We’ve enlisted the help of Team ONIX professional pickleball player Callie Jo Smith to share some pickleball strategy tips and pickleball drills. Callie is a professional athlete and travels around the country, both competing in pickleball tournaments and hosting clinics and teaching new players the game of pickleball. She is an 11-time PPA Tour champion. Read her pickleball tips and pickleball drills below:
Placement for a Third Shot Drop in Pickleball:
A lot of people ask me what the trajectory should be, or where they should aim when they’re hitting their third shot drop or hitting a drop. For me, personally, I like to try to hit it or make sure that the ball is landing almost on top of the tape. I want the ball to land on top of the tape when I hit it. You go up kind of like a rainbow when you hit it. Up and then down.
Three Tips to Improve Your Pickleball Resets:
Here are three important tips for a reset ball. Wide and down, your weight is forward so you’re on the balls of your feet so it’s like my heels are almost off the ground, and I’m catching the ball out in front of me. The ball is usually coming low, so I’m making sure my paddle face is open so my ball will then lift up over the net. So wide, down, forward, open face, leaning forward.
How to Identify Types of Spin in Pickleball:
Here are some of the ways to identify the spin that’s coming your way. The first one is watching their paddle. If their paddle is underneath the ball, they are probably going to hit either a speedup or a top spin shot. If their paddle faces open or up at an angle, it’s going to be more of a sliced spin or slice coming at you: dinks, returns, drops, all of the above. Watch the person’s paddle face.
Technique for a Backhand Dink (Out of the Air):
Number one, make sure your legs are wide. You’re almost reaching. Your butt’s going to be out so you have that counterbalance, and I’m going to hit that ball out in front of me. If I have too much of an open face, the ball will die into the net. Maybe just a little bit of an angle or under the ball and I’m pushing with my shoulder out to my target.
Does Form Matter in Pickleball?
YES, YES IT DOES! Good technique and form is super important in pickleball! Let’s talk about why. BETTER AIM: When you have proper form, your shots will go where you want them to go. Knowing where you need your shots to go is one thing, but actually being able to execute that shot is a completely different story. Most players underestimate the importance of form in being able to successfully complete a shot. PROACTIVE SHOT PREP: Having good form will help you recover faster from the first shot and better prepare you for the follow-up shot because you will be on balance. Seems pretty simple. But sometimes the simple reminders are the best reminders!
Two Tips for Staying Concentrated in Your Pickleball Match:
Here are two tips for ways that I stay concentrated on the shots I’m hitting and how I get rid of distractions. Number one, I really watch the ball. It’s not just watching the ball, it’s like laser focus on the ball where you watch it hit the center of the paddle or the sweet spot. The second thing is you’re focusing on your strategy, or your game plan. So if it’s dinking cross court or moving the ball around both sides or both corners waiting for a high ball. Whatever your strategy is, you’re focused on that and watching the ball.
What's a Split Step in Pickleball?
A split step is a common term used for tennis where you are just stopping or getting your legs wide into an athletic position. It’s almost like a jump step that gets your legs wide and down. So it’s an athletic position, but you’re stopping your momentum. You use this in pickleball. It may not be as pronounced as in tennis, but it is still a stop where you’re wide in an athletic position. You use this most when you’re going in the transition zone from the base line to the kitchen or non-volley zone, and you’re moving towards the kitchen. For example, I’m on the base line, I hit my third shot drop, I’m going to come in and do a small split or stop as soon as my opponent hits the ball. That way I can move and react to whatever direction they have now hit the ball and adjust to that spot.
How do you adjust your shots for the wind while playing pickleball?
If the wind is against you, or it’s coming at you, you are going to hit harder through the ball so you have to push a little more on drops, dinks, and drives so that everything’s a little higher over the net and you’re going to swing through faster. That is the adjustment you make if you’re against the wind. If you’re with the wind, it’s carrying the ball over the net. You’re going to hit a little softer and let the wind carry so everything’s more like you’re kissing the ball. Super soft, lots of softer shots.
How to prep for a pickleball tournament?
One thing you can do for tournament prep is to play with your partner. So, prep with your partner, especially if they live close by or they come in to practice with you. Practice communicating, what you’re going to do on the court, your game plan strategy, which side of the court you’re going to start on, where you’re most comfortable, etc. Those are great questions and great things to communicate with your partner before a tournament.
A common mistake I see that people do when they’re preparing for tournaments is they only practice what they’re good at, their strengths. That’s great and I want you to practice what you’re good at. However, you want to practice what you’re bad at as well, or what you don’t feel comfortable in. That is because in a tournament, those are the things that will be exposed the most and you’ll get more pressure on the shots that you don’t feel as comfortable with. So really practice and purposefully drill the shots that you’re not good at in addition to those that you’re strong at.
Tips for Hiding a Backhand Speedup in Pickleball
First thing you want to do when you’re hiding a backhand speedup is to disguise what kind of shot you’re hitting. So you want the dink and the speedup to both look the same. So how I’m going to do that is I’m going to make sure that I have a slight hold before I hit it. I’ll hit a few dinks and I’ll do the same shot and hit the same shot but then speed up the acceleration and then hit a speed up versus a dink. I’ll do a few dinks first. See how I hold. Then I have the speedup.
What is a Shake and Bake in Pickleball?
