11 Simple Tips for Improving Your Pickleball Dinking

Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, no pickleballer can argue that dinks aren’t one of the most effective shots that a player can master. And for many, they are a necessary evil in controlling pickleball matches.

Today’s article is all about the dink shot and how you can improve yours.

What is a Dink Anyway?

If unfamiliar, a dink shot is a soft shot executed somewhere near the non-volley zone line (NVZ) designed to land in your opponent’s kitchen area (the space between the net and the NVZ). It’s meant to be a difficult shot for your opponent to get to and one that changes the pace of play.

Effectively, when you play someone that likes to play at the baseline or who is strong at driving the ball, the dink shot can help you neutralize that player’s advantage.

For a more extended definition, check out this video from the Pickleball Channel.

Now, let’s get into the tips!

Tip #1 – Get in Position

Good positions are essential when dinking the ball. You want your body positioned in an athletic stance that’s parallel to the net. Your knees should be bent and feet shoulder-width apart. This gives you the best opportunity to move laterally and enough width to recover on shots to your left and right.

Your paddle should be out in front of your body, at a 45-degree angle, and your grip should be loose (think 3 to 4 on grip strength). These positions should allow you to get low and put enough arc and power on the ball to hit it softly over the net.

Tip #2 – Wait for Your Moment to Strike

We all feel the pressure while up at the net to score quickly. But, sometimes, hitting a dink shot is more about setting up a better shot for later. It’s not uncommon for dinks to go back and forth for 4 or 5 shots in a row before someone makes an aggressive move to score.

Try your best to be patient in these situations and force your opponent to make a mistake rather than make one yourself. But, when the moment comes, go for the putaway.

Tip #3 – Keep Your Eyes on the Ball

You’ve been told your whole life in sports to keep your eyes on the ball. Pickleball, and dinking in particular, is no different. It’s very easy to take your eyes off the ball and instead look where you want to hit it. But what happens when you do that? You accidentally strike the ball with the side of your paddle or miss it entirely. Practice watching the ball connect with your paddle and using your peripheral vision to keep track of the player in front of you.

Tip #4 – Footwork

Standing still why the ball is in play is rarely a good idea. We always want to be ready to move up, down, left, or right. When you are standing at the NVZ line (the kitchen), you don’t want to get caught flat-footed and have to lunge at your opponent’s return shot. Instead, keep your feet moving and even step back if you need to.

You’ll also want to avoid crossing your feet and try to always move laterally instead to reduce the risk of losing your balance.

Tip #5 – Hold the Line

Up at the line, the pressure is on. The ball moves quickly, and both sides want to score a kill shot. When in the kitchen area, hold the line and stay aggressive. If you back off the NVZ line, you could open the door for your opponent to take shots at your feet, which are difficult to return. So, if you take a step back, immediately retake your position while you wait for the return shot.

Tip #6 – Protect Your Feet or Hit It On the Short Hop

Hitting on the short hop means letting the ball bounce but then striking it as it rises back into the air. This accomplishes a few things:

  • It allows you to control the ball before it moves, spins away, or gets up in your gut area.
  • It forces you to get low and underneath the ball, which is the ideal position you want to be in anyways.
  • It allows you to use the speed of the ball to power your shot back over the net.

Good players, especially while at the line, will aim their shots at your feet to put you in a poor position and make it harder for you to get a good return back to them. Hitting the ball on a short hop protects you from letting this happen often.

Tip #7 – Get Low

Hitting the ball with your body low to the ground is ideal for hitting dink shots. Often, you’ll even see players bend their legs so low that they almost touch the ground! While you may not be flexible enough to do that yet, you must work on staying as low as possible and use your body’s momentum on the way up to hit the ball purely.

Tip #8 – Gently Lift Through the Ball

We often talk about hitting through the ball on your shots. This is probably no more true than on a drive shot, where you need to put power into the ball and give it a flat trajectory over the net. But, the follow-through for a drive means turning your hips as you swing into the ball. For the dink shot, hitting through the ball doesn’t involve hip rotation as much as you need to lift your body from the ground up. It should feel like you’re standing from a seated position.

This gentle lift helps you give it the perfect touch required to land the ball softly on the other side of the net.

Tip #9 – Take the Ball Out of the Air

Taking the ball out of the air means hitting it before it bounces. Sometimes this is necessary because there isn’t enough room between you and the NVZ line to let it bounce, but sometimes it’s done strategically. Hitting the ball out of the air while dinking can change the pace of play, remove the extra variable that a bounce adds, and help you apply more pressure to your opponent.

But, knowing when to take it out of the air and when to let it bounce takes practice.

Tip #10 – Move the Ball Around

It’s rarely a good idea to hit your shots to the same spot over and over again. Unless you are trying to set up a later shot, try to move your dink shots around and keep your opponent guessing. You can hit shallower or deeper dink shots, as well as play the ball left or right. Force your opponent to work harder and try to get them out of position for you to make an easy putaway.

Tip #11 – Work Together with Your Partner

Doubles play at the net can be a whole lot of fun. But, it’s also a tight space where communication is essential for success. So often, we see one teammate lunge over into another teammate’s area, which can cause a collision, confusion, or open a massive gap for their opponents to take advantage of. When playing doubles and hitting dink shots, communicate more and try your best to work together.There you have it, 11 tips to help you improve your pickleball dink shots. Incorporate one or a few of these into your next match or on the practice courts, and we promise it’ll be everyone else complaining while you rack up the wins!

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