertical. The paddle slides into your hand in a neutral position (straight up and down) BUT before you close your hand onto the paddle, the paddle should be rotated to the OUTSIDE of your body by 15 degrees. The edge of the handle should not be placed in the crease of your thumb and your forefinger. You should be able to place your thumb flatly on the back of the paddle if it is in the correct position. The thumb becomes a valuable asset in this grip. You can use it to control the shot and to provide power on the backhand power put away.

Stand at the kitchen line in the ready position with your paddle out front in the ZERO position on your V. Pretend that your elbow is on a ball joint. Simply rotate your paddle to a forehand dink position like its a windshield wiper. Your paddle at your knee level should be 15 degrees back, parallel to the net and parallel to the ground. This is possible with the proper grip. Now rotate your paddle al the way across your body to the backhand dink position. At knee level, it again should be 15 degrees back and parallel to the net and parallel to the ground. Again, due to the proper grip. 

This means that if you move to the left or right and get into this dink/reset position, your shot should go straight forward on both your forehand and the backhand shot. That is another reason for the proper grip.

Now, from the ready position at the kitchen line, raise your elbow on your paddle arm. Like magic your paddle moves to 15 degrees back and parallel to the net and to the ground. A PERFECT BLOCK POSITION! Again, this is possible because your grip was correct.


My Ready Position

1. I am aware of the Ready Position for pickleball but don't give it much thought. I just play.

2. I am aware of the Ready Position but often find myself forgetting to maintain it. It is not yet instinctive.

3. I am aware of the split step prior to the ready position and I'm good at getting into this position. I do however find that I'm not turning my shoulder and paddle towards the ball, and I often find my paddle is down lower than I want.

4. I am almost always in the ready position at the right time, and I recognize when I am not, and I adjust quickly. My feet are slightly wider than my shoulders. My knees are slightly bent, my back is straight, my hands are out front with my wrist cocked up at 11 o'clock. I understand that my paddle needs to be above the net when I'm at the kitchen. I keep my paddle and shoulders pointing towards the ball. I understand the concept of having my paddle at ZERO in my V and I endeavour to do so at all times.

5. I am an UI CI CC UC


My Serve

1. I know that basic service rules, but mostly I just serve and try to get it in the proper court as best I can.

2. I have a fairly good serve, but I often hit the net or hit it out, not sure why?

3. I have a regular preserve routine. I take my time and get most of my serves in on a regular basis.

4. I have a regular preserve routine that I abide to 100% of the time. I realize that a missed serve is a missed opportunity to get a point. Unacceptable. I seldom miss my serve and I have 2-3 diverse types of serves that I am successful in executing. (A regular serve 3-5 feet above the net, I harder serve a bit lower with top spin and a lob serve that I use successfully for hard hitters) I routinely serve the ball in the back third of the opponents’ court.

5. I am an UI CI CC UC


My Return of Serve

1. My return of serve has no particular routine.

2. I have no routine and often find myself missing and getting jammed by a hard serve. I often run around and use my forehand. I have no strategy for my return, but I try to get it back in however possible.

3. I have a pre return serve routine. I stay back 2-3 feet behind the baseline always and I return the ball back down the middle or in the same direction of the serve. I am quick to get up to the line with my partner 100 % of the time. I sometimes find my return of serve not getting back as far as I would like, and I sometimes hit the net.

4. I have a great pre return serve routine. I am aware that the return of serve is the most important shot of the game. I realize that we have an advantage as the receivers and that our opponents are scoring if we make a mistake. I stay back 2-3 feet behind the baseline always and I return the ball back down the middle or in the same direction of the serve. I am quick to get up to the line with my partner 100 % of the time. I return my serves consistently 3-5 feet above the net and deep to the back 1/3 of their court.

 5. I am an UI CI CC UC


My Third Shot Drop

1. I am unaware of what a third shot drop is?

2. I've been told what a third shot drop is. I have tried a few times but find it difficult. I often hit the ball too high, and it gets attacked. I find this frustrating, so I don't try it too often at this time.

