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Jack Munro mid-serve in pickleball

How You Should Serve in Pickleball, According to a Pro

Pro pickleball player Jack Munro has some suggestions for players to serve better in pickleball, no matter their level.

How You Should Serve in Pickleball, According to a Pro

In pickleball, it’s common knowledge that the returning team has the advantage since they can come to the net first. But did you know that there is a way to prevent this advantage?

Depth and power are the two most important traits of your serve. Assuming consistency, hitting a flat deep serve with no control is ten times better than a short slice serve.

Controlling your wrist is much harder than controlling your arm, making a consistent spin serve more challenging than a consistent deep serve.

Just spin alone is not enough to hit a good serve, especially now that the Chainsaw serve is no longer allowed.

Related: How to Lob in Pickleball: Technique, Strategies, and Defending

While depth technically falls under placement, I consider depth to be the distance from the baseline, while placement refers to the horizontal shift in the serve, such as hitting the T or serving out wide.

Mechanics

Weight transfer is crucial

Utilize not only your arm and wrist but also your core and legs. Since your wrist and arm add spin and therefore more variability and potential inconsistency, stabilize your shot with a solid core and legs.

Personally, I recommend following through with a step. Whether you are stepping into your serve or not, make sure to follow through into the court to avoid getting lazy and just using your arm to serve.

The Stance 

I find it to be a personal preference. However, if I were to build a player from the ground up, I would recommend a more closed stance since this forces you to involve your legs in the swing more easily.

The Toss

For the ball toss, a higher ball toss results in more inconsistency with serves. I drop the ball from hip height to prevent variabilities such as wind or ball height from affecting the serve.

Dropping the ball allows me to always know where the ball will be and where I need to hit it, making it easier to track.

The Swing

A low to high swing is essential for topspin. If I were to build a player’s serve from the ground up, I’d focus on developing a heavy topspin serve before even thinking about slice.

Topspin allows you to hit the ball harder while still landing it in because you have more margin to play with, which in turn allows for more depth and power.

The Grip

For advanced players, switching grips for more topspin can be beneficial. Since you have ample time before the ball comes back to you, don’t be afraid to use a more extreme grip to get more spin on the ball.

There is zero need to use a continental grip other than for better placement. Personally, I switch to full western for my serves, allowing me to generate more topspin and power.

Another advanced technique is wrist cocking. Some pro players cock their wrist while others leave it open. I’ve experimented with both and found that cocking my wrist leads to more control and stability, resulting in fewer unforced errors.

The tradeoff for a little more power is not worth the control you lose by keeping your face open with an uncocked wrist.

Strategy

Players at any skill level should utilize service strategy to gain an advantage later in the point rather than aiming to end the point immediately.

Shift your mindset from “I’m going for an ace” to “I’m going to get us an advantage.” Your goal with serves should be to consistently get you an advantage in the points.

A good rule of thumb is to make more than 90% of your serves for singles and 95% of your serves for doubles.

Use specific serves based on player positioning. For instance, if someone prefers hitting forehand returns, there are ways to force them into a more uncomfortable position.

You can try hitting a slice serve wide to force them to hit a backhand or a hard serve down the middle “T” to pull them to the side.

If your opponent is stacking, place the serve short with spin kicking wide to the sideline to make unwinding the stack more difficult.

The best option is heavy deep serves placed into the corner of the box to gain a short return.

Jack Munro plays on the PPA, APP, and MLP Tours and currently plays for the Chicago Slice. While he's been playing since he was 10 years old, he's officially been on the pro circuit for about 2 years.

Find out more about Jack on his website, and follow his YouTube and Instagram accounts.

Pro pickleball player Jack Munro has some suggestions for players to serve better in pickleball, no matter their level.

JW Johnson exhibiting fast hands mid pickleball point

3 Pickleball Drills for Fast Hands

Fast hands aren't a miracle, they're something pickleball players can drill to improve. Here are some ways you can achieve fast hands.

3 Pickleball Drills for Fast Hands

Fast hands in pickleball isn't some special gift players have from birth. It can be trained and improved upon through drills.

If you're a player seeking to improve, you should take this notion of fast hands seriously.

It's all about reaction time mixed with ball tracking and preparedness. Here are a few drills that can help:

Not Your Average Wall Drill

There are plenty of variations on the pickleball wall drill (and if you buy a Dink Pad, you'll receive a whole drill catalog).

But training for fast hands can be even more simplistic and effective without a paddle.

Coach and pro player Dayne Gingrich, featured in the video above, says this is still his favorite fast hands drill because it involves peripheral vision and the ability to trust our minds can calculate what needs to be done.

"I’m not a fan of tracking the ball from opponents to partner, so this also GREATLY HELPS train us to remain focused on the straight ahead opponent while still being able to quickly respond to his / her shot back from our partner," he says.

Start slow and far back from the wall. As your brain calibrates and gets used to it, take a step closer. Rinse-n-repeat until you’re a foot from the wall, then slowly back away to your original starting position.

Cooperative Hands

Pro James Ignatowich says it's important to focus some of your drilling on meeting the ball out in front.

So in this simple drill, hit balls back and forth at the kitchen line with your partner on the opposite side of the court. 

You want to extend your arm through contact each time, but don't keep your arm straight in between shots. 

Related: Instantly Improve Your Pickleball Dink Technique with One Tip

Hit 70% backhands, but try to focus on seeing forehands as early as possible. Really focus on keeping your swings short for power and stay loose with the arm.

The Speed Up Drill

Find a partner and have them feed a high dink. Then, simply speed it up.

Your partner will try to return it. Switch off every 15 or so speedups who feeds and who returns, ensuring both of you get some practice speeding up and attacking poor dinks.

Make sure the feed/return side player switches up dink placement for an extra challenge.

Fast hands aren't a miracle, they're something pickleball players can drill to improve. Here are some ways you can achieve fast hands.

Catherine Parenteau performing a third shot drop in a pro pickleball match

This Third Shot Drop Drill May Be the Only One You Need

When you think about it, the only difference between a third shot drop and a dink is distance. Here's a valuable drill for third shot...

This Third Shot Drop Drill May Be the Only One You Need

No matter your level, the third shot drop in pickleball is often the feared crux of any point. If you're a lower-level player, don't worry...Even 3.5s -- actually, especially 3.5s -- struggle with the drop.

But when you think about it, the only difference between a third shot drop and a dink is distance.

The motions are very similar, except since you need more distance to cover in a drop from near the baseline, you need to extend your follow through. And that's where many pickleball players slip up.

  • If you're dropping from the baseline, you want to drop with a closed stance and a step forward, making sure to keep the ball out in front of you
  • You have to take your time, meaning you have to move yourself so that you can take extra time to hit the drop - never run through the drop
  • Make contact with the ball as it's on its way down to its second bounce, NOT at the peak of its first bounce

Drilling the 3rd Shot Drop

Top pro Catherine Parenteau recently released a video covering everything you need to know about third shot drops:

In the video, Parenteau describes the "Slinky Drill" for third shot drops:

  • Both players start behind the kitchen. One player is designated to work their way back to the baseline as they practice drops.
  • You have to hit two "successful dinks" into the kitchen from the line before you are allowed to take two steps back.
  • A shot is considered "successful" if your partner on the other side is making contact at their knees or below!

Each time you move back, you have to hit two "successful drops" into the kitchen before you are allowed to take two more steps back towards the baseline.

This is when you start to follow through a bit longer as you work your way back.

You continue repeating this process until you are finally hitting drops from the baseline! This allows you to progressively work your way back so it doesn't feel daunting when you go from hitting dinks straight to the baseline to hit 3rd shot drops.

Then work your way back up to the kitchen line. You can do this drill in every direction.

Read Next: Transition Zone Tips: What to Do AFTER Your 3rd or 5th Shot in Pickleball

This may not be the most intricate form of practice, but its simplicity actually allows for quite a bit of shot variation from the partner running the drill.

