Hundreds of shots are made during a pickleball match, but no two are exactly identical. They will vary in height and speed. They may bounce first or be struck out of the air. They may generate spin or be spinning when you hit them. While this variety can seem overwhelming at first, in reality, once the point is underway, most strokes are quite similar.
Creating a strong foundation of these basic strokes will enable you to adjust and handle the wide variety of shots. And the key to a solid foundation is to drill!
This one-hour transitional drill practices the basics and then puts them together to simulate a point. You will need: one friend, a hopper of pickleballs, painter’s tape, measuring tape, and a court.
The recommended time for each stage is 15 minutes.
STAGE 1 – The Dink: Use painter’s tape to mark a line 24 inches in front of the kitchen line on both sides of the net. Players standing on opposite sides of the net at the kitchen line begin dinking straight ahead. Try to hit as close to the tape as possible. Focus on keeping your grip loose on the paddle, bending your knees and keeping the ball approximately 6 inches above the net. Dink until you both can hit near the tape 10 times.
STAGE 2 – The Volley: Stand in the same spot as you did in the dink drill. With paddle out in front and knees slightly bent, begin cooperative volleying with your partner straight ahead. Hit 10 consecutive volleys that are 6-8 inches over the net.
STAGE 3 – The Offensive Lob: On one side of the court, use tape to mark a line 3 feet in front of the baseline. Begin with both players on the kitchen line and have one player feed dinks to the other. The receiver’s goal is to lob the ball over the feeder’s head, out of reach of an overhead. Aim for the space between the tape and the baseline. Hit five and switch spots. Keep doing this until you are able to hit 3-4 of these in the target area!
Extra challenge for Stage 3: Practice running down the lob. After the lob is up, the person being lobbed runs back to return the shot. Let the ball bounce, then return the ball with a slight arc over the net, as though you were hitting a third-ball dink, and then work your way back to the net. Repeat as many times as necessary until you’re comfortable.
Add them all up: Using the same half of the marked court, start at the kitchen line and dink straight ahead to each other. After you both hit at least three dinks, look for an opportunity to surprise your opponent with a lob or an offensive volley straight ahead. Play out the point until someone wins the point. First to 10 wins!
Remember, just 30-60 minutes a week of focused practice can elevate your game!
Christine Barksdale started playing pickleball in 2010, after being introduced to the sport by her dad. Joy started playing 3 years ago, after going to watch Christine play Canada Pickleball Nationals. Together they won gold at their debut in the 2013 Picklebarrel Classic. They continue to drill together and travel to tournaments around the US.