I’m going to give you some tips on a shake and bake or poach. First, your partner has to be able to drive the ball. Then, the off person, you’re obviously not driving the ball, can move forward and try to poach or volley the next shot coming off your opponent’s paddle. So, let’s say the return is hit to my partner. My partner drives the ball, either line or through the middle, wherever our designated target is. As the off person, I am moving forward. I’m going to move in and look for a high ball that is given to me by my opponent from my partner’s drive. I’m going to move in with a little bit of a split step and then move to either here for the forehand volley or here if they hit towards my backhand side.
How to Improve your Slice Dinks in Pickleball
Are you struggling to hit a consistent slice dink? Or is it popping up too high? Here are a few tips to help with that! If this post was helpful leave a comment below or share it with a friend! Angle your paddle at a 45 degree angle. DO NOT open your paddle, if you do this, the ball will go into the net. Think of a crescent moon as you’re hitting the ball. The motion should feel smooth. PRO TIP: Keep your arm straight and use you shoulder to make the moon shape. This will give you more control in your shot, and that consistency you’re looking for!
Are you Making these Common Mistakes in Pickleball?
Here are some common mistakes I see when people try to hit a backhand or forehand flick out of the air. The first one is you’re trying to go from too low. You’re trying to flip when the ball is too low. The second one is you’re trying to do it when you’re reaching too far out. We want to catch it about medium pace right when the ball is about level or just below the net, nothing lower.
Technique for an Overhead Shot in Pickleball
First, you’re going to obviously be behind the kitchen line. You’re going to be in ready position, step back, turn sideways, scratch your back with your paddle, left arm up to watch the ball and protect your eyes from the sun, make sure there is space, and the ball is in front of you, go from six o’clock down your back to twelve o’clock in the air, and end on your opposite side.
When to Hit an ATP:
A lot of people struggle with this because they are unsure of how or when to do it. First, in order to hit an ATP, you have to make sure the ball comes out wide enough past the post of the net. If it’s not wide enough, you can’t get around the post to get to the court. It has to come out at least this wide so that you have the angle that you can flip down the line and into the court.
How to dink better:
A common mistake that I see a lot of people do is they flick their wrists on dinks instead of pushing through with their shoulders to their target. For example, if I’m dinking and I flick my wrist up, I lose all control while the paddle goes straight up and doesn’t go anywhere. If I keep my paddle down facing my target and push out with my shoulder like I’m bowling, I keep control and it goes straight to my target.
Resetting the Ball During a Hand Battle
A lot of people ask how you reset a ball off of a hand battle. You kind of reset it or neutralize the point. Here’s what you do: In a hand battle when someone goes hard, I’m going to bring my paddle in closer to my body. It is almost like in baseball when you catch the ball in your mitt, you bring it in closer to your body after you catch it. You do the same thing with your paddle here and bring it closer to your body. I like to bring my elbow up. Most of the time, people tend to block with their backhand or reset with their backhand. So, it’s going to be a little bit of an open space and there’s no push. You want to bring it in and absorb the pace.
Want More Power Behind Your Shot?
A common mistake I see people make to try to generate more power is they take a big back swing. This is not the way to get more power. You get more power by taking shorter back swings and longer follow-throughs. What I see is people taking big back swings, especially on forehands. Number one, you hit it late or behind you and then you have to do this to try to get the power instead of what we’re going for, which is out in front contact point while using your body to move forward.
When is the Best Time to Lob?
I’m going to teach you when the best time to lob is during a dink rally. If I take a few out of the air and then lob the next one out of the air, my opponents won’t know if I’m lobbing or dinking, and it looks the same. The lob is going to be a little bit higher. The starting point is the same as a dink, but then I lift high over the other person’s head, or my opponent’s head.
Technique for Two-Handed Backhand Drive
Here’s how you hit a two-handed backhand drive. Number one, you’re going to start with your ready position out in front with right hand on bottom and left hand on top. If your paddle’s smaller, you can overlap your paddle with your left hand if you want. From here, I call it “break your wrist.” You’re just going to have your contact point in front of you, turn sideways, step with your right foot forward, contact point in front, and go all the way out to your target thinking low to high.
When to Attack the Ball Out of the Air?
If I stand on the kitchen line and go heel-to-toe, taking two steps into the kitchen, any ball that is here can be taken out of the air. Number one, if it’s low then I don’t want to take that out of the air. If it’s a little bit higher, that’s a reachable ball and can be attacked. Anything above the level of the net is attackable. Anything that’s a little below the net is when I have to be a little more careful. If I can reach it, I can speed it up. I don’t want to be reaching out here where I can’t spin the ball or hit harder.
Why you Should Keep your Paddle up in the Kitchen?
Instead of paddles down at the kitchen, try paddles up. The reason why you want your paddle up when you’re up at the kitchen line is because if my paddle’s down and someone attacks me up here at shoulder height, I have nothing to block the ball. If my paddle is up, it’s a quick block, quick protection of my face, I have a lot more movement, and I can be faster with my hands.
Tips to Avoid Giving Your Opponent the High Spot
A common mistake that I see a lot of my students do is they like to to hit the ball behind them instead of moving their feet to hit the ball in front of them. The problem with this is that as soon as the ball is hit behind you, you have to lift with your paddle, which causes the ball to lift higher and gives your opponent a high shot. We want to try to avoid this by moving your feet so that the paddle stays in front of you and the ball stays in front of you. You have better control, and it helps you better keep the ball down low to your opponents.
