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Pickleball Tips: Dinks
Your chances of winning on the pickleball court go up if you can get to the Non-Volley Zone line. We keep saying this because it is important. Get to that line!
But, once you get there, what do you do?
You have options, which is what makes the sport of pickleball a game of strategy. Generally speaking, you want to keep the pickleball low and unattackable. Then, once your opponents make a mistake and give you an attackable shot, you go on the offensive.
To keep the pickleball low and unattackable, you will likely want to hit a dink. A dink is a controlled shot in the sport of pickleball, where you hit the pickleball into the Non-Volley Zone on your opponents’ side of the court. All four players in doubles pickleball will generally be at the Non-Volley Zone line when you are hitting a dink.
A dink can be both an offensive shot (where you put pressure on your opponents to make a mistake or pop up the pickleball for an easy put away shot) or a defensive shot (where you are trying to relieve pressure from your opponents’ strong shot and neutralize the rally). In either scenario, again, the goal of the dink is to hit a shot that is low and unattackable, so that your opponents cannot hit down on the pickleball toward your feet, but rather must let the pickleball bounce or have to hit up on the pickleball to get the pickleball back to your side of the pickleball net.
Now, let’s breakdown some keys to hitting the perfect pickleball dink:
1. Prepare Your Body and Paddle – To prepare your body:
a. Compress into an athletic stance, with your knees bent and your feet about shoulder width apart;
b. Keep your pickleball paddle out front of your body and with a relatively loose paddle grip; and
c. Be sure to take short, compact backswings with your dink.
2. Watch the Pickleball – This one goes without saying, but, too often, players mishit a pickleball simply because they do not watch the pickleball all the way to their paddle. Watch the pickleball!
3. Move Your Feet – It is important to move your feet on the pickleball court. This also holds true when dinking at the Kitchen Line.
To note, when dinking, try to keep your body parallel to the Kitchen Line. If you need to reach for a dink, take a lateral step with your foot closest to the pickleball, rather than a crossover step. A crossover step will take you out of your important ready position, so that you will not be prepared for the next shot.
4. Hold the Line – Try to keep your feet at the Non-Volley Zone Line. If you step back, you will:
a. Expose your feet, giving your opponents an easy target to apply pressure;
b. Give your opponents more court space to place dinks and more angles to hit better dinks; and
c. Make your dinks more difficult because you will be farther from the pickleball net.
So, try to keep your feet at the Kitchen Line.
5. Protect Your Feet – Try not to let the pickleball travel toward your feet when dinking. Dinks that travel near your feet are difficult to react to and hit an unattackable shot off of. So, protect your feet by taking the ball out of the air when it is comfortable. But, at the same time, do not overextend yourself, which will result in unforced errors and less aggressive dinks.
6. Gently Lift Through the Pickleball – Once you strike the pickleball for a dink, gently lift up and through the pickleball. The lift comes from your shoulder, rather than from your wrist or elbow (in other words, think of this like a pendulum swing from your shoulder). Again, this should be a controlled motion with a firm wrist, rather than a sharp jerk with any wrist snap.
7. Respect the Net – The height of the apex of the dink is important. Give yourself some margin of error over the top of the pickleball net. While it is important to keep your dinks low and unattackable, if you hit the pickleball too low, you will hit your dink straight into the net and take yourself out of the point.
8. Finish Your Shot, Stay Low Through Contact & Get Ready for the Next One – Don’t forget to finish your dink. Follow through the pickleball, but stay low and compressed, which will help you hit more consistent dinks. Also, after you finish your dink, quickly revert back to your ready position. You need to be ready for the next shot, whether it is another dink, a surprise fastball, or a lob.
These basic steps and fundamentals are the foundation of any great dinker on the pickleball court. Once you master the foundation, you can amp up your dinks and work on being more aggressive by slowly adding in speed, spin, placement, and angles, as well as improve your dinking strategy.
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