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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Pickleball: Thoughts about the Soft Game and Drop Shot

I have written about the third shot drop shot and the soft game on JBRish a number of times. This is a wonderful skill to develop to help win pickleball games…but to be consistently good takes lots of practice. I can hit one every once in a while, but that percentage isn’t going to win many games.

Pickleballers who don’t have a great third shot drop shot, or perhaps a poor soft game overall, need not despair. Jennifer Lucore has an interesting take on drop shots and dinking in pickleball.

I would encourage you to read the entire article:

There’s No Dinking in Pickleball

In summary, however, this is what she concludes:

“So, to summarize there is NO RIGHT OR WRONG way to play pickleball when you are talking about dropping the third shot or a powerful, driving ground stroke. (emphasis mine)”

PS – Some of the comments under the article are interesting as well!

More Pickleball Videos

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

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All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Jeffrey B. Ross with ALL Rights Reserved. While reference links back to JBRish.com are appreciated and encouraged, please acquire approval for any reproduction of original content from this website.

©Jeffrey B. Ross – 2017

Jeff Shank’s Pickleball Strategy – Opponent Weaknesses, Soft Game Necessities & More

One of the topics in this segment of Jeff Shank’s tips is how to find the weaknesses in your opponent’s pickleball game and what to do once you have that information.

NOTE – When playing in a non-competitive environment, if I find that our team is much better than the other team or only one person on the other team, I work with my partner to alter our strategy:

1 – Don’t try to overwhelm a weaker player with the serve. Give them a chance to return the ball otherwise nobody is going to have any fun.

2 – Don’t hit every shot to the weaker player. Include the stronger opponent as well. I often go out of my way to hit to a stronger player especially when I know they are better than me. I feel really good if I can score a point off of a very strong player. Keep pickleball a fun game by hitting to both opposing players. One way to do that is to always hit to the person on the other team serving the ball.

3 – When I hit a ball to a weaker player, I will often hit a shot I think they can handle, i.e. less pace, etc. This gives me practice in learning to control my shot and it provides practice for the receiving player in returning the ball.

CAUTION: I have found myself in the following situation, but I don’t worry about it:

I have been on a team and we discovered that we are potentially much stronger than the opposing team. We may find ourselves ahead by five or six points so we begin to lighten up. At times, the opposing team is then able to muster enough good shots to make it a close game or even win. To me that’s OK. If it is a clubhouse game for fun, it doesn’t really matter.

NOTE: This is my personal philosophy and I am not suggesting it has to be yours.

4 – I sometimes use a game with less skilled players to practice shots I need to work on such as the third shot drop shot.

What does Jeff Shank say about the soft game? I know many players who will try very hard to avoid dinking and playing the soft game. Why does Jeff suggest the soft game is so important to learn?

What does he suggest when you mishit a ball?

What does Jeff say is “more important than just about anything else?”

Other topics include the importance of drills, how to anticipate your opponent’s shot so you can be ready and what to do when a high ball is headed to the non-volley zone on your side of the net.

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)

Pickleball – Dinking: An Essential Part of the Soft Game

For those who want to move their game forward, there is probably no better skill set than learning to play the “soft game” and, like it or not, dinking is a key component!

Joe Baker is back with another excellent video tutorial, Doubles Pickleball Strategy 201 – Dinking Strategy, about this essential skill. You can view it at the bottom of this post.

Here are some notes and things to watch:

Advanced Dinking

  • Main Objective – Apply the maximum stress to your opponent’s team by making them “reach, move or scramble.”
  • Shot Placements: Sideline, Middle or Cross Court
  • Three main target areas:
  • Sideline
  • Middle
  • Cross Court (preferred especially if you can get a great, sharp angled shot and force and error)
  • Do NOT hit to the near opponent if you get drawn out of position near your sideline; especially to their forehand!
  • Do NOT hit to the same sideline twice in a row.

Defending the Dink

  • Link to your partner. i.e. move as a unit – together
  • Getting out of “trouble” involves hitting cross court and into the kitchen<
  • Use a surprise lob when you can catch your opponents off-guard
  • Try to disguise your shots:
  • Look one way and hitting the other
  • Not signaling your intention until the last possible minute
  • Wrong Foot your opponent, i.e. hitting in a direction from which your opponent was just leaving

Doubles Pickleball Strategy 201 – Dinking Strategy

This video is worth studying and watching a couple of times. There is no substitute for practice. Playing games, the experts repeatedly say, will not help improve your game as much as targeted practice.

If you haven’t seen Joe Bakers other pickleball videos, run, do not walk,to your nearest computer and view these:

Doubles Pickleball Strategy 101-How to Play Smart Pickleball, Ten Tips

Doubles Pickleball Strategy 102 – Smart Pickleball Vol. 2, Power

Pickleball: Don’t Stink at the Dink!

There are a number of pickleballers who don’t like the soft game. They do everything they can to avoid it. Unfortunately, as most experts will point out, it is hard to achieve pickleball excellence without a good soft game, i.e. the dink.


Five Elements of Dinking

This brief video explains all of the elements of a good dinking game. Watch the video to improve your dinking skills.

As quoted from the YouTube video:

Do you know one of the secrets to taking your game to the next level? It’s mastering the soft game using the dink! Many players love to smash the ball hard, but everyone knows top players use dinking to control the game and ultimately win. In this episode of Pickleball 411, we are fortunate enough to hear from pickleball ambassador Tom Early from Canton, Georgia as he demonstrates a key reason why you must have the dink as part of your game plus five steps to get started! [emphasis is mine ]

If you think dinking isn’t a serious aspect of the sport, you can watch Deb Harrison explain her “all day dink” technique. If so many people are talking about it, it must be important; right? I mean after all…Can millions of Elvis fans be wrong?

Click here for Deb Harrison’s dinking video

To See More Pickleball Videos Click Here

Learn by Watching the Pros – Dink-A-Dink-A-Do!

The video below has some longish rallies/volleys and I think we can learn a lot about Pickleball strategy when watching some of them.

I believe Matt Staub and Kyle Yates are in the left-hand court as you watch the video. As far as I can tell, Kyle is in the white T-shirt. Both Matt and Kyle have an interesting technique which involves stepping slightly off of the court to hit a ball in the air that appears to be headed for the kitchen. By stepping off of the court to strike a ball that is near the sideline, but in the playing area, they can assume a position close to the net that would be a fault if they were inside the playing boundaries. This happens a few times during the match. You can watch for it at the 2:34-2:37 mark of the video as Kyle slams a ball back at his opponents from the “near net, off court” position.

Also note how much each side relies on the dink shot. The soft game is used extensively in this match and is something I need to focus on more than I do!


In an interview here, Kyle Yates had this to say when asked for any tips or advice:

“People like to complicate the game with all these different techniques and styles, but we tend to forget that the object of the game is to hit the ball IN the court. Pickleball is a game of errors, not winners. All you have to try to do is keep the ball in play longer than your opponents. Strategy is involved only after you understand that concept. Strategy is involved only to make your opponent’s job of keeping the ball in play more difficult. There is a very fine line of demarcation between going for a win, and forcing your opponent to make an error.”

When watching the video, you can see this theory in action. Most of the time, Kyle’s team just tries to keep the ball in play until an opportune moment or the other team makes an error.