How to Defend an ATP
When someone hits an ATP, or around-the-post shot, they’re usually coming at you from a cross court angle. So, you don’t want to be standing over here. You want to be standing closer to the line because that’s the best angle that they are going to have. You’re going to try to protect the line to keep that angle, and it’s just like a mid-court reset. You’re going to open your paddle face because they are hitting the ball low at you. It’s going to be an open paddle and that’s how you defend an ATP.
How Tightly are you Gripping Your Pickleball Paddle?
So, a lot of times I see people holding their paddle very tightly, especially on dinks. This is an issue because it’s going to push the ball higher over the net, which gives your opponent a high ball. We don’t want to give your opponent a high ball. So, you’re going to relax the grip pressure on your paddle. I’d say it’s about a 3 or 4 out of 10. 1 being the least amount of pressure and 10 being the death grip. I would say a 3 or 4. Loosening that grip pressure will keep the ball down.
Technique for a One-Handed Backhand Drive
Here’s how you hit a one-handed backhand drive. You start with your ready position with your right hand on the bottom. I usually have a two-handed backhand, but for one, you can obviously be here with one hand. You’re going to go from your ready position to your contact point out in front. Contact point is a little more out in front than a two-handed backhand would be. You’re going to keep it in close to your hips, almost like you’re drawing a sword out from your hip or from your scabbard here. From here, right foot step forward, turn sideways, shoulder turned, contact point out in front, extend all the way out, long follow-through, low to high.
Create a Game Plan for Your Pickleball Match
We’re going to talk about creating a game plan. We’re going to assume that you do not know the opponents you’re playing. At that point, when you start the game, you should know your game plan within the first 3 or 4 points. You’ll figure out either a weakness or a shot. You’ll kind of test either of your opponents with either a speedup or dinking to see what they’re good and bad at, and then you’re obviously going to focus on the weakness. That becomes your game plan, and you will stick with it until it doesn’t work.
Technique for a One-Handed Backhand Volley
Start with your ready position out in front as well as your contact point out in front. If it’s high, you’re going to go high to high or high to low. If you want it deeper, you’re going to have a little more top spin where you’re underneath the ball. Otherwise, it’s high to high and push out.
What is Stacking in Pickleball?
Stacking is where you switch places on the court with your partner. There are three reasons why teams usually stack and why I stack. Number one, to put the stronger player on the left. I usually put the stronger forehand in the middle. Number two, to mix things up like if you get stuck in a match or get stuck trying to get points, you can mix it up a little bit. Number three, it usually has to deal with the comfort level of you and your partner. Sometimes it’s easier to put the person on the specific side that makes them more comfortable.
Here's an example of stacking on the serve. I’m the server. We’re obviously on the same side. As soon as I serve it, I will shift over to the left side of the stronger side to put my forehand in the middle. Here’s an example of stacking on a return: Once I’ve returned it, I will then move up. I’ll move cross court over to this left side. My partner shifts over and covers the right. This puts my stronger forehand in the middle. Another way you can stack up the return is I will be the returner. My partner’s up more towards the kitchen line. I will return it and move cross court to cover the left side, my partner will just shift over, and now they’re on the right.
How to Beat a Banger?
Let’s talk about how to beat a “banger,” aka someone who relentlessly speeds balls up at you and tries to hit everything hard at you. The first way is to hit a punch volley, or counter volley, back. The second way is to hit a block, or a block volley, where you bring your paddle in towards your body and block the ball or absorb the pace of the ball coming at you.
Three Tips to Add More Power to your Serve
Here are three tips to add more power to your serve. Number one, take a step back from the line so that you can take a big step forward. Number two, make sure you’re turned sideways so that you can get that hip rotation and mobility into the ball. Number three, make sure you’re accelerating your follow-through.
Tip to Get More Top Spin on Your Dinks
Here are some tips for how to get some more top spin on your dink. Number one, make sure your paddle is getting underneath the ball. You want to be below the ball with the paddle face open just a little bit, and you’re lifting the ball low to high. I’m not using my wrist because it is more of a push. I’m keeping the ball on my paddle for as long as possible and lifting low to high. That will give you natural top spin. My paddle is getting underneath the ball and pushing low to high.
Improve Your Mental Game
People don’t talk a lot about how important the mental game is in pickle ball, so here’s just a small mental tweak that you can do during practice or during a tournament. Rather than saying “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I am messing up so bad,” try saying “Ok I’m missing the net. I just need to go a little bit higher. I will go higher on the next one. No problem.”
Slice Dink vs. Top Spin Dink
Today we are going to talk about two different types of dinks. The first dink we are going to talk about is the slice dink. You’re going to have a 45-degree angle with your paddle, and the motion is going to look like a crescent moon. You’re going to come around the ball like a crescent moon shape, but notice my paddle is not opening. If I open it, the ball is going to go into the net. I want to keep the 45-degree angle and just use my shoulder to make that shape as I come through the ball. The second kind of dink we are going to talk about is the top spin dink.
You’re going to do this by getting your paddle under the ball, so watch my paddle. I drop below the ball with my paddles in front of me and my elbows in front of my belly button. I am going to go low to high to get that top spin motion with the ball. It is low to high. I’m not flipping my wrist. I’m just again pushing my shoulder out to my target. Low to high to my target.