They can try putting on different pace and spin variations while feeding you the balls. 

When you think about it, the only difference between a third shot drop and a dink is distance. Here's a valuable drill for third shot...

Pickleball player Catherine Parenteau just after making contact with the ball mid-court, in the transition zone

Transition Zone Tips: What to Do AFTER Your 3rd or 5th Shot in Pickleball

Mastering the transition zone - between the baseline and kitchen line in pickleball - requires patience and the ability to read your opponents. Here are...

Transition Zone Tips: What to Do AFTER Your 3rd or 5th Shot in Pickleball

What happens after your third or fifth shot is critical in taking control of the rest of the pickleball point.

There's lots of advice out there about transitioning from the baseline to the kitchen, but one of the most important tips is simply: don't just rush up to the non-volley zone. 

Top pro Catherine Parenteau recently released a video covering everything you need to know about reaching the kitchen, the smart way (see below).

But in a nutshell, here's how you should handle the pickleball transition zone: 

  • Unless you hit a perfectly slow return that affords you enough time to make it to the kitchen, you need to approach swiftly but purposefully
  • You should keep a low, ready stance as you make your way to the kitchen
  • Keep your feet wide when stopped
  • Remember that balls coming hard to your chest in the transition area are probably not staying in
  • Any shot you make on a ball in the air (volley) should have very little followthrough
  • Any shot you make on a ball that bounces can have a little more followthrough

The "Traffic Light" Approach to the Transition Zone

Did you ever play "red light green light" as a kid? Do you drive a car in North America? If you answered "yes" to either of those questions, then use this analogy to help you analyze your transition zone strategy:

If your opponent is making contact with the ball at their knees or below, that is a green light. You hit a good shot and can move forward.

If your opponent is making contact in between their knees and chest, that is a yellow light. You hit an okay shot and will be able to move forward some, but not as much as if it were a green light.

If your opponent is making contact chest or above, that is a red light. DO NOT MOVE FORWARD! Staying where you are allows you more time to defend what will likely be a slam back at your feet.

Shot Selection During Transition

The baseline skill behind everything you've learned above is, essentially, patience

Once you've learned how to read your opponents and patiently choose your next move, it's time to learn which shot is best for each scenario.

Here's some advice: 

  • If your contact point will be at your hips or below, you probably want to reset the ball
  • If your contact point will be higher than your hips, you can force the ball back down, so you can be more aggressive

 Read Next: You Should Miss More Pickleball Serves (Here's Why)

Mastering the transition zone - between the baseline and kitchen line in pickleball - requires patience and the ability to read your opponents. Here are...

Dayne Gingrich playing at the kitchen line in a pickleball match

A New Way to View Playing at the Kitchen in Pickleball

Dinking in pickleball will forever be part of the meal, but it should no longer be the main course. Time to change how we handle...

A New Way to View Playing at the Kitchen in Pickleball

The kitchen is no longer for dinking!

Back in the day, when pickleball paddles were ultra soft and had no power or spin, all players could do was drop, dink, and wait for a 90% pop-up.

As we’ve seen lately, that’s no longer the case.

We’re now able to pull the trigger from places old schoolers wouldn’t dream of, and because of that, our mindsets need to evolve.

When we reach the kitchen, our focus should instantly switch to looking for offensive opportunities.

Because the game has become so aggressive, if we don’t stay proactive, our opponents definitely will, and we’ll be left reacting and playing defense the entire point.

Too many players instantly fall into dink mindset the moment they reach the line, rather than looking for offensive potential, leaving them passive and fearful.

Dinking will forever be part of the meal, but it should no longer be the main course.

I’m not advocating being reckless or unintentional, but I AM saying that if you don’t make this mental shift, your better, more aggressive opponents will take advantage, continuously bombarding you with offensive stress and “pressure.”

For the dink-first, attack-second strategy to work, you must have lightning fast hands to counter attack, making THAT your offensive play.

Unfortunately, however, the majority of players simply don’t have quick enough hands to come out ahead of the offensive onslaught, and find themselves dying a slow death of making a bunch of dinks, but unable to win enough points.

The other, easier way dink-first will work is playing teams who can’t dink, but this strategy will only work at the lower levels.

This mindset still isn’t being taught to the majority, not because it isn’t correct, but because it’s still so ahead of its time (on the amateur side). Most coaches and players haven’t yet stepped out of what USED to be the winning formula.

Blockbuster Video once believed that Netflix wouldn’t be a threat and never made the necessary adjustments to their business model.

Read Next: No, You Shouldn't RUSH to the Kitchen in Pickleball

The kitchen is today’s Netflix. Choose wisely.

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

Dinking in pickleball will forever be part of the meal, but it should no longer be the main course. Time to change how we handle...

Good lob technique demonstrated by this pickleball going over a man's head on the court

How to Lob in Pickleball: Technique, Strategies, and Defending

A complete guide to lobs in pickleball, including the strategy of when to use them and how to defend against them.

How to Lob in Pickleball: Technique, Strategies, and Defending

The pickleball lob shot seems to be a hotly-contested maneuver in the sport. Pro players hardly use it, while many recreational players seem to rely on it. Most of us have likely encountered "a lobber" before, much to the chagrin of many rec players.

So, do you need to master the lob? And if so, what's the strategy behind using it versus defending against it? 

The lob can definitely be a weapon chosen wisely, but is there a point of diminishing returns for the shot?

We'll dig into that below under the Lob Strategy section, but just know that opinions on this topic are mixed. One thing most agree on, however, is that you should never use a lob just to mix things up.

Instead, you need to be intentional and recognize situations that maximize your lob shot success. We'll show you how to do that below.

Pickleball Lob Technique

Though you may not see pros use the lob often, this doesn’t mean it’s an inherently bad shot.

If timed well and hit correctly, your lob forces opponents to decide who is running back to defend it. Even if they get to the ball, they need to decide whether to return it with a drop or a drive.

All of these factors can cause confusion and, hopefully, error. So the first key to a successful lob is: don't do anything that signals you're about to use it:

  • Avoid a large backswing, which might reveal your strategy
  • Initiate the lob at the kitchen line during a dink exchange
  • Choose a time when your opponent expects you to dink out of the air; i.e. after they've completed an aggressive dink deep into the kitchen
  • Make your lob look exactly like your dink, which you can practice any time you practice dinking

Next, try to avoid a "flat" lob. Ideally, you want to put topspin on it:

  • Flat lobs sit up more once they land instead of bouncing and moving with  forward momentum, meaning they're easier to defend if you're the person running after them

Now, for placement. Pro James Ignatowich says you need to consider the geometry of the court.

"If we lob cross court, there is simply more space for the ball to travel and still land in the court. You can hit the lob harder this way, and not worry about it going long," he says.

But if you're going to lob down the line, go over your front opponent's backhand side.

"For example, if I am playing on the left and I have a righty in front of me, I can hit my backhand lob directly down the line," James says.

"Even if my opponent hits this ball out of the air, it will be a high backhand, which is one of the hardest shots to hit consistently well."

Lob Example

Here's a high level example of a great lob...Actually, it's two great lobs in one point, a rarity in pro pickleball.

Watch this video (from 1:29), paying close attention to the pressure put on the left side by the right, and how the left responds: 

Anna Bright, left side in green, successfully uses the lob in this situation to reset the point's momentum.

  • After Lob #1, her team is pushed back, patiently working back to the NVZ.
  • Once there, the two are still under pressure from their opponents' aggressive dinks
  • During the struggled dink exchange, Anna makes sure her opponents are both at the kitchen line, identifying a second lob opportunity
  • Anna likely also notices that her same-side opponent just reached far for a dink, meaning she could have been somewhat off-balance
  • Anna makes it look like she's about to dink out of the air, but subtlety flicks up to lob once more - this time, it's a winner 

Of course, the fact that Anna's second lob was highly unusual and therefore unexpected probably helped. But the technique was solid during both shots' executions.

