Your Biggest Pickleball Mistake? Learning from 4x US Open Champion Laura Fenton Kovanda

There’s much to be learned from the mind of a champion, and I realize that some of you might never have the opportunity to do that. That’s why when four-time US Open Champion Laura Fenton-Kovanda and I were putting the final touches on her upcoming Lake Tahoe pickleball camp; we turned it into an interview.

There were multiple nuggets in that footage, so I’m separating them into a series of videos and blog posts. Today Laura discusses the biggest pickleball mistake she sees at various levels and how to overcome it.

Additionally, if you’re already part of the Better Pickleball Community, you’ve received a special link just for you where Laura talks about the mental game and guess what? A couple more pieces are coming your way, so make sure to check your inbox! If you’re not already part of the Better Pickleball Community, click here to join us.

Laura, what’s the biggest pickleball mistake that you see the 3.5 and below player make?

“I come across this a lot when I am teaching a clinic or a camp; many people have been taught that if they don’t get the return of serve to get to that kitchen line as fast as possible. When I’m teaching this, I say let’s talk about this and WHY that’s NOT a good idea. There’s always has to be a why in order to learn how to fix it.”

      1. “If your partner goes running to the kitchen line and you’re about to hit that third shot, number one, they have no idea where your shot’s going.”
      2. “If the shot goes up high, they’re about to get blasted in the face or anywhere. And that’s not fun for anybody. “
      3. “You’ve created this huge hole in the middle of the court, so you’re completely staggered. You have to learn how to come into the court together, side by side, and who covers what shot down the middle, the angles, the drop shot.”

“Learning correct court positioning is imperative when you’re learning at the 3.0-3.5 level.”

What’s the biggest pickleball mistake that you see the 4.0 and above player make?

“4.0 and above meaning 4.0-6.0 that’s a big span, but I’m going to focus on the 4.0, 4.5 and the lower 5.0.”

“I think the biggest mistake, actually I have to answer that with two.”

      1. “They’re trying to win the point every time they hit the ball versus setting the point up and having patience in maneuvering your opponents. I think that’s probably the biggest one.”
      2. “When you watch some of them, let’s say the 20-30-year old’s who come from Division One tennis, and actually there’s some 50-year old’s too. There are two ladies I play against that are phenomenal. That can drive balls with topspin, and they keep the ball in the court. The 4.0 and 4.5 want to play that same way, but they don’t have that skill to do it. Unless you take some lessons or you drill the heck out of that until you can perfect it, and hit 80-90% of your shots in the court, fine. But (it doesn’t work) from the middle of the court, when you have less reaction time coming from your opponents (position)”

“A lot of people want to drive that ball, and that is probably the biggest mistake in the game because you have less time. Your partner’s going to get killed. You can’t move in. You’re not making any ground here. You’re not gaining anything. It’s fun to rip the ball, yeah, but you don’t win very many points doing that.”

Laura, what can a player do to improve and stop making so many pickleball mistakes?

“You know, CJ, I still take lessons. There’s always something to add to your game.”

“At our camps, I have to take into mind, are they 30, are they 40, are they 50, 60, 70. You know, there’s a lot of good teachers out there, but you can’t teach 50, 60, 70, 80-year-olds the same way you teach the 30-year-old. There are just certain things we can’t do.”

“(In our camps) We cover everything that has to do with the game. How do we read the opponent’s feet or hips? Where should our paddle position be? How do we cover the lob? How can I improve my topspin stroke, my slice, or my return serve?”

“Whatever it is, I have to take that person individually. Even though we have groups of people, I take that individual right where they’re at because I want to improve their game.”


The reason I started the Better Pickleball Channel was to clear up the misinformation shared on the courts. How many times have you had to “unlearn” something a well-meaning but ill-informed player passed on to you?

I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. The best athletes in the world have coaches. If you want to improve check out teachers in your area. Ask other people who they are using and take a clinic or a lesson. When choosing a coach, it’s ok to be picky. Remember, great players are not necessarily great teachers. (If you don’t have anyone in your area contact me about my personalized video lesson program)

Laura brings up a great point about coaching to someone’s age. A week before I met Laura, I took a clinic from a top thirty-something player. One of the corrections Laura suggested I make, to change my body position at the NVZ. What Laura said was opposite of what the previous coach had asked me to do. I know that if I’m confused, I can’t perform, so I shared with Laura what the other coach said. I can still see the smile on Laura’s face when she answered, “That’s cause she’s thirty and I’m not. My body can’t do it that way, and neither can yours.”

That’s not to say you have to find an older coach. Good coaches are capable of adjusting their teaching philosophies to the individual player.

Want to take a camp from Laura?

Laura is offering two camps in Lake Tahoe in 2019. A 3-day camp August 28-30 and a 1 ½ day camp September 2-3. One of the best parts about taking a pickleball camp in Lake Tahoe is when you’re not on the pickleball courts. You can be hiking, mountain biking or laying on the beach. If you’d like more information on Laura’s upcoming camp, click this link.

If you’re an experienced tournament player or would like to give it a try stay for the Tahoe Peak Pickleball Challenge Sept 5-8, 2019.

What is your biggest pickleball mistake? Put it in the comments below.

Better Pickleball CJ Johnson


CJ Johnson
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P.S. Click Here to get a copy of 31 Quick Tips to Play Better Pickleball




  1. Margo Malouf on July 28, 2019 at 7:10 am

    I have taken a clinic from Laura in the past and really got a lot frm the clinic. She’s a great teacher. I now teach a 4-week beginner’s class at our rec center and the second class is all about footwork, so glad to see I am on the right track.

    Thanks agiain for all the great information.

    Margo Malouf

    • Cathy Jo Johnson on July 28, 2019 at 8:43 am

      I agree with you Margo, Laura has a gift for teaching. Thank you for passing on your pickleball knowledge!