Tips for Hitting a Stronger Drive
I got a question from someone on how they can hit a stronger drive, forehand or backhand, from the baseline if you do not have a tennis background. You’re going to first start and make sure that you’re not taking a big back swing. Everything is short and compact so it’s elbows in close but not touching in front of my body and my contact point is going to be in front as well. Once you have that down, short turn, no big back swing, stay short and compact, take a big step forward into the ball and have a long follow through. The more you accelerate, the faster the ball will go.
Offensive vs. Defensive Dinking
I’m going to talk about the difference between an offensive dink and a defensive dink. I use a defensive shot when my opponent is pushing me back or pushing me around. I will aim high and short across the net to give me a little more time to recover. This is also called a short hop. If I want to be more offensive, I will take the ball and push my partner back, almost like I’m going at their ankles and try to move them around, so they give me a short hop or a defensive dink.
Pickleball Serving Basics
When you’re serving, you want to hit the center of the paddle. I want to make sure my contact point is out in front. Out in front, my elbow is in close but away from my body and my paddle is down so I’m getting a top spin on the ball lifting that ball low to high. So the contact point is in front, paddle below my waist and the contact point is in the middle with the ball, lifting low to high.
Technique for a Better Serve
You’re going to break your wrist to your contact point, make sure your paddle tip is below your wrist and below your waist, hit the center of the paddle on contact, and lift low to high on the serve.
People ask me, “where should I serve the ball?” Well, here are two places you can serve it. The first place you can hit it is right up the tee or down the line to the person’s backhand. The second place you can hit it is, if you’re on the other side, to the other person’s backhand. You’re going to hit deep to the corner.
Doubles Strategy: Pinching a Player
Let’s talk through some doubles strategies. Let’s talk about pinching a player. Pinching a player is when you and your partner are both targeting a specific opponent. For example, if I had someone on the even side, or the right side, that is the person we want to target who we have decided as a team to target. We’re putting all the pressure on them meaning we are giving them all the balls. You don’t want to hit right to them, you still want to move them around, but all the pressure is going on them as you’re forcing them to hit 100% of the balls.
Another doubles strategy or play that allows you to win points is to move the ball around going cross court. You’re going to hit wide cross court dinks to both sides. This moves the partnership away from each other and opens up the middle. Once they hit a higher dink or something you can attack, then you can attack through the middle.
Let’s talk about a play that doubles players use to win a point. This doubles play is called the shake and bake. This is where if we are serving, the returner returns the ball. Let’s say they return it to my partner, my partner is then going to drive the ball to a previously decided target by the two of us. A good target would be through the middle or to the person that returned the ball. They will drive it, and the off person that’s not getting that third is going to move forward, crash from the net, split, and hit the next volley coming back.
I was asked where the best spot is to hit a drop. I think the best spot to hit a drop is cross court. You have more space and more court to hit that third shot drop and the backhand side. I think a lot of people struggle hitting a backhand out of the air. So, you can hit a third shot to that backhand cross court. Any ball where your opponents have to lift is a great drop. Even if they are taking it out of the air, if they are having to lift then that is good for you because then you are hitting down on the ball. You just don’t want the ball high enough so they can attack or hit down.
Technique for a Backhand Slice Dink
First, you’re going to make sure you shake hands with your paddle. Your paddle is going to be up at an angle towards your body, a 45-degree angle. It’s almost like you can see just a little bit of the paddle face. It’s not a downward motion, but it is a half-moon shot, or like a crescent moon. You’re going around the ball and I’m not opening my paddle as I come through. I’m keeping that paddle at 45-degrees and it’s my shoulder moving. It’s almost like I’m drawing that crescent moon with my paddle. So, it’s around the ball, but my paddle face stays the same. It’s that shoulder movement.
Are you Afraid to Step into the Kitchen?
Have you ever caught yourself being afraid to step into the kitchen? I have, so here’s a little trick to show you. You’re going to hit every ball in the kitchen. Get used to being in the kitchen. You’re going to hit volleys out of the kitchen. You’re going to any dinks out of the kitchen by being in the kitchen. I want you to be comfortable here. That way, you don’t fear the kitchen any longer and you’re used to stepping forward on any dinks instead of leaning and reaching out here to get dinks.
When to Adapt During a Pickleball Match:
Today we’re going to talk about when to adjust your game plan. So, you’ve already created a game plan at this point and now it’s when do I need to change it. The answer is you change it when the game plan is no longer working. That doesn’t mean it’s 3-0 in the first set. That means it’s more like 6-0, 7-0, 8-0 in the first set. At that point, you know your game plan is not working and something needs to change.
Tip for Better Lobbing
Here are a few things to remember when you are hitting a lob. When you’re lobbing, keep in mind that cross court is great because you have a longer distance between you and the line back there. You have more room to hit it too. It is also over your opponent’s backhand side, whereas if I were to go down the line then that would be my opponent’s forehand. I’m trying to avoid the forehand and go back where there’s more space and to my opponent’s backhand.
Are your Dinks Going too High?
There are three main reasons why your dink is going too high. Number one, you’re using too much wrist and flipping your wrist up. Number two, you’re taking a step back and catching the ball late or behind you. This causes the ball to go too high. Number 3, you might be holding your paddle too tight.