Lob Strategy in Pickleball

While James Ignatowich says he doesn't want to "bail out" his opponents in the pro scene, preferring to use speedups over lobs, pro Allyce Jones says its lower-level players who should probably avoid the shot.

"They put no spin on the ball when they lob. I don't see that many mid-level players drilling enough, and it's a shot you really have to drill for it to be effective."

Connor Garnett agrees. With players becoming ultra aggressive at the kitchen line looking to lean in on anything attackable, the lob is a shot that keeps those players honest.

No matter what level of play you're at, clearly the lob is an option that can work if executed properly. So look for the following conditions to inform your lob strategy - just know that sometimes, a speedup may in fact be a better choice:

When to lob:

  • Your opponent is leaning forward, taking balls out of the air
  • Their shoulders are leaning toward the net and down
  • Their feet aren't set/they're actively recovering their position
  • You've moved them around the kitchen prior to lobbing

When NOT to lob:

  • Your opponents are off the kitchen line or in the transition zone
  • Your opponent(s) is really tall, or someone who has great footwork and speed
  • You sense a speedup would either win the point or set you up to do so
Pickleball lob options for offense

How to Return a Lob

By now, we've either convinced you to use lobs in your game or have thoroughly dissuaded you from doing so.

Either way, you should also be prepared to defend a pickleball lob, particularly from players who sneakily maneuver them under the guise of a volley dink.

To prevent your opponent lobbing you in the first place, try to keep good dink form by preventing your shoulders from sinking

"You should be in more of a squat position so that you're able to be on your toes to run back and take lobs as overheads," Allyce says.

But once your opponent launches one, you want to start your defense by turning around, leading with your shoulders, instead of backing up blindly with your feet (never a good idea in this sport!).

Then, if you've practiced your sprints, you should hopefully be able to make it to the ball before it bounces twice.

Read Next: Learning the Strategy Behind Attacking in Pickleball

A complete guide to lobs in pickleball, including the strategy of when to use them and how to defend against them.

Rafa Hewett, a left-handed pickleball player, covers the middle during a pro pickleball point.

A Left Handed Pickleball Strategy for Covering the Middle

In your left handed pickleball strategy, don't be afraid to let the lefty cover some balls in the middle. Doing so brings many advantages.

A Left Handed Pickleball Strategy for Covering the Middle

Top 5 pro James Ignatowich here. As you see in the pro game, there’s usually not a 50/50 divide between shots taken by each teammate.

Usually, the left side player is taking more balls out of the middle and looking to create offensive opportunities.

This should NOT be the case if you’re playing with a left handed partner!

One of the biggest misconceptions is that the player on the left is looking to dictate because they’re on the left. It’s not about someone being on the left or right, it’s about who is in a better position with a forehand.

Most people find it easier to speed up off the forehand side, and it’s easier to reach middle dinks out of the air with the forehand.

The good thing about playing with a lefty is you’re both equipped with this advantage for the whole game.

Why You Should Follow My Left Handed Pickleball Strategy

You don’t need to step over the middle to take a forehand when you’re playing with a lefty.

It’s actually better for the lefty to take it so you’re both in position for the next shot.

You can attack both players when the lefty takes some balls. You’re usually attacking in front of you or through the middle, so a lefty taking some middle balls will put more pressure on the opposing left side player by presenting a potential speed up.

Playing with a left handed partner is also a huge benefit on defense. This allows for you to really own your line and let the lefty cover the middle with their forehand.

Crashing and and Ernes are also easier to execute with a lefty, so make sure you’re taking full advantage!

One other thing to note is that communication probably needs to be heightened when playing with a lefty.

Read Next: Take Control of the Kitchen with the Volley Dink

Some lefties get accustomed to being boxed out of middle balls so they might not always be taking the middle when you think they will - just speak up when it’s ever in question!

James Ignatowich is giving out hot takes like this, instructional videos, and strategy input from other top pros in his weekly coaching newsletter! Click here to subscribe and catch up on previous editions.

In your left handed pickleball strategy, don't be afraid to let the lefty cover some balls in the middle. Doing so brings many advantages.

James Ignatowich demonstrating a volley dink

Take Control of the Kitchen with the Volley Dink

Top 5 pro James Ignatowich here. The average player at my clinics hits their dinks too hard. It’s often tough for me to critique, especially because...

Take Control of the Kitchen with the Volley Dink

Top 5 pro James Ignatowich here. The average player at my clinics hits their dinks too hard.

It’s often tough for me to critique, especially because a lot of these dinks generate errors from the opponent. But as you get better in pickleball, you’ll start paying the price if you don't learn the volley dink.

As you start playing against players who are more comfortable dinking out of the air, they are going to use that power against you to start taking control.

Not to mention if you hit the dink a little too high with that sort of pace, you’re in immediate trouble.

I see dinks being hit too hard, particularly when hit out of the air.

I think part of it is a recognition problem, where a player realizes too late that they need to volley it and they jolt their paddle to it too quickly.

Here’s two tips that will help with dinking out of the air:

  • Remember that the ball has more energy because it hasn’t bounced yet. It wants to go quicker, so it doesn’t require any back swing on your end.
  • Extend the follow through a little bit. When you do this, you extend the point of contact ever so slightly, giving you more control. Hitting a dink out of the air should always be your first option rather than letting it bounce and retreating back.

You DEFINITELY want to be looking to take control of the kitchen with the volley dink. But don’t forget that the best dink is always LOW, it’s not always that HARD.

Read Next: Best Way to Improve Your Pickleball Drive? Slow it Down

You can generate errors and pop ups by consistently penetrating the kitchen line, you don’t need to kick it up to fifth gear until you sense a legitimate opportunity.

James Ignatowich is giving out hot takes like this, instructional videos, and strategy input from other top pros in his weekly coaching newsletter! Click here to subscribe and catch up on previous editions.

Top 5 pro James Ignatowich here. The average player at my clinics hits their dinks too hard. It’s often tough for me to critique, especially because...

Thinking of Playing in a Pickleball Tournament? Take This Piece Of Advice to Heart

Thinking of Playing in a Pickleball Tournament? Take This Piece Of Advice to Heart

Becoming a threat on both sides, out of air AND off the bounce, is a critical part of making it into (and through) pickleball tournaments.

Thinking of Playing in a Pickleball Tournament? Take This Piece Of Advice to Heart

Have tournament aspirations, or are already playing in pickleball tournaments? If you have a safe spot to hit to, you have zero chance of becoming the best, and are slowly losing the war.

Let me explain.

Ben Johns is the best male player, and Anna Leigh Waters is the best female in the game, not simply because they have fast hands - everyone at that level has speedy hands.

They’re #1 because you can’t bail to either side and feel safe.

  • Dink to Ben’s forehand, he can attack you out of the air and off the bounce.
  • Dink to his backhand, he’ll attack out of the air and hit his patented roll power dink that’ll make you look silly as you fall over, trying to cover behind you.
  • If you get tricky and hold cross court, he’ll roll it up the center and make you look equally ridiculous.

Same for ALW, except she just blatantly comes at opponents with raw juice:

  • Dink to her forehand, you get attacked.
  • Dink to her backhand, you get attacked, but once in a while, she’ll hit her nasty heavy roll two-hander that also breaks ankles.

The common theme here will be the determining factor as you attempt to move up the ranks: You must be an offensive threat from everywhere!

At 9-9-2, your opponents can call a timeout and remind one another that they’ll be fine if they can just make the ball bounce to (X) spot. At that point, you’ve already lost the match.

At the pro level and the high tourney amateur level, no longer are the days where hitting 10 dinks will get you a pop-up. Conversely, now 6 dinks gets you attacked, especially in the women’s game.