3. I understand the importance of the third shot drop and attempt it 50-60% of time successfully. It is a work in progress, but I'm determined to get it right over time.

4. I understand that a third shot drop, and a drive third shot have the same intention. To help my partner and I to get ourselves closer towards this kitchen line. I attempt the third shot drop successfully 80% of the time successfully. I focus on having the arc of my shot 5-6 ft above my kitchen line. I am comfortable directing my third shot drop to the middle or across court and usually get to the line in 1-3 shots. I keep my arc above the kitchen line and often force them to bounce my third shot drop.

5. I am an UI CI CC UC


My Reset from Mid Court

1. I struggle with my mid court reset! I'm unsure what I need to do to get better?

2. I try to soften my third shot reset but often pop up the ball. I find myself scrambling a lot and find it hard to soften the shot.

3. I am getting better at resetting the mid court reset. I am working at getting better at being in the right ready position and I am getting better at choosing the right shot selection towards middle and cross court to buy some time.

4. I am good at mid court resets. I get into the ready position quickly with my paddle in front of me mid body. I understand that when I am forced to bounce the ball, that my paddle is hitting up and the opponents’ paddles are up ready to hit down. I realize that my shot needs to be softer with my arc on my side of the net. I use very little backswing to keep my shot soft. I know that my ONLY job is to get to the kitchen line with my partner and I seldom try to attack early. I often use arc and angle to buy more time to get to the line. I keep my paddle lower in my ready position and I try to use the opponent’s power rather than creating additional power.

5. I am an UI CI CC UC


My Midcourt Drive Shot

1. I don't know what a mid court drive is?

2. I often try to drive the mid court shot since my third shot and mid court reset too often pops the ball up to high. I find that driving it is just as effective for me because my confidence in my third shot drop is low.

3. I am starting to use a midcourt drive if the return of our serve is weak. I find that I'm already moving forward so the midcourt drive at the opponent’s body often gets a blocked shot that helps me to reset on the next shot. However, my success rate is low. I often hit it out or into the net but I’m trying.

4. I am starting to use a midcourt drive if the return of our serve is weak. I find that I'm already moving forward so the midcourt drive at the opponent’s body often gets a blocked shot that helps me to reset on the next shot. I prefer a soft reset shot but find that the drive can be surprising. I am aware that my objective it to get the opponent to block my drive so that my next shot can be a soft reset to that we can get to the kitchen line. I use the drive a small % of the time but I do it successfully most of the time I try.

5. I am an UI CI CC UC


My Forehand and Backhand Groundstroke Return of Serve

1. I do not know what this phrase means?

2. I try to return all serves from the ready position with my feet parallel with the kitchen line.

3. I return the serve from my ready position if it is a harder serve and I also return the serve from the groundstroke position if the serve it softer. I find that the ground stroke position allows me more freedom of movement, but I find that my backhand return is often weak and not as deep as I had intended.

4. I am ready and able to return the serve with a short hop, from ready position and or from a groundstroke position. I often have a strategy in mind before the serve is hit. I return the serve from my ready position or short hop if it is a harder serve and I also return the serve from the groundstroke position if the serve it softer. I find that the ground stroke position allows me more freedom of movement. I do my best to return the serve deep in the direction in which it came. I try to keep my ball height about 3-5 feet above the net. I am equally comfortable with my forehand and my backhand groundstroke shot.

5. I am an UI CI CC UC



1. I know what it is but not sure how to do it properly.

2. I am trying to keep the dink shot soft but often pop it up. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.

3. I am getting better at the dink shot but I still find that I hit the net too often and pop it up too often. my backhand dink shot is a bit weaker than my forehand. I am not yet at the point of dinking with strategy.

4. I am much better at the dink shot. I am realizing that the arc of my shot needs to be on my side of the net and that angle shots give me more time to finish the shot as well as to get back in the ready position. My backhand is getting better but needs work.