Pro Tip: Instead of a Walk Around Erne, Try this Instead
Instead of doing a walk around Erne, try a jumping Erne. If I do a walk around Erne, it takes a little more time. I’ll still get there, and it still works. If I do a jumping Erne, it disguises it more, they don’t see it coming, and I get there faster.
Pro Tip: Pickleball Drills with a Purpose
One of the biggest mistakes that I come out and see is people, they’re drilling. First, I love that you’re drilling, but you need to drill with a purpose. A lot of times I just see people mindlessly drilling and just hitting the ball back and forth. You need to drill with a purpose so you’re actually getting better.
Drill to Keep your Drops Down
Here’s a simple drill to keep your drops down. First, you’re going to put your paddle aside, keep the ball in your hand and you’re going to try to get the ball to land almost on top of the tape or just inside the kitchen. You’ll start here, big step forward, and try to get it to land on top of the tape. You’ll notice that as I am trying to hit the top of the tape, my arm is extending further out and towards my target. There’s no wrist flip, it’s all the way out kind of like you’re bowling. Once you get that down, add a paddle to your hand. Same motion, same stroke, contact point in front, all the way out to your target trying to land that ball on the top of the tape.
Technique for a Forehand Ground Stroke
Here’s the technique for a forehand ground stroke. You have your ready position, elbow away from your body and in close to your body, contact point out in front, turn sideways with a small back swing, step forward with my opposite foot, contact point out in front and extending all the way out to my target as far as I can go before I come up and around.
Three-Part Beginner Dink Drill
I’m going to teach you a 3-part beginner dink drill. First, you’re going to start with the pickleball in your hand with your partner up close to the net. This is going to teach you a dink, and it is also going to teach you hand-eye coordination and movement for a dink. I’m going to toss underhand to my partner. They’re going to toss it back as I step forward into the kitchen. My arm is extending out towards their hand in the underhand position. Now, you’re going to add a paddle into your hand and you’re going to have that same underhand feel as you did with the ball. Our partner’s going to drop it to you and you’re going to do the same thing, low to high, trying to get it right into your partner’s hand. That same step forward, opposite step forward, low to high. Now you’re going to have two paddles, one for you and one for your partner, and we’re going to control dink back to each other with one ball. Using that same motion, low to high, we are trying to keep it right to each other.
Court Coverage: Who Owns What?
Let’s talk about court coverage and who has ownership of hitting that middle ball. First, let’s break it down a little bit. We’re going to divide the court into thirds. Depending on where I dink that ball, those are the thirds that my partner and I will cover. If I hit my shot cross court to the backhand corner, my partner is going to shift over and cover the third closest to him and I’m going to shift over and cover the center third. The other third is still my responsibility, but I am covering the easiest third first or the third that is closest to me and to the ball. If I hit the ball in the middle, we’re both going to shift and cover the center third. If I hit to the forehand corner, I’m going to shift and cover this third while my partner now covers the center.
Level up your Pickleball Warm Up
Something I see when people go to warm up is they are mindlessly dinking, and that is not how you warm up. It kills me every time I see it. So, I’m going to give you a few tips on how to actually warm up. You want to spend 10 to 15 minutes warming up and hitting all different shots, not just dinking. I would say 2 to 3 minutes dinking down the line and 2 to 3 minutes on forehand and backhand cross court dinking. Then, move into mid court reset from each spot on the court working your way to the baseline. Once you hit the baseline, you’re going to do some drives and drops from both sides, some serves and returns, quick volleys and overheads, and then you can play a game only if your whole body is feeling warm and you have a light sweat going. If not, then you have no completed warm up that is going to help you mentally, physically, and get you ready to play.
Tip for a Better Top Spin Drop
My tip for you on getting more of a top spin drop is similar to the top spin dink. You want to make sure your paddle is underneath the ball and you’re lifting the ball low to high with your paddle. My paddle’s going to get underneath the ball and I’m lifting low to high because I’m further back on the court. I need to make sure I’m lifting a little bit higher, so I have a little bit longer of a follow through to make sure that I get over the net.
Tip for Returning the Ball in Doubles
I was asked where to return the ball in doubles. I would say in general; it would be too either of your opponents’ backhands, deep to either of the backhand side. This is a little bit of a loaded question though because it depends on who you’re playing. So, keep in mind sometimes it is better to hit to the weaker players and sometimes it’s even better to hit to the stronger players because it keeps them back and away from being able to poach. Again, it depends on who you’re playing but in general, both backhands.
How to Handle a Slice Return
Let’s spend a little time on how to handle a slice return. If I get a slice return, it gives my opponent’s a little more time to come forward, but it also keeps the ball low. What I have to do is make sure I’m lifting the ball higher over the net because that ball is being kept low. The biggest thing is making sure it is higher over the net especially if I’m driving. Drive goes higher than I normally would hit it and drop. I’m going to hit to try to aim higher, 3 to 4 inches higher than normal.
Tip to Make Drilling More Fun
One of the biggest complaints I hear people say is how much they hate drilling. Well, here’s a way to make drilling more fun. So, we’re going to turn this drilling into a little more of a game style play. We’re going to try to win by dinking. So, if we’re working on dinking as a drill, we’re going to try to win the point. We’re going to make some points out of it and make it a little more fun so it’s more competitive.