Read Next: What It’s Like Being a Pro Pickleball-Playing Mom

Pros, you just got paid a huge bag, which means there’s even more “pressure” to perform and differentiate yourself. When it’s time to cash-in again in the future, will you have positioned yourself at or near the top of the list?

Become a threat on both sides, out of air AND off the bounce. If you don’t, you’ll remain a normal, good player who gets run over by the fearless, aggressive TOP players.

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

Becoming a threat on both sides, out of air AND off the bounce, is a critical part of making it into (and through) pickleball tournaments.

Image of a pickleball player's balanced legs as they approach a hit.

Pickleball Positioning Strategy Basics

Where do we begin with our pickleball positioning strategy to maximize options for each shot? James Ignatowich provides some basics.

Pickleball Positioning Strategy Basics

Top five pickleball pro James Ignatowich here. One of the most common things I hear on the court is something like “this shot feels great when I drill, but it’s so much harder in a game for some reason.”

Of course it’s harder! When you drill, you know where the ball is being hit, and what you’re trying to do with it. In a game, you must react, move, and make a decision, and that all comes down to your positioning strategy.

What isn’t talked about enough is how your positioning and shot selection are connected.

EXAMPLE: If someone hits a dink a little too high, but you’re on one leg and off balance, then maybe it’s NOT the right ball to speed up on.

The pros make the game look easy because they are always balanced and in the right position - like you are when you drill.

The best players will still miss, or pop the ball up, when they are stretched or off balance.

One thing that separates the pros from rec players is that they stay within their means when they are off balance, and attack when their balance is strong.

You won’t find too many pros who speed the ball up off balance, on one leg.

Remember, a necessary quality of any speed up is that you are ready for it to come back.

Speed ups are set up shots, and as you get better, you can’t expect to win the point right away with your speed up.

So, where do we begin with our pickleball positioning strategy to maximize options for each shot?

  • First, focus on your own recognition. For example, if you hit a deep serve on the baseline, go ahead and take a step forward early, because the chances of a weak and short return is greater.
  • Second, react with your feet first. I see way too many people stab at a reset with their paddle before they even try to get behind the ball with their feet.
  • Lastly, focus on the split step. You don’t have to be crazy with your feet like me, but split-stepping before every shot is critical.

Having your core centered and your legs bent will prepare you to react and also stay in control.

Way too many people fly through the transition zone, thinking it’s a rush to get into the kitchen.

You want to get to the kitchen as quickly as possible, but not at the expense of balance. You do not want to be moving while your opponent is hitting a ball at your feet.

Read Next: Two-Person Pickleball Drills and the Most Important Practice Tip

So next time you’re on the court, be conscious of your positioning and how balanced you are on each shot.

Being balanced will give you a greater chance of making a defensive shot, and will give you a greater chance of finding an offensive opportunity.

James Ignatowich is giving out hot takes like this, instructional videos, and strategy input from other top pros in his weekly coaching newsletter! Click here to subscribe and catch up on previous editions.

Where do we begin with our pickleball positioning strategy to maximize options for each shot? James Ignatowich provides some basics.

When Should I Speed Up in Pickleball? Answer These Questions First

When Should I Speed Up in Pickleball? Answer These Questions First

When to speed up in pickleball is a question whose answer requires answers to other questions. But coach Dayne provides a simplified explanation.

When Should I Speed Up in Pickleball? Answer These Questions First

Today’s pickleball isn’t about blind attacks, it’s about intentional aggression. In order to know when to speed up in pickleball, you need to know who to attack, where to attack, when, and your opponent's response to those specified attacks. 

Of course, in milliseconds, one or more of these questions may be difficult or even impossible to answer.

Much of your ability to answer them in the moment will come with practice and exposure to high-pressure scenarios.

But there is a broader question you need to ask yourself before speeding up a pickleball: 

Do we have a 60% of winning this firefight if we properly initiate the hands battle?

If the answer is yes, we can then start a mental deep-dive on the details.

WHO? Is it my straight ahead opponent, or are they cross court? Can I sneak one at them with a cross attack, or do I need to keep it simple with a straight ahead approach?

WHERE? Are their shoulders available, or am I going to need to be precise down at his hips, with an occasional blast to center mass? Are they susceptible to an off-speed attack, or are they weak against power?

WHEN? How low can I initiate from below the net before I lose that 60% edge? Am I primarily going at them out of the air, or will I need to let it bounce to get them off balance? Will my 3rd drives cause problems, or do they eat them for lunch? Do I have a drop-n-charge strategy available, or it a waste of my energy? Lobs?

All of the above questions are “moving targets,” meaning I expect them to change throughout the match, but knowing this, my job is to remain aware and keep moving with them.

As my opponents adjust, I, too, must adjust, and change my answers accordingly.

Read Next: Avoid This Common Mistake While Covering the Middle in Pickleball

While all of these questions are processed, I want to go even deeper and figure out how they naturally like to respond.

Are they sliders, counter-attackers, or resetters? Are they backhand defenders, or come back at me with the pancake? Do they get pissed after repeated aggression towards them, or step-up, fire-up, and get better?

Challenge yourself to know the answers to all of the above - the more information we have, the more dangerous we become, and the more doubt we embed into our opponents.

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

When to speed up in pickleball is a question whose answer requires answers to other questions. But coach Dayne provides a simplified explanation.

Pickleball players who have clearly practiced their drills face off during a PPA Tour match.

Two-Person Pickleball Drills and the Most Important Practice Tip

The most important drilling tip we have: only practice 1-2 techniques in a single session. Plus: a couple two-person pickleball drills that work two players'...

Two-Person Pickleball Drills and the Most Important Practice Tip

Top five pickleball pro James Ignatowich here. I already explained how players looking to improve should drill more than they actually play games of pickleball. 

But how can you get the most out of your drilling sessions? By focusing on no more than 2 shots per practice session.

I’ve seen a lot of drilling at this point. I’ve also done a lot of drilling. Most players seem to go out there and drill to work on every shot for 10 minutes at a time.

I’m here to tell you that to make the most out of your pickleball practice sessions, focus intensely on one or two specific facets of the game for extended periods of time, instead of just dipping your toes into the water of each shot.

I’ve gotten more out of drilling sessions where I’ve spent a full hour focusing only on dinking, or a full hour dedicated solely to resets.

This level of commitment to a singular shot during a drilling session is where real improvement happens. This has been where true improvement happened for me when I was improving leaps and bounds as a 4.5, or now, where I’m just fine tuning my game and improving in smaller increments.

Related: Instantly Improve Your Pickleball Dink Technique with One Tip

Get out there for an hour and focus on no more than two parts of the game, whether that be dinks and 3rd shot drives, drops and serves, or whatever you feel the need to work on.

The 1-2 shots that you choose are not what matters here. What matters is that you keep it concise and focused.

James Ignatowich is giving out hot takes like this, instructional videos, and strategy input from other top pros in his weekly coaching newsletter! Click here to subscribe and catch up on previous editions.

Two-Person Pickleball Drills to Try

The following pickleball drills are great to try with a partner because they work different aspects of the game for each person, allowing you to either dedicate a long session to either side or to switch it up halfway through.

Bad "Dink" & Speedup

With both players on the kitchen line, have one toss a ball that would be a high dink - toss it so that you're not training a high dink yourself! - and theother player speeds it up. 

This is great for one player to focus on speedups while the other practices counters. 

If you want to work a specific shot or spot over and over again, great, but don't get used to it on the defensive side!

Serve, Return, 3rd

Aside from the obvious benefits of repping these shots over and over, not enough players practice thirds from the distance of a return. Usually, it's someone hitting fourths from the kitchen.

The ball has lost more pace after covering a bigger distance, so the feeling of the shot is a little different. This is also a good opportunity to focus on early recognition for your third shot drop or drive decision.

