Pickleball ‘Bangers’ are (Mostly) Good for the Sport

MLP image of a player about to slam a pickleball

When a post in our Facebook group receives nearly 800 comments, we’re inclined to think it’s because it struck a chord with pickleball players.

In this case, it’s clear that poster David Nguyen struck a chord with some players…and upset others:

He simply asked, in essence: what’s so bad about bangers?

They’re the subject of countless videos with titles that begin with, “how to defeat a…”.

But should they really be demonized, as David’s observation seems to suggest they are?

The two main sides commenters took can be summarized by these two contributions:

The purpose of the game is to win. The how is your problem! – David Rios


Hitting it hard and driving the ball is definitely part of the game, but people do it way too much and when it's not opportunistic. There is a time and place for it. People tend to just do it all the time without any real purpose other than "sMasH IT haRd!!" – Patrick Reynolds

Basically, some seemed to believe that anything is fair game, while others are less enthusiastic about the pervasiveness of bangers in the recreational pickleball scene.

When Bangers are an Asset to the Game

I’m not going to deny that when I was between ratings 2.5-3.5, “bangers” were the bane of my existence. 

But they were annoying for different reasons at different levels of play.

→ Maybe it’s because I had no organized sports experience prior to pickleball, but facing off against bangers at my lowest rating felt intimidating; I erroneously believed they must be much higher in level than me and I shied away from doing what I should have on the court

→ At the 3.0 level, they annoyed me for the same reasons they annoy most casual players: they just wouldn’t let up, and points ended before they even began (what I didn’t pay attention to, however, was how often the points ended because they charged balls straight into the net).

→ As a 3.5, I finally started to feel frustration with bangers for what I consider to be the “right” reasons. Now, I was annoyed that I wasn’t playing a more diverse game of skill and strategy. The thing about bangers is that they’re clueless when it comes to resets, and once I got to a more sophisticated level of play, all I wanted to do was practice my cross-court dinks and – gasp – maybe even practice an erne or ATP, something the soft game sets up.

But now that I’m consistently hovering around a 4.0 rating, I’ve enough hindsight to realize that playing against those bangers eventually taught me a thing or two. And I have a feeling that many players experience something similar.

Like it or not, bangers teach us valuable lessons in the importance of touch and the ability to reset a ball – critical elements of pickleball, played at any level.

If you’re a lower-level player, at some point you’re going to Google, “how to defeat a banger,” only to realize you’ve been:

  • flicking your wrist while dinking
  • holding your paddle vertically instead of horizontally while trying to slow the ball down
  • swinging at instead of punching those volleys in front of you at the kitchen line

Bangers teach us how to step back as soon as the ball is popped up and how to place our paddles down at the ready.

They teach us to react calmly in stressful situations, a critical skill for players of any game, physical or mental.

…And, yes, they probably teach us that we are far more capable of inventing innovative sequences of cursing and damning than we previously thought. Whether or not we actually let those words escape our lips is a lesson for another day.

The Caveat

Every hot take should have its limits defined, and in this case, my limit is this: if you’re rampantly bodybagging or not taking care to bodybag in the safest way possible, you shouldn’t be playing, period. 

There’s no reason to hit someone in the face on purpose, no matter how much clout, personal pride, or even money is on the line. 

An occasional, strategic chicken wing or leg shot is totally fine – part of the game, even – anything more aggressive has no place in this or any sport. 

But a well-placed shot with pace? That’s just a good shot. Too bad most of the bangers we hear about aren’t always executing good shots, just fast ones.

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