Tip to Hide a Speed Up During a Dink Battle
Here’s how to hide a speedup off of your dink. The biggest key to hiding a speedup off of your dink is making sure everything still looks the same so that it disguises the speedup. For example, I’m going to hold just for a split second on all of my dinks so that when I hold to speed up, it still looks like I’m dinking. Instead of dinking back to my opponent, I’m going to flip the ball up a little faster to the person’s right shoulder.
Technique for a Two-Handed Backhand
Now we’re going to go over a little bit of technique in how to hit a two-handed backhand. So, you’re going to have, in your ready position, your right hand on bottom and left hand on top. If your right hand is dominant, it will be on the bottom. The opposite is true if you’re a lefty. You’re going to turn your left wrist, and your right-hand switches just a tiny bit so that your knuckles are in line with your paddle on the outside edge. Then, you’re going to turn with your elbow close to your body, step with your opposite foot, contact point is out in front, and you’re going to lift low to high keeping the ball on your paddle as long as possible. Lift low to high until you end on the opposite side.
Technique for a One-Handed Backhand Ground Stroke
Here’s a little tip on technique for a one-handed backhand ground stroke. You start in your ready position out in front. You’re going to break your wrist out in front, which is basically just turning your wrist. You’re going to have it in close to your hip as you turn sideways, kind of like you’re drawing a sword out from its scabbard. You turn, step with the opposite foot, contact point the ball out in front, and extend all the way out towards your target as you lift low to high.
Defending a Lob
Good defense to a lob is to have a great overhead. If you can move and really work on improving your overhead, people are going to stop lobbing you.
The first line of defense to hitting a lob or to defending a lob is hit an overhead. If your partner doesn’t hit the overhead or your partner misses or can’t move back for some reason, you are in charge of running around and getting that ball. So, you’re going to run around, turn sideways, and run sideways as you’re watching the ball behind your partner and either drop, drive, or lob it back. Your partner will then switch sides and this is your position.
How to Warm Up for a Tournament with No Open Courts
One of the questions I recently received was: “How do I warm up for a pickleball tournament because there aren’t any courts open or for me to warm up on?” So, here’s the big thing. We will come an hour and a half or an hour early, and we’ll court hop. As soon as someone gets done playing, we’ll run onto the court and try to get a warmup. Sometimes we only have 3-5 minutes per court and then we have to get off and find another one. That’s a great way to warm up. You can jog, do some dynamic stretching, or anything to get your body moving. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on a pickleball court.
Common Mistake With Court Coverage
One of the mistakes I see players make on the court is they don’t cover the pickleball court with each other. I’ll see if someone gets pulled out wide. For example, if I get pulled out wide to the backhand side and I’m moving or shifting over here, my partner needs to close that gap or that hole that’s been created by shifting over with me. So, if we put our paddles out, a lot of you have heard that we should be able to close that gap with our paddles. That’s essentially how you want it, unless you are trying to bait them to hit middle, so then my partner will stand over here. As I move, my partner is still in charge of covering that middle ball that I hit back, right? But, he’s baiting them to hit middle. As soon as they go to hit it, he’ll slide over and cover that spot so that the hole is still covered.
Why is it Important to Have a Neutral Ready Position?
Another common mistake that I see people do is that when someone’s attacking them, they’re always ready for a backhand. I don’t love this, in particular, because it leaves this whole right side open to be attacked. If I try to hit that as they attack me here, it’s called the “chicken wing,” and it’s just not the greatest shot. It’ll usually lift balls in the air, allowing my opponent to attack again. If you can, try to have more of a neutral ready position so that you can hit a forehand or a counterattack with your forehand rather than trying to block with your backhand.
Tips to Keep Your Dinks Down
If you have trouble keeping your dinks low and they’re popping up high, loosen the grip pressure you have on your paddle. Number two, make sure you’re not taking big back swings so that everything’s going to be in front. It’s very short and compact, and it’s going to be a shoulder push rather than a wrist push. So, my paddle is going to come back towards my body, stay back towards my body, and it’s my shoulder that’s going to extend so that it’s like a leaver rather than a lift.
Tips to Help With Aiming Your Overhead Shots
Okay, so a lot of people have asked me questions on overheads, particularly how to aim their overheads. First, if I wanted to go cross court, I want to make sure that my paddle face at contact is going cross court. So, let’s say we have a pole over here, my paddle as I hit the ball is going to end going towards that pole, or that cross court shot. If I want to go out the other direction, I’m going to aim for the outside post of the net. So as I come forward on my shot, it’s like I’m pretending to hit the ball right at the outside post. That will get me that opposite angle. If I wanted to go straight on, I would go from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock. If I’m going across, I’m going from 6 o’clock to about 10 o’clock.
Stop Setting Up Your Opponents for ATPs
If you have trouble hitting the ball out too far wide and giving your opponents too many opportunities to do an ATP on you, then here’s something you can do. You can shorten the court, so I’m going to bring in about a foot or two inside that sideline. Now this becomes my sideline and I’ll practice hitting cross court dinks in this area rather than getting it too far wide to give the opponents the opportunity to go around the post.
Hand-Eye Coordination Drill Pt. 2
Here’s another hand-eye coordination drill that you can do with your partner. You have two balls, we’re each going to have a ball. Here we’ve got a pickleball. So, we’ll have a pickleball in each hand and you can throw it wherever you want on this half. You’ve got to catch it, throw it back, and you’re just going to keep going back and forth with your partner.