For the Lone Player: A Pickleball Drill Machine That Works

The most important drilling tip we have: only practice 1-2 techniques in a single session. Plus: a couple two-person pickleball drills that work two players'...

Improving in pickleball can't just involve playing, like the players in this photograph are.

If You're Below 4.5 and Want to Improve in Pickleball, Do This

James Ignatowich says players hoping to go up significantly to levels above 4.5 should follow a tight training regiment, favoring drills over play.

If You're Below 4.5 and Want to Improve in Pickleball, Do This

Top 5 pro James Ignatowich here. Pickleball players at level 4.5 and below should be drilling 60% of the time if they want to continue to improve.

Drilling is more important for 3.0s - 4.5s than it is for 5.0+ players.

It’s no secret that what goes on in 5.0+ games is significantly different from 3.5 games in almost every way. Sometimes, it’ll look like two different sports entirely.

In some ways, 3.5 pickleball is more fun. It’s less structured, there’s hardly any dinking, and frankly, you never know what will happen next. However, for these reasons, it’s arguably even more important for 3.5’s to develop a consistent drilling routine.

Since there’s less consistency of point structure in 3.5 games, drilling is the only way to develop that consistency!

  • Games at the 5.0+ level typically consist of structured points where players are getting a variety of consistent repetitions hitting dinks, drops, speed ups, and more.
  • 3.5 games don’t have that same structure. To break out of the 3.5 level, you need consistent repetitions hitting the same shot over and over, which is what 3.5 gameplay lacks. 

For 3.0-4.5 players in general, I would recommend a drill/play ratio of 60/40, in favor of drilling.

This is only for those who are very serious about getting better - I understand that drilling can be “boring”, and that’s ok. If you just want to have fun and play games all of the time, that’s cool too.

For 3.0-4.5’s, the drills don’t need to be complicated. Get a drilling partner and dink back and forth, work on drops with one player up at the kitchen and one at the baseline, and practice volleys, resets, serves and returns.

Read Next: Best Way to Improve Your Pickleball Drive? Slow it Down

While these drills are pretty straightforward there are certainly some best practices to follow in order to get the most out of them. 

James Ignatowich is giving out hot takes like this, instructional videos, and strategy input from other top pros in his weekly coaching newsletter! Click here to subscribe and catch up on previous editions.

James Ignatowich says players hoping to go up significantly to levels above 4.5 should follow a tight training regiment, favoring drills over play.

Learning the Strategy Behind Attacking in Pickleball

Learning the Strategy Behind Attacking in Pickleball

A scenario for learning about pickleball attack strategy and the decisions made in milliseconds.

Learning the Strategy Behind Attacking in Pickleball

In pickleball, who to attack, when to attack, and where to attack is determined within a 100th of a millisecond. Same for who, when, and where NOT to attack.

Looking for “tells” or clues as to what strategy to take in that split second requires a ton of practice and doesn’t always happen consciously. You’ll learn to pick up on things without knowing you’re actually seeing them.

Very often, you’ll notice multiple cues in an instant that’ll lead you to the highest percentage decision.

Most pickleball amateurs unfortunately go with the popular attack strategy of, “See ball, hit ball…hard!”

Not the most efficient way of executing attacks.

Check out the screenshot of this attack. What do you see that indicates the “X” is probably the highest percentage shot?

People playing pickleball with x in the image marking a spot of discussion in this post

The first thing I noticed was the lean of the attacker. He’s reached enough out wide enough that his left foot has come off the ground - his momentum is ultimately going to fall to the right, leaving him vulnerable to a counter-attack if he doesn’t hit the correct spot.

If I’m the attacker, this is the first clue I feel in my body that’ll help dictate where I initiate.

Secondly, check out the posture of the opponent straight ahead of the attacker.

  • He’s anticipating line (because the attacker is leaning wide and reaching). Probably the correct read.
  • His weight has already shifted to respond with a BH counter and he’s locked and ready.
  • He’s loaded his left leg, leaving minimal weight of his right, and his paddle is in BH, anticipating the counter.

Thirdly, the middle looks open, and maybe it is (if he can roll it perfectly low and in between his two opponents).

The cross court opponent’s left foot is already over the center line, preparing to cover. He might be baiting a middle attack.

If I’m attacking here, I’ll need to see this and before starting this hands battle, in that 100th of a millisecond, want to know three things:

  • Does my opponent have a two-handed counter? If he does, I’m not firing this.
  • Is he a lefty? If yes, I’m not firing this.
  • Can I recover for my re-counter follow up?

My cross court opponent would have to have a weak one handed counter, be a natural resetter, or I’d need to know I can effectively hit a great low roller for me to have confidence in winning this exchange through the center.

Lastly, the attacker needs to have a partner with above average hand speed, because from this ball position and angle of attack, it could easily be countered through him.

I know, I know…reading this and digesting all the possible options is a difficult task. Super difficult, and feels impossible, I get it.

In real time, with a ton of practice, these decisions are made at a speed faster than we can consciously compute.

We begin seeing everything I wrote without even knowing we’re seeing them. Again, though, after we’ve put in hours of work, intentionally rehearsing these types of decisions.

Read Next: An Elite Pickleball Maneuver: the V-Lock

Your biggest and easiest competitive advantage comes from DOING this type of work.

Your opponents, as 98% here, after reading this, will not want to put in this type of effort.

 

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

A scenario for learning about pickleball attack strategy and the decisions made in milliseconds.

James Ignatowich demonstrating a superior pickleball drive

Best Way to Improve Your Pickleball Drive? Slow it Down

James Ignatowich, top pickleball pro, says players seeking to improve their drive should dial their speed down to around 70%.

Best Way to Improve Your Pickleball Drive? Slow it Down

Top five pickleball pro James Ignatowich here. And I'm here to say: you should hit your drives at only 70% power.

Hitting a 70% pace drive is more effective than “going for broke” on the drive. You shouldn’t be trying to hit it as hard as you can.

I used to hit every drive almost as hard as I could. Some of them would go out while others would get “saved” by my opponent hitting them.

As I went up in level, most of my drives wouldn’t really be that effective.

Why Slightly Less Powerful Drives Work

If you’re a 3.0 - 3.5 and you’re able to hit a drive with a lot of power, by all means - do it. On the other hand, if you’re playing against higher level competition, the sheer power of your drive is probably NOT going to be difficult for them to react to.

After all, drives are typically hit from well behind the kitchen line. Rarely will you surprise a higher level player with the pace of your drive.

To the contrary, I’ve had significantly more success hitting drives at 70% of my full power, or even less.

  • I’ll aim these drives to land at around 5 feet past the kitchen line. Or, almost directly in between the kitchen line and the baseline.
  • If you ever miss a drive deep, your head is not in the right place - or you missed your target by about 10 feet. Let’s just go with “your head wasn’t in the right place.”
  • The best drive is designed to hit your opponent in between the ground and the height of their knees, as they are on their way forward after a return.

This drive will force the opponent to “hit up” on the ball. As a result, a drive that is low and dipping at 70% power is much more “crashable,” meaning your partner can poach off of it more easily.

Additionally, since this drive is slightly slower, it gives your partner more time to track and read how to successfully poach off of it.

By contrast, a full power drive will often move too quickly for your partner to get a good read on the crashing potential of it.

Working on your backhand drive? Here's everything you need to know.

A hard drive will also likely meet your opponent above their hip height. I’ll ask you this question - do you feel more comfortable hitting a 4th shot volley from your ankles or above your hips? The answer is above your hips.

So to recap: a 70% pace, low, topspin drive is more effective than a near 100% pace drive because

1) it gives your partner a better opportunity to effectively poach off of it

2) there’s less risk of missing long

3) it will force your opponent to “hit up” on their 4th, drastically increasing the probability that they “pop the ball up.”

