The Three Ds of pickleball – Dink Drop Drive

March 28, 2024

Wayne Kerr

Dinking – The easiest shot in pickleball is the dink shot. Maybe, but there is a lot more to dinking than you might think.

Grab a partner and a ball, let’s hit some dinks.

The mechanics of dinking.

  1. Start with a continental grip (neutral shake hands grip), allowing for both forehand and backhand dinks without grip adjustments.
  2. Move the entire arm from the shoulder, keeping the wrist still while striking the ball.
  3. Face the net at all times when dinking. Take as many balls as possible without leaning sideways or fully extending your arm. In other words, move your feet rather than reaching for balls (using a shuffle step or lunge step).
  4. Set your feet, then stroke the ball.
  5. The paddle face should be more horizontal rather than vertical at impact.

What is a good dink?

  1. The ball goes over the net, into the kitchen and your opponent can’t attack it.
  2. The ball bounces before your opponent can hit it. Why?
    • It gives you time to reset your ready position.
    • A ball taken out of the air (volleyed) is easier to redirect to a gap or directly into your partner.
    • A ball that bounces can cause mishits (bad bounce or bounces lower or higher than expected).
  3. A well placed dink can cause an error or pop up from your opponent.
    • Move the ball around, at the very least aim at one of your opponent’s feet and then the other.
    • Making your opponent move, even a little, can cause errors and may open up the court.
    • As you get better, adding spin can cause difficulties for your opponent.
  4. Drills
    • Dink balls straight ahead, directing them at one of your practice partner’s feet then the other, careful to make the ball bounce each time.
    • Dink balls crosscourt practicing good movement to wide balls and quickly recover back to the ready position.

Drop Shot – What’s the hardest shot in pickleball? Most will answer ‘The Third Shot Drop’. It’s actually pretty easy. Hitting the perfect drop shot can be difficult. A lot of errors are the result of trying to be perfect. Don’t try to be perfect. Pickleball isn’t meant for perfection. Getting more balls in play is fun and rewarding!

  1. What is the 3rd Shot Drop?
    • It is basically a dink from a longer distance away from the net.
    • The goal is the same as a dink. Get the ball to bounce into the kitchen without being attacked.
    • The technique is also very similar to the dink. However, we now add some leg action to go with the arm and shoulder motion.
    • Use the same technique as your most reliable dink. If for example, you like to slice the ball when dinking do the same with the drop.
    • Drill – dink a couple, move back one step, dink a couple more, move back a step and drop a couple more, etc. until you are behind the baseline. Switch with your partner.
  2. What is the purpose of the 3rd Shot Drop?
    • When executed, it is a slow shot which will allow us to get up to the kitchen line.
    • If it doesn’t work the first time, try again. The worst shot is one that falls short into the net.
    • If it isn’t a great drop shot, maybe you can still move in one or two steps.
  3. Drill – one person up, one back. The back court player tries to move up to the net while the net player tries to keep them back (no attack balls).

Drive – This is usually one of the first shots we can do when we start playing. Especially the forehand drive. Ironically, it is often poorly executed at most levels of play.

Drives are usually struck anywhere from behind the baseline, to the midcourt.

What is the purpose or point of driving the ball? Ultimately to cause an error by your opponent. A good drive might set you or your partner up for an attack ball. Another great reason to hit a drive is to get an easier ball to drop into the kitchen.

The drive is used as a return of serve. In this case, getting the ball deep is more important than hitting it hard.

  1. There are three types of drives, flat, slice or topspin. All can be effective.
  2. There are lots of techniques for hitting the drive. Being comfortable is important. The biggest cause of errors that I see on the court is reaching for balls and letting the ball get behind the optimal striking position. Hit the ball while it is in front of your body.
  3. Move to the ball, don’t let it come to you.
  4. Whenever possible, strike the ball at the highest point of its bounce.

Drill – Feed three balls one at a time to the players FH, if possible making their partner move to the ball (gently at first). The feeder should watch their partner and comment on late movement, letting the ball drop before striking it and/or not making contact with the ball ahead of the body.

Do the same with back hands.

Practicing fundamentals will help you improve and have more fun during games.

Remember pickleball is the most fun you can have on a court.

Party on, my pickleball friends!