5. My Dink shots both forehand and backhand are effective. I am patient and understand that my job is to find a way to force my opponent to bounce the ball. I direct my shots to create chaos and try to get them to pop the ball up for my partner to finish. I am good at placing the ball easily where they have to let it bounce and I vary my shot to make them move around. I keep my arc on my side of the net, and I use angle and height when needed to stay in the best position as possible. I seldom dink straight forward as I understand that this is the toughest shot in the game and causes the most pop ups in pickleball.

6. I am an UI CI CC UC


My Blocking

1. I don't really know how to block properly. I'm a bit intimidated by hard shots.

2. I am trying to block but find that I often hit it back too high or out. I am unsure how to hold my paddle.

3. I have been shown how to hold my paddle out in front of me and how to raise my elbow to get into the blow position with my paddle. I am getting better at it but find that I am still missing a lot of drives and or not being successful in blocking properly.

4. I am comfortable with blocking hard drives. I get into the proper block position, and I protect the space 16-20 inches above the net quiet well. I soften my grip and cushion the ball so that it drops in mid court and sometimes I can drop it close to the net. I seldom miss a block and I'm getting good at placing the ball in various places. I keep the paddle in the zero position of my V, and I move the paddle laterally well to cover a vast range of space. I am not afraid of blocking a hard drive and I am learning to punch back some of the drives that are not quite as fast.

5. I am an UI CI CC UC


My Attack Decisions (Street Light Visual)

1. I don't have a visual for making my attack decisions. If it looks attackable. I attack.

2. I've been told about the street light visual, and I try to keep that in mind when attacking.

3. I use the street light visual for attacking but often find that I'm hitting the net. I am not sure what it means to attack too soon? I understand the RED/AMBER/GREEN Visual above the net. Green being an attackable ball, Amber meaning attack with caution and less speed and Red, which means it not attackable and that my shot should be soft. I'm just not making the right decision as often as I would like.

4. I understand the street light green/Amber/Red visual. I also understand that we use the top of the net as our visual for gauging the height of the ball. I try to be aware that the ball still needs to travel forward to me from the net and that what first appeared to be an AMBER/GREEN ball may now be a red by time I get to hit the ball. I understand that 80% of my shots are not attackable and need to be resets. I understand that a full green attackable ball should be executed at 60-70%. I realize that an AMBER ball has a 50-50 chance of failure as well as success. I am good at making these decisions and will often reset if uncertain. I find this strategy allows me to win more often than lose a rally.

5. I am an UI CI CC UC


My Lob Shots

1. I don't know what a lob is?

2. I know what a lob is, but I don't know how to do one properly nor do I know how to handle a lob?

3. I have tried lobbing, but it is often hit out or smashed back. I find it difficult and frustrating when people lob me.

4. I am attempting lob shots when I'm at the kitchen and I am getting better at making the lob successful. I find that when in a dinking match a lob can surprise my opponent. I still find myself lobbing at the wrong time or failing on the execution. I am still working on how to handle a lob on me.

5. I am successfully at lobbing. I find that lobbing from the kitchen works far better than lobbing from farther back. I find that lobbing at an angle gives me more room to land it successfully. My partner and I usually discuss who will handle the lob played on us and us have a basic strategy on how we will play it. Most often we try to execute a cross court reset shot in front of our partner. It doesn't happen successfully every time, but we are working on it and it's getting easier over time. I try not to lob in rec play since I’ve seen people get hurt trying to get them, but in competitive play anything goes.

6. I lob successfully in a game scenario. I access who is the weaker smasher and who might have a weaker back hand reset before I try a lob. I only use the lob at the kitchen, and I use angle to make it more successful. I always lob to a back hand of possible. I like to use the lob in the dinking scenario when my opponent seems to be leaning in. I find that at this moment it is harder for them to get back to cover the lob successfully. I am comfortable handling lobs played on me and can usually attempt a reset drop in front of my partner. If they have weak smashes often lob back and defend from the kitchen line with my partner. I love lobs.

7. I am an UI CI CC UC


Feel free to print this page out to use as a template to mark down your skills and weakness and get to drilling! Looking for coaching? Reach out to me on my private Facebook group!


Kevin Stanley


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