James Ignatowich is giving out hot takes like this, instructional videos, and strategy input from other top pros in his weekly coaching newsletter! Click here to subscribe and catch up on previous editions.

James Ignatowich, top pickleball pro, says players seeking to improve their drive should dial their speed down to around 70%.

Connor Garnett demonstrating a perfect two handed backhand

Twoey Secrets: Mastering the Two Handed Backhand in Pickleball

We provide critical tips for improving your two handed backhand drive, focusing on the mechanics of what makes the shot successful and strategic.

Twoey Secrets: Mastering the Two Handed Backhand in Pickleball

 The two handed backhand in pickleball – otherwise known as the “twoey” – is in the spotlight this year.

This power-focused shot has gained popularity with some of the top players, and recreational players are taking notice. 

Anna Leigh Waters developed it as one of her signature shots, and even Ben Johns is known to bring it out when he’s not playing cat and mouse at the kitchen line.

We spoke with one of the top pros who is especially gifted with a strong twoey, Connor Garnett, who gave us some insight into when and how to pull off this intimidating shot.

What is the Twoey?

“Isn’t it just putting an extra hand on and ripping a backhand?”

Absolutely not. 

Generally, the keys to a successful two handed backhand include:

1) Strong left hand involvement

2) A compact swing

3) Utilizing the kinetic chain (more on all of this below)

The technique won’t change much, but there are five main use cases for the twoey which each involve some important differentiations and strategies:

  • The down-the-line backhand
  • The backhand cross-court
  • The transition backhand
  • The backhand dink
  • The backhand speedup (volley)

Connor breaks down each of those scenarios here:

Before we expand on when and how to use the two handed pickleball backhand, we should also explain the basics of its proper grip.

Finding the Two Handed Backhand Pickleball Grip

If you’re unclear about how to grip the paddle while performing the twoey, practice this set up:

Step one: Hold the paddle face with your non-dominant hand, keeping it out in front of you with the handle facing you.

Step two: Using your dominant hand, reach out and “shake hands” with the paddle’s handle, gripping it as you would when introducing yourself to someone or closing a deal.

Step three: Take your non-dominant hand and place it right behind the first hand. It’s ok if your non-dominant hand has to touch the lower part of the paddle face in order to fit. Extend your pointer finger against the face of the paddle to provide support.

The result should look like this:

Connor Garnett demonstrating the correct grip for pickleball two handed backhands

Perfecting the Twoey

Strong left hand involvement - The left hand is probably the most important aspect of the twoey backhand, Connor tells us.

“You will see some players working on hitting lefty to build that strength. Make sure that your right hand is along for the ride, but the left hand does the bulk of the work.”

Start by dipping the paddle tip to gain spin and throw the left (non-dominant) hand across, which will naturally finish across the body.

Related: Avoid This Common Mistake While Covering the Middle in Pickleball

“I will put my left pointer finger on the back face of the paddle to get additional feel and allow me to come around the ball,” Connor says.

“This allows me to even generate some side spin through this when dinking.”

Compact swing - With the non-dominant hand on the paddle, you’ll naturally swing shorter than what we see on the forehand.

It is key to ensure that once your right shoulder (inverse for a lefty) hits your chin, the backswing is big enough.

Utilizing the Kinetic Chain - “I have seen people at clinics overuse the arms for power,” Connor warns.

“However, until the hips bring the paddle out on contact, my upper body is still – THEN I will add a swing with the arms to get topspin and add additional torque.”

This technique employs the larger muscle groups (i.e. legs, hips, and core) for the bulk of the power and the smaller ones for the finish and spin. It’ll take some practice, but focus on those two groups as separate entities.

When to Use: The Strategy Behind Two-Handed Backhands

There are numerous instances where the two handed pickleball backhand can give players an advantage. 

Right-handers on the left side: you just know your opponent across from you is eventually going to try to speed up on your left-side line. It’s inevitable, so counter it effectively with the twoey.

If you’d have to stretch your arm out to reach a one-handed backhand shot, it’s better to throw that second hand on there to add stability and power. Make them pay for trying the speedup in the first place.

Right handers on the right side: your opponent dinks out wide to your right; you return, and they speed it up through the middle to try to find the gap between you and your partner. 

The twoey works here for the same reason it works above. You’re already out of place to some extent, so you want to regain power and form to punish your opponent’s attempt. 

Of course, if you’re left-handed, flip these scenarios. 

No matter which hand you favor, recognize that the two handed pickleball backhand is all about adding power, stability, and reinforcement.

Ideally, these shots should be reserved for situations where you’re trying to confidently end the point or take your opponent by surprise – but we all know it doesn’t always work out that way…

…Which leads us to our final tip: don’t get cocky

It’s easy to assume that the extra power your other hand affords you will guarantee the end of a point. But even lower-level players get lucky sometimes and return a hard drive. Be sure to keep the form punchy and snap back into ready position immediately after a short follow-through late in the stroke.

You can follow Connor Garnett on Instagram for more tips.

We provide critical tips for improving your two handed backhand drive, focusing on the mechanics of what makes the shot successful and strategic.

James Ignatowich shows off his pickleball swing and dink technique

Instantly Improve Your Pickleball Dink Technique with One Tip

In pickleball, you should not use your wrist if you don’t have to. You can instantly improve your dinking technique (and your volley technique) if...

Instantly Improve Your Pickleball Dink Technique with One Tip

Top 5 pro James Ignatowich here. Have you ever wondered why recreational pickleball players consistently have 1) bigger swings and 2) more funky wrist movement involved in their strokes?

I was just teaching a group of 4.0s - 4.5s that I won’t name (to save them the embarrassment of this callout), but let’s just call them “The Big Swing group.”

Or, the “BS group,” for short.

So, for whatever reason, this BS group was taking monstrous swings on all of their dinks and adding unnecessary, funky wrist movement to half of their shots.

One guy was even lifting his left knee up every time he hit a forehand speed up, a move he called, “The Flamingo.” For the record, I told him to stop right away.

I said that if anyone ever asked him where he learned that “move,” he didn’t dare tell anyone that he learned it from me.

I was utterly shocked at the “BS group” because it was almost as if they relished in the silliness of their unnecessarily large swings and funky movements.

I didn’t want to stop them from having fun, so I simply asked them a question:

“Have you ever observed the swings of the top pros, whether it be in a hands battle, dinking, or even a drop or drive?”

Turns out, they didn’t watch pro pickleball. That was the least shocking thing I learned about this group.

My purpose in explaining this story is twofold:

  • First, you should watch pro pickleball. That’s the easiest way to gain an understanding of the technique that they use.
  • Second, simplicity is key. It’s no coincidence that the top pros have smaller swings than you do. My swings seem to shrink every year. In recently watching myself play a match from 2 years ago, I was surprised to see how big my swings were, and how much extra wrist movement there was.

Decreasing Your Swing Size = Better Consistency

So that brings me to rule of thumb number 1: as you go up in pickleball level, you’ll notice that the size of backswings generally get smaller and more compact.

The higher the level, the faster the ball moves.

So, how do we prepare to go up a level in pickleball? Practice shortening your swings (yes, even your volleys!) and simplifying everything.

After all, there’s no need for any extra wrist movement on the soft stuff. Your wrist should be more or less fixed, with almost no movement at all.

This doesn’t mean you should tense up and try to lock it on purpose, but you should not use your wrist if you don’t have to.

So how do we actually practice shortening our swings and minimizing wrist movement?

If you’re struggling with extra movement and swing size on your shots, the next time you get out there and drill, exaggerate the most simple possible motion to still execute the shot.

Any movement that you may not need for execution? Don’t do it.

For the purpose of this exercise, completely exaggerate it. Now, exclusively hit the shot that way for the entire practice. See if your consistency improves.

