Pickleball – When All Else Fails

There I was playing a game of doubles the other day. My partner and I were matched against a team that I thought was somewhat more skilled than we were. I knew we would have our work cut out for us if we were to win.

I am not that confident in my third shot drop shot or any drop shot for that matter. I can generally hit a successful drop shot about 70% of the time. I really need to work on this and get it up to 90% plus, but then again that would take practice; ugh!

So there we were playing against two people who were very good at the net. My usual attempt to use a third shot drive or other hard drives to get the ball by them was not working consistently. They were either whacking the ball back hard or dropping it short and making us really work hard to move forward and hit a shot.

We were behind, but not by that much so I decided to start using drop shots into the kitchen area. My dink game is pretty good and I don’t lose too many dink points. I thought, “After all, what have I got to lose if other shots aren’t working.?”

Much to my surprise, this became an effective strategy. I was aiming primarily for the backhands of the opponents and every once in a while, down the middle. Sprinkle in my partner’s effective lob every now and then and the game was very close.

Lucky for us we were able to win although barely.

Here’s the point:

This was recreation play and not a tournament. Winning or losing didn’t mean as much to me as did making a good show. The one strategy I generally like to use, i.e. hitting hard drives, was not working.

Changing strategies to the softer game via drop shots turned out to be a better choice. Let’s say that we continued to lose points and ended up losing. It still would have been a good chance for me to get experience with the softer part of the game.

Keeping the ball low in pickleball is the key to winning points. A low ball is hard to attack and often results in a weak return. Of course, we need to be good at the soft game as well to take advantage of this situation.

Don’t be afraid to change strategies if what you are doing is not working.

A FINAL NOTE – I often talk to my partner during the game to share ideas, strategies, etc. This keeps everyone on the same page.

What are your thoughts?



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Jeff Shank’s Pickleball Strategy – Net Dribbles, Lobs and More

In this video segment, watch for these points:

Net Dribbles

  • How to handle balls that dribble over the net to give yourself time to get out of your non-volley zone (NVZ).
  • NOTE: Other top players advise that if you can angle the ball cross court while you retreat from the NVZ, it will give you more time to recover since to hit the ball back to you will take the opposing team member a fraction longer. Presumably your partner is already at the NVZ in anticipation of a possible return to them and they are not on the move.

  • What shot should you hit if the opposing player goes after a ball that dribbles over the net on their side and the ball is returned to you a bit high?
  • CLARIFICATION: The only reason the above technique works is because the ball is returned too high. If the return was a good dink into the half of the NVZ closest to the net, only a dink return would be advised.

    NOTE: At the 27:05 mark the sound gets very low so you might want to raise it!

    The Lob

  • Under what circumstances should the lob be used?
  • What is the best shot to use to recover from a bad (too short) lob and you suspect that it is coming right back at you?
  • Why does Jeff Shank suggest you should say to your partner: “Come up! Come up!“?

    Keeping the Ball Deep

  • Why should you serve the ball deep?
  • Why is it even more important to get the serve return deep?
  • Lefty-Righty Potential Advantage

  • What advantage would a team have (in many instances) if they are playing against a team with a right-handed player and a left-handed player?

    NOTE: Jeff points out that his suggestions are not the ONLY way to play the game, but he feels these are appropriate strategies for most players. Many pickleballers will develop some of their own personal strategies and as long as they work for you, stick with them.


    NOTE – To find out about this series of posts, i.e. 100 Pickleball Strategies by Jeff Shank, read the first post HERE


    To See additional Pickleball Videos Covering Many Aspects of the Game Click Here (primarily for beginners and less experienced players)

    Check out Additional Pickleball Info and Videos! (for all players including average to more experienced players)

    The Pickleball Lob – the Rodney Dangerfield of PB

    The lob often gets little respect. It is not an easy shot to execute well because if it is too short, your opponents will have you at slam city. If it is too long, it is an easy fault for your opponents. So, why use the lob?

    There are times when both opponents are at the net and it is difficult to get the ball by them. Perhaps your drop shot has abandoned you and your hard drives are coming back fast and furious. This might be a good time to lob the ball.

    The lob can provide an opportunity to move your opponents away form the net (offensive), i.e. the non-volley Zone (NVZ) and it can be a defensive move if the opponent’s shot forces you out of position. Lobbing the ball high and deep will provide time for your team to move to the NVZ and recover from a previous good shot by the opposing team. The point is, it must be well executed.

    In doubles play, the person to “get” the lob should be the person opposite of the court in which the shot will land. If the ball is going to land in your partner’s court, you need to get it. At that point, yell “switch” which signals your partner to cover your previous court while you finish the point in their original court.

    Don’t sell the lob short (no pun here). When used appropriately, it can be a valuable tool in your pickleball arsenal.

    Read the entire article below (which includes some “how to advice”) to help improve your lob game. The lob can be a valid shot when used strategically.

    Via – The Wretched Lob by Gale Leach – author of The Art of Pickleball.