Dink Placement Against a Poacher
One of the questions I was asked was “Where am I supposed to dink the ball, especially in mix doubles, when someone is poaching in the middle?” I’ve set up this little drill you can do. You don’t have to necessarily use these, you can use chalk, you can use tape. If you have lines, you can have the cross court angled just out of reach from the center guy. So, whoever you’re playing with, have them reach as far as they can and place the line just out of their reach here and one step over just out of their reach here. That’s why I have this diagonal line, and then anything in this area is obviously out of their reach, but it also forces the cross-court person to come out wide as well and move out wide. So, I like to practice hitting dinks in this area or anywhere here.
Tip for Mixing Up Dink Placement
Once you’ve hit the level of pickleball where just hitting cross court to the girl in mixed doesn’t work anymore, you want to start mixing up the dinking. So, mix it up. Do a couple cross court, mix up the pattern with cross court and down line behind the guy who is trying to poach. So you’ve got the guy or someone poaching here looking to take balls out of the air. Well that leaves the left side of the backhand side exposed. So, you can dink behind them to keep them honest and then come back cross court. So, go behind, try speeding up behind them, mix up your targets, some cross, some line, and even some middle.
Hand-Eye Coordination Drill
Here’s a fun drill that you can do for hand-eye coordination to help improve your movement and hand-eye coordination. You don’t even need a court to do this, which is kind of nice. You can do it in your driveway, backyard, front yard, or wherever you want. Grab 2 Balls. Here we have got 2 pickleballs. Your partner, or whoever you’ve got, is going to have both of them in their hands and going to choose which one to drop, they’re not going to tell you. You’re going to have to run and try to catch it before it bounces twice.
How do I get my Kids Started in Pickleball?
I have had a lot of people ask “How do I get my kids started?” So, I’ll give you little tips and fun games to get them started. You’ll start by explaining how to hold your grip. Shake hands with your paddle, put your left hand on top, legs wide so you got a good wide stance, bend your knees, and break or bend your wrist to your contact point. First, you’re just going to throw under hand to them and try to have them hit it to your hand.
Technique for a Two-Handed Back Hand Dink
You start with a ready position, where you kind of shake hands with your paddle. Grab onto it with your left hand. Sometimes, depending on the length of your handle, you may have to overlap a little bit. So, for me, I like to put my finger up a little bit. My paddle is long enough that I can put both here, but if you need to, feel free to overlap. From here, you’re going to make sure that you’re getting underneath the ball and that is key on a dink, making sure that paddle is below the ball.
Pickleball Shoe Recommendation
I’ve had so many people ask me what my favorite shoe is or what the shoe is that I am wearing. I am currently wearing the Babylot Jet Mock three shoes. I love them. They are lightweight. They are comfortable. I would recommend getting half a size bigger, though, because they run a little small.
Tip for NOT Giving Your Opponent the High Ball
The biggest thing that you can do to avoid giving your opponent the high ball is to move your feet. It solves everything. If you can get your feet in position and get your feet there quick, it makes your job a lot easier and you will have a lot less high balls to your opponent.
Technique for a One-Handed Back Hand Drive
I’m going to show you the technique for a one-handed backhand drive today. So, we’re going to start with a ready position, contact point out in front. For one hand, you don’t have to have two hands on the paddle. You’re still going to have that contact point out in front. With two hands, it might be a little bit more behind me. With one hand, it’s going to be more in front of me. That’s the biggest difference between one hand and two. As I hit it, I am going to make sure that contact point is way out in front, almost like I am drawing a sword out of my scabbard here. So, it's going to be right next to my hip with a short backswing. Short backswing, contact point out in front, and a long follow through out to my target.
Should you Play Pickleball with a Finger on the Paddle?
Is it good or bad to have your finger up on the paddle? My personal opinion is that I don’t like it just because you don’t have as much space or reach on the paddle. If you hit a backhand and the ball hits your finger, then you can lose a fingernail and you could have a lot of bruises on that finger from a ball hitting it. So, I personally like being able to have a longer reach and holding the paddle lower on the grip.
When Should You Use a Split Step?
I explained what a split step was in one of my previous videos, but now I am going to tell you when to use the split step. Timing wise, anytime the opponent hits the ball or anytime you hear this off the opponent’s paddle, you’re going to have a small split step or a little “get ready to go” or push off position. So, as my opponent’s hitting the ball, I want you to listen for the ping of the ball on the paddle in sync with the split step that I do.
Split Step Tennis Vs. Pickleball
A lot of people come over from tennis or other sports where they use a split step like a jump step to get you to stop and be ready for the next shot to hit. In pickleball, it doesn’t necessarily have to be so big. It can just be a small push off the ground and just a small “get ready” push off.
When Should you Speedup a Ball? Pt. 1
There’s a few things that you can do to determine when to speedup and where to speedup. If I’m speeding up off the bounce, or letting it bounce and then trying to speed up, and it’s not working then I’m going to look to speed up out of the air. Instead of off the bounce, I’m going to look to try to take balls that are a little bit higher or off of lifted dinks. If I have hit an offensive dink and they have lifted it up a little bit, then I’m going to look to take those out of the air and speed those up rather than taking it off the bounce.