Read Next: You Should Miss More Pickleball Serves (Here's Why)

After all, what’s more repeatable, a big swing, or a small swing? And that’s what pickleball is at its core - A game where the winner is determined by who makes more balls inside of the lines In conclusion: Exaggerate the simplicity of your strokes.

James Ignatowich is giving out hot takes like this, instructional videos, and strategy input from other top pros in his weekly coaching newsletter! Click here to subscribe and catch up on previous editions.

In pickleball, you should not use your wrist if you don’t have to. You can instantly improve your dinking technique (and your volley technique) if...

James Ignatowich serving in pickleball

You Should Miss More Pickleball Serves (Here's Why)

If you aren’t missing 1 out of 10 pickleball serves, you aren’t taking enough risk. But the key is how you miss them.

You Should Miss More Pickleball Serves (Here's Why)

Top five pickleball pro James Ignatowich here. There is a risk reward trade-off for anything in life, and the pickleball serve is no exception. 

If you aren’t missing 1 out of 10 pickleball serves, you aren’t taking enough risk. But the key is how you miss them. More on that below.

Long gone are the days of the top pros just “laying in” their serves with no intention of creating any offense, or earning “free” points off of missed returns.

Advancements in paddle technology have changed pickleball for good, and the top pros can regularly be seen hitting the serve with power, depth and topspin.

Taking “risk” on the serve, by virtue of hitting the serve with depth and pace, requires some courage.

I would know - I used to be terrified of missing a serve. After all, if you miss a serve, your chances of winning that point immediately go to 0.

You might lose your scoring momentum and your partner may even get mad at you for it. I play mixed doubles exclusively with my girlfriend, so that last factor is very concerning.

So, to make things easier on myself, I would just lay the serve in and get ready to hit a third shot.

Fun fact: I went 9 straight tournaments without missing a serve in 2022. I was congratulated for the streak back then, and I suppose I felt proud of my consistency on the serve. Looking back, it’s nothing to be proud of. 

Hitting a hard, deep and aggressive serve has proven to be the superior strategy on the professional circuit.

Successful aggressive serves set you up for success:

  • They increase the likelihood of missed returns
  • They set up easier third shot drops
  • They also give the serving team better set ups for special maneuvers such as the “drive and crash”

This is why I recommend hitting the serve as hard as you can, as long as you make 9/10 of them.

If you can hit the serve very hard and earn some missed returns, I’d argue that making “only” 80% of your serves is your target.

After going over all of my professional doubles matches in 2024, I’ve actually earned MORE missed returns than serves that I’ve missed. That math alone tells me I’m doing something right.

Read Next: No, You Shouldn't RUSH to the Kitchen in Pickleball

If we consider the easier third shots I receive as a result of short returns, it’s a clear home run. 

Remember: if you're going to miss, miss wide or deep. Nobody wants to see a netted serve.

James Ignatowich is giving out hot takes like this, instructional videos, and strategy input from other top pros in his weekly coaching newsletter! Click here to subscribe and catch up on previous editions.

If you aren’t missing 1 out of 10 pickleball serves, you aren’t taking enough risk. But the key is how you miss them.

Ben Johns and Anna Leigh Waters show off an elite pickleball maneuver, the V-Lock.

An Elite Pickleball Maneuver: the V-Lock

How close can you pinch the center line to counter a middle attack, but still cover the cross court dink? Get to know this spot...

An Elite Pickleball Maneuver: the V-Lock

The 'V-Lock' is a critical part of ALW & Ben John's success.

It’s a forehand-in-the-middle thing. For you lefties, reverse everything, but the following still applies.

In the video above, Ben isn’t just isolating his opponent Anna Bright -- he and ALW are locking her in a corner with their “V” positioning, forcing her to decide which poison to drink:

  • Does she want to get into a dinking war against the best backhand dink in the game?
  • Dink straight ahead to ALW and deal with her speed-up?
  • Attack the middle through ALW’s and Ben’s best counter-attack?

All options suck!

Look at the screenshots below and check out how Ben forced her into her worst option (speeding up through the middle).

Look at his position - he’s squeezing middle, but not so much that he leaves AB’s cross court backhand dink (her best shot) wide open, but JUST ENOUGH to bait her into attacking through an area that he has locked down with his forehand.

Your positioning here may not be exactly the same, but it’s super important that you know where your “squeeze spot” is.

How close can you pinch the center line to counter a middle attack, but still cover the cross court dink? Know this spot on the court - it’s hugely important to create this V lockdown.

Once the hands battle begins, Ben (forehand middle) squeezes center even harder.

Why? Because he knows the ball has to travel through the middle of the net at some angle.

Very rarely during a hands exchange will the ball get hit through a tiny short angle. Middle forehands, squeeze the center hard (straddle the middle, if necessary) once the firefight begins.

This court positioning is absolute perfection from both ALW and Ben, and it's why they dominate together.

It’s a simple geometry game, kids.

Read Next: Avoid This Common Mistake While Covering the Middle in Pickleball

Know the angles and learn how to cover them, while simultaneously, leaving your ego on the bench.

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

How close can you pinch the center line to counter a middle attack, but still cover the cross court dink? Get to know this spot...

Hand with pickleball paddle covering the middle of the court.

Avoid This Common Mistake While Covering the Middle in Pickleball

An easy smash is floated to your team. So who covers the middle in this situation, sending back the ball for what is hopefully an...

Avoid This Common Mistake While Covering the Middle in Pickleball

Covering the middle in doubles pickleball often leads to an unnecessary mistake that's completely avoidable.

Here's the scenario: we have a long, aggressive player on the left with their forehand (FH) in the middle, trying to make her presence felt. Opponents float a ball in the center for an easy smash, but FH and BH (backhand) collide.

I see this happen quite a bit on the amateur level and sometimes with pros as well. 

How do we solve this?



First: as you hear me call to Bonnie up front while her partner returns, I want her squeezing middle on her opponent’s 3rd, even with her BH.

Once they’re both at the kitchen and neutralized, she can slide back into “normal” position and let the long FH pinch middle.

The mistake was made prior to the beginning of the point. What do I mean?

We want to clearly communicate the intention of our roles at the kitchen.

Tracy is super long and aggressive, while Bonnie is shorter and has her BH in the middle (shorter reach, not as much power).

I want them to know exactly what they’re going to be looking for as the point progresses, which includes floaters over the middle.

Now, to the specifics DURING the point.

I loved that Bonnie squeezed her opponent’s 3rd, but after Tracy volleys her 4th... we want Bonnie to slide back right and a couple inches behind the line.

This will allow Tracy to roam aggressively towards middle and get her right foot across the center line for maximum FH pressure.

What’s subtle within this move, but extremely important, is the sliding of Tracy’s right hip.

The foot and hip need to aggressively move to middle, signaling to Bonnie that her FH volley is there.

If she doesn’t do this, Bonnie can’t know Tracy’s there, and will stab for the middle, as well.

Instead of reaching parallel, across the kitchen line, we need Tracy to set her paddle up and reach diagonally THROUGH the kitchen at the floater, cutting off the angle, not letting it drop, and also signaling to Bonnie that she’s there for the smash volley.

Read Next: A Hot Take Re: Pickleball Line Call Etiquette

Sometimes we can yell, “Mine,” etc., but often times, the point happens too fast, so non-verbal communication becomes crucial.

Get that hip and foot in there and make your partner feel your presence.

Embrace your role within the moment.

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

An easy smash is floated to your team. So who covers the middle in this situation, sending back the ball for what is hopefully an...

Caution sign with exclamation mark

Be Careful Who you Take Pickleball Advice From

As we gain more experience in pickleball, many of us attempt to make it too complicated. Take this story from Coach Dayne as an example.

Be Careful Who you Take Pickleball Advice From

A couple days ago while I was drilling, I looked over at the court next to me because I overheard a player giving his friend some mechanical advice that I disagreed with.

