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How Should You Hold Your Paddle

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Most pickleball instructors only teach their students one way to hold the pickleball paddle. I have a different philosophy.

I strongly believe that there isn’t just one grip that is best for all players. I have come to this conclusion by noticing that today’s top players are using a variety of grips. In this instructional article I will point out the various grips that current top players are using (all National Champions) and also point out the strengths and weaknesses of each grip. I will also give you important information that may help you decide on which grip might be the best for you. By understanding these grips it will also be easier for you to scout out the strengths and weaknesses that your opponents might have.

CONTINENTAL TENNIS GRIP
The most common grip taught and used by players is the continental tennis grip. This is a grip that is halfway between a forehand and backhand grip. In this grip, the hand is only holding the handle of the paddle and players get their sense of where the paddle is pointing by using the bevels of the paddle. The advantages of this grip is that it is a good grip for every shot and you can play without switching your grip. This is probably the most popular grip among top tennis players who are now playing pickleball. Good examples of top players using this grip would be Wes Gabrielsen and Sarah Ansboury.


STRENGTHS OF THIS GRIP:
1. No big weaknesses.
2. Good grip for power.
3. A good grip for reach.
4. Never need to switch grips.

WEAKNESSES OF THIS GRIP:
1. No glaring weakness, but might not have the touch of players who have their index finger touching the paddle face.

WHO WOULD MOST LIKELY BENEFIT FROM THIS GRIP?
1. Tennis, paddle tennis or racquetball players who have already been successful using this grip in their other sport.
2. Players who depend on power and reach to win points.

EASTERN TENNIS GRIP
Another grip that is also being used by several top players is really an eastern tennis grip with the index finger touching the face of the paddle.

When I say eastern grip, I mean a grip where the hand is more behind the paddle and the heel of the hand is on the back side of the handle. This grip is often used by players with very strong forehands. With the index finger touching the face of the paddle it can also be a good grip for dinkers. A good example of top players using this grip would be Mark Friedenberg, Dan Gabenek and Enrique Ruiz.

STRENGTHS OF THIS GRIP:
1. Good grip for players who predominantly use their forehand for ground strokes.
2. Players get the feeling that the paddle is an extension of their hand.
3. Good grip for dinking.

WEAKNESSES OF THIS GRIP:
1. You will lose a little power.
2. You will lose a little reach.
3. In order to use this grip for backhand volleys, you must have your elbow out in front and pivot from the elbow. This will put you in a stronger wrist position.

WHO WOULD MOST LIKELY BENEFIT FROM THIS GRIP?
1. Possibly former table tennis players, but this is not exactly how top table tennis players hold their paddle. 2. Players who like to dominate the game using the forehands.
3. Players who want the paddle to feel like an extension of their hand.

TABLE TENNIS V GRIP
Another grip that is becoming very popular with successful players is really just a table tennis V grip. This is the most popular grip among top table tennis players and now many pickleball players are choosing this grip.

With this grip, you hold the paddle face or blade between your thumb and index finger. KE It is really a continental grip, but you are T gripping the paddle down lower and using the feel of your index finger and thumb to give you feedback of where your paddle is pointed. Top players currently using this grip are Scott Moore, Glen Peterson and Mike Gates.

STRENGTHS OF THIS GRIP:
1. Lots of control and touch.
2. Great grip for dinking.
3. You can use this grip for every shot.

WEAKNESSES OF THIS GRIP:
1. You will lose a little power.
2. You will lose a little bit of reach.

WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM USING THIS GRIP?
1. Control players and dinkers.
2. Senior players who are playing against young players and want to keep the young players from using their power, strength and reflexes.
3. Former table tennis players.

SWITCHING GRIPS
There are also a few top players who are able to actually switch grips as they play depending upon the shot that they are hitting. You may have seen players able to hit high volleys using only one side of their paddle. This does allow these players to appear to have very quick hands but actually by only using one side of their paddle, they have earlier preparation. Sometimes these players will have a blocking motion at the net that makes their paddle look like a windshield wiper.

Most of the players who can do this are switching to a grip that is either a very strong backhand grip or a western forehand grip. Now these are extreme grip changes and it can be very difficult to quickly change to this grip at the right time. Usually when a player is using an extreme grip like this they have extreme strengths and extreme weaknesses. This would be a bad grip to use for reaching to either side or for dinking. It is a great grip for hitting the slightly higher balls that are between your shoulders. The great players who do this are able to switch grips quickly at just the right time. Top players who can switch their grip quickly are Pat Kane, Gigi LeMaster, and Mona Burnett.

I have noticed that all of these great switch-grip players look like they are holding the paddle very loosely in their hand during their ready position. I think this may help them to switch grips more quickly.

STRENGTHS OF SWITCHING GRIPS AS YOU PLAY:
1. Can give you some very strong shots.
2. Can help you reach farther into the kitchen
to hit the volley.

WEAKNESSES OF SWITCHING GRIPS AS YOU PLAY:
1. Many players are unable to switch their grip quickly enough.
2. Can cause simple mistakes just because of not switching to the proper grip.

WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM SWITCHING GRIPS?
1. Players who have the skills of switching grips quickly.
2. Players who like to pop the ball as early as possible during a rally.
3. Players who want to take advantage of their long reach.

I suggest that all players experiment with different grips. By trying these different grips you might find one that better fits your game than the current grip you are using. You will also have a better understanding of strengths and weaknesses of various grips, which could help you come up with better game plans against your opponents.

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Steve Paranto has been playing tournament pickleball since 1974. He was involved with paddle development with his father in the early ‘80s. He is a 3-time National Champion in Men’s Senior Doubles and a 4-time Huntsman World Senior Games Singles Champion. He has a master’s degree in Physical Education and tennis teaching endorsement through Vic Braden’s Tennis Academy. He has been involved in teaching all ages the sport of pickleball for over 35 years.

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