When Should I Speedup a Ball? Pt. 2
Waist high or higher are the ones that I like to speed up because I am lifting, or I am able to hit it and get it low at the other person’s feet or lower so that they have to lift the ball back to me. If I have to hit to lift it low from here and speed up the ball from here, that’s going to be a little tougher to win the point because now I am lifting to them, and they are hitting down at me. The goal is to be able to have them hit the ball up to me so I can hit it down.
Doubles Strategy: Pinching a Player
A pickleball strategy that you can use is called pinching on a player. It’s where my partner knows in advance that I’m going to either speedup or play a particular spot or player on the court, and then they are going to react and base their positioning accordingly. For example, if I’m targeting the person on the right or the person that’s going to be in front of me if I’m on the left side of the court, then my partner knows I’m going to look to speed up at the person in front of me. I’m now covering my part of the court and they are going to cover the middle. So, we are pinching on that player, taking away the two easiest places to hit the counter-volley and giving the person in front of me the hardest shot to hit, which would be cross court away from my partner.
When Should I Reset Versus Punch Out of the Air?
I’m going to answer the question of when a person should lift dink or do a reset dink versus punch out of the air. So, the simple answer to that question is anytime the ball is low at my feet or I’m not in position, meaning it is down here and I have to lift, I’m going to do a reset dink. Anything that’s a little bit higher, let’s say between my hip and my shoulder, that’s something I can look to attack.
Pressure in the Back Court?
How to handle someone keeping you and putting pressure on you when you’re back deep in the court? Get better at drops or third shots, whether it’s a drive first and drop on the next one or consecutive drops but working your way up to the kitchen. If you’re not comfortable here, you’re going to have a tough time moving forward. So, get comfortable in every spot in this transition so that it’s not a problem for you to work your way forward.
Tip for Handling Short Returns
Here’s how to handle a short return. For me, I like to drive it. If someone gives me a short return, I like to drive. Number one, it puts pressure on them. On the opponents, there is less time to react for them because there is less distance. I like to drive it, but just be careful. As you move forward, your court gets smaller than when you’re on the baseline so you’re going to bring your target in.
Should I Dink Middle or Cross Court?
Should you dink middle or cross court? The simple answer to that is you do what works. Depending on who you’re playing, I may like to go cross court. Maybe someone has a harder time moving on the cross-court ball. If that’s the case, then go cross court. If they’re really fast, I like to move it around or mix it up. Some people like having the outside ball or like this outside ball and having this outside angle because they have more options to work with, so it’s almost better to go with the inside foot. They may not be as strong with the inside foot, meaning if this person’s going cross court, then they are going to come to my right foot, or if it was on this side then it would be coming towards my left foot. That would be the inside foot or the middle.
Singles Drill: Cat & Mouse
Another drill you can do for singles is something we call the cat and mouse drill. You will both be up at the non-volley zone line, you and your partner. You will play points up at the kitchen. Your goal is to try and win the point. You will basically have your baseline start about here and come all the way out here. So, you’re just trying to win by dinking or dinking behind them. If you have a volley, go ahead and volley it. So, you have to start kind of like singles, so I’ll start feeding from this side. I can go anywhere, though. I can feed cross court or down the line. We’ll play it out. If I win a point, I’ll then switch sides here and I’ll serve cross court and play it out. If I lose the point, my opponent serves the ball.
Singles Vs Doubles
A few key differences between doubles, or mixed doubles, and singles is in singles, you’re running a heck of a lot more. You have more court to cover than just half. Number one, you’re moving more. Number two, I feel like you have to get a lot lower to the ground as well, especially as you’re moving. You’re going to be taking wider stances, wider shots, and using more angles. You also want to make sure you’re having deep serves and deep returns. You are also looking to move in more and you have to cover a lot more court.
How to Identify Which Side To Play On in Doubles
How do you know if you are supposed to be a left side player or a right side player? First, I want you to be able to play both. I don’t feel like you should be a left or right side player. I feel like you should be able to adapt to both because in competition, sometimes if a position is not working, you want to be able to switch and feel confident on both sides of the court. However, most people tend to have a favorite side. So, let’s say you like the left side better. If your backhand dinks better than your forehand dink, you would probably like the left side. Left side players tend to be more aggressive because their forehand is in the middle, so they are going to have a lot more opportunities and options to speed balls up. The left side player is the one that people usually think of as the resetter, keeping the ball alive, moving the ball alive, and setting up the right-side person. I feel like the game has transitioned over to both sides are able to attack and reset. I think the game is just progressing and progressing, so I feel like you need to be comfortable with both sides of the court.
How to Defend a Shot In Between Your Shoulder & Ear
How do you hit a fast ball that is in a direct line between my shoulder and my ear? You have a couple options. Number one, you can slide. So, you can slide or shift. By sliding, it’s like I’m moving my shoulder out of the way and leaning or shifting. The other option is I can go forehand or shift backhand. The other option is you can do a pancake. You’re going to get low to the ground, forward on your feet, and get really low. You’re sitting, so you know what’s coming at you. The pancake grip is when you just pick your paddle off the ground. From there, I have a lot of options here. Get low, and I can punch it here so it’s right in line with my feet, make sure my elbows in close, out in front, and my paddle is up by my nose or my face so I can get that. I have a lot of options to move around if I need to. The key is getting low.
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