I paused our drilling session to watch and listen for a minute, but not letting them know I was paying attention. The player I was drilling with saw that look in my eye and tried to stop me, but I wouldn’t let him.

I quickly walked to the neighboring court and politely interrupted (I teach on these courts, so I wasn’t a random stranger butting in). I asked to see the shot they were discussing.

After he missed the first two, his friend interrupted and, again, gave him the same technique advice I disagreed with.

I fed the player three more balls, watched carefully, and put this thing to rest.

“It’s not his technique, it’s his intention - he has none. Sure, his mechanics are unique, and his own, but who cares. As long as we can consistently make the ball to (X) spot, we can look any way we want.”

His friend started to fire back (3.5 player, btw), but before he could, I gave the “student” detailed visual intention and fed him ten more balls.

BOOM, 7-10 exactly how he envisioned them.

One of the greatest parts about pickleball is its ability to bring in new players quickly. It’s relatively simple to pick up and become proficient enough to hold a rally with our friends.

As we get more experienced, however, many of us, especially the “rec coaches” or coaches who SHOULDN’T BE coaches, attempt to make it too complicated.

Mechanics don’t drive the bus, they support it. Learn how to properly implement feel and visual techniques that’ll give better cues and instructions to our mechanics.

Read Next: Crossover Backhand Dinks are Your Friend

Before anyone becomes a “certified coach,” please study this piece of the puzzle. And you rec coaches…maybe just PLAY with your friends.

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

As we gain more experience in pickleball, many of us attempt to make it too complicated. Take this story from Coach Dayne as an example.

Lines on a pickleball court

A Hot Take Re: Pickleball Line Call Etiquette

Pickleball line call etiquette tells us we should "just ignore" a bad line call. But trying to do so may hinder your performance in the...

A Hot Take Re: Pickleball Line Call Etiquette

I was recently asked to write about how to respond after a bad line call, as many players unfortunately allow themselves to get mentally flushed down the toilet bowl after a bad call.

*Full transparency: I’ve been known to lose my stuff at specific opponents when I think they’ve made bad calls on purpose. My “justice league” DNA comes to the surface if I believe a player is purposely cheating, rather than accidentally missing their call - we all miss calls.

The cliche advice to players who get overheated after a bad call sounds something like, “Ignore it, don’t worry, move on.” 

The traditional pickleball line call etiquette calls for this laissez-faire mindset that the casual side of the game is known for. Only problem is: it doesn't always work. 

We can’t pretend the call didn’t happen and there’s no “ignoring” it. Instead, we need a mental place to focus that replaces the emotions we feel from the crappy call.

Also, counterintuitively, I’m a fan of allowing ourselves to be upset and express it to the opponent and referee (if applicable), as long as we mentally shift to our new position of strength before the next point begins.

Tiger Woods gave himself 10 steps to be pissed after a bad shot.

Kobe internally yelled at himself quickly before mentally moving on.

If you feel the need to let out the negativity, do so, BUT…adjust before the next serve is hit.

There isn’t one technique that works for everyone, nor will I pretend to know each possible mental adjustment.

This type of work needs to take place long before you even step on the court, through visualization, meditation, or other internal techniques that help calm the mind.

I personally use what I’ve defined as the “let it out and snap back” technique:

  • I’ll let the player know I thought the call was bad (maybe even have a few ’fun’ words back-n-forth)
  • When I turn my back and walk to the baseline for the next point, my head drops, eyes close, breathing slows, and I focus on competing THROUGH the emotion
  • My personal mantra is, “Next point now! This is why I compete!” I’ll repeat this sentence over and over, until it’s taken the place of the bad line call.

I’m not ignoring the call, I’m acknowledging it, but simultaneously shifting the power struggle from anger to a competitive intention.

However you find your new mental spot, I do suggest purposely turning your back on the situation (figuratively and literally), slowing down your walk and your breath, and intentionally shifting your mind to, “Now what? What do we need to do next?”

Read Next: No, You Shouldn't RUSH to the Kitchen in Pickleball

This will automatically take you to a neutral, more powerful mental place before starting the next point -- traditional pickleball line call etiquette be damned.

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

Pickleball line call etiquette tells us we should "just ignore" a bad line call. But trying to do so may hinder your performance in the...

No, You Shouldn't RUSH to the Kitchen in Pickleball

No, You Shouldn't RUSH to the Kitchen in Pickleball

I’ve said it a billion times, so let’s make it a billion and ONE: there’s zero value in rushing to the kitchen line after our 3rd. "WHAT?" I...

No, You Shouldn't RUSH to the Kitchen in Pickleball

I’ve said it a billion times, so let’s make it a billion and ONE: there’s zero value in rushing to the kitchen line after our 3rd.

"WHAT?" I hear you ask. That goes against everything anyone has ever told me about basic pickleball strategy. But the key to my above assertion is in the word rush

Of course, there will be a couple times here and there where our 3rd drop is perfect, or we take a risk off a ‘crush-n-rush’ drive.

But mostly, we’ll need to move patiently to the kitchen, not rush

To help with this difficult “rushing” process, I visualize the transition area being broken into three sections.

My goal is to play a ball in each section, unless, again, the 3rd is absolutely perfect.

Check out the image at the top of this article:

Section one: The 3rd ‘hit and assess.’

Maybe we have to hold and reset our 5th because our 3rd was hit too high. This spot allows us the most patience and calm to begin our move forward.

Section two: This is a very dynamic section, because it offers many options.

We can move into this area after a good 3rd, but still have to be weary of a solid opponent rolling it down at our feet off the bounce, so rushing will only get us hurt.

We also may have to remain patient after an OK 5th and prepare for a 7th shot.

My favorite part of section two, however, is the line that connects it to section three. This line is MY target as I move through transition, and should be yours, as well.

If we get our feet on this last line, we’re essentially already “in.”

Read Next: Crossover Backhand Dinks are Your Friend

We wouldn’t be that far through without well-struck resets, so we can comfortably say all that’s left is one last drop and we can literally step to the kitchen line.

Focusing on section three’s line, rather than the kitchen, automatically slows down our transition play and creates more patience through each shot.

If we’re not worried about always having to touch the kitchen line (and hit section three’s line instead), we’ll never rush, making it easier to hold our lower half still through contact, which will result in a more consistent transition play.

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

I’ve said it a billion times, so let’s make it a billion and ONE: there’s zero value in rushing to the kitchen line after our 3rd. "WHAT?" I...

Crossover Backhand Dinks are Your Friend

Crossover Backhand Dinks are Your Friend

The most common instance where you should break the “open stance only” rule is when you’re pulled wide on your backhand.

Crossover Backhand Dinks are Your Friend

Ignore coaches and players who tell you to never take a crossover step when you dink. There’s absolutely a correct time to do it, regardless of the level you play.

The most common time where you’ll want to break the old school “open stance only” rule is when you’re pulled wide on your backhand.

Taking a cross-over step will not only save you time and the actual steps you take, but it’ll also help cut off the angle of your opponent’s dink.

Your intention here isn’t to do anything fancy or offensive, it’s simply about getting to the ball on balance and not being pulled off the court.

As you practice this cross-over backhand and get more comfortable with it, you’ll eventually be able to turn it into an offensive angle back to your opponent’s backhand.

Other than the easier footwork, another reason the backhand cross-step approach is valuable and recommended is because your paddle shoulder is on the inside, allowing you to get to the ball earlier.

We can also do this cross-over on a super wide FH dink, but it isn’t as easy, because now your paddle shoulder is on the outside and will force you to come across your body to take the ball earlier - a little bit more difficult to time properly.

Read Next: Our Favorite Paddles for Control

Again, if you get pulled wide, especially on your BH, don’t hesitate to cross-over, cut off your opponent’s angle and make contact as early as possible.

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

The most common instance where you should break the “open stance only” rule is when you’re pulled wide on your backhand.