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The Essentials of Dink Shots in Pickleball

Coach Mike Branon is the bestselling author of “Pickleball & The Art of Living”

Mike Branon

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One of the things that makes pickleball so interesting is that there are two different types of shots that require different techniques to execute properly. There are hit shots such as serves, groundstrokes, volleys, and overheads that require you to turn your body to some degree and strike the ball using wrist action and power.

Then there are shots from the push family, such as dinks or drop shots played from mid-court to the baseline area. These are called push shots because they require you to keep your paddle in front of your body and simply push the ball on an arc softly and low over the net into the kitchen area. Push shots enable you to control pace and trajectory so that your opponent finds it difficult to attack and is forced to hit up on the ball.  

The dink is the type of push shot that makes pickleball so unique among all racquet sports. Hitting with power is often the right play, but when you’re forward in the court and the ball’s around your knees or below, check your aggression and play smart. There are a few keys to dink consistently and effectively, and at a times offensively. Step one, you want to get low. Step two, set your paddle. Set your paddle early with a slightly open face. Then all you have to do is push from the shoulder. It keeps it very simple. You’re not trying to manipulate the paddle with your hands and your wrists, which creates a lot of inconsistency and improper contact. Step three, you want to make sure you’re pushing from your palm when on your forehand and pushing with the back of your hand on the backhand. You’ll also want to keep your off hand up to stay balanced. 

When you boil it down, it’s: getting low, setting your paddle, and pushing from the shoulder.  

Sometimes you need to contact the ball out of the air with a dink volley. This prevents you from getting pushed back from the kitchen line. The highest percentage dinks are hit cross-court, which give you much more area in which to land the ball. Cross-court dinks to the backhand are the most difficult to attack. If you dink straight in front of you, especially high to the forehand, you can be attacked more easily. Keep in mind that the dink isn’t just a defensive shot. Aiming at the feet, dinking wide, or dinking down the middle allow you to put pressure on the other team. 

As you learn to keep the ball low with finesse shots like the third shot drop, you force your opponents to hit up on the ball and the dink becomes a bigger part of the game. You know you’re improving when your rallies last longer and you play a variety of shots throughout the point. This makes pickleball more interesting and fun. Good dinking demands proper technique, as well as strategy and patience, qualities within the reach of every player, no matter their age or physical prowess. 

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