Sometimes having a productive pickleball practice session can be boring and tedious. What drills should you do? What do you need to work on? Here are our favorite pickleball dinking drills that are fun, easy, and guaranteed to improve your dink shots.
These tips are for more intermediate pickleball players,
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The Math Behind Dinking
Let’s get the boring math stuff out of the way before we jump into the thrilling world of dinking drills.
- On average, how many ball strikes occur in a simple Pickleball rally – 9 strikes/hits
- What is the average time spent playing points during a Pickleball game – 11 – 12 minutes
Using those stats in some simple calculations (bear with me, we’re almost there), in one point there are 9 hits/strikes. So, on average in:
- Singles – there are, on average 4.5 hits/player, per point
- Doubles – there is, on average 2.25 hits/player per point
Remember, the serve counts as a shot – Ergo (more math words) there is really only:
- Singles – 3.5 average hits per point
- Doubles – 1.25 average hits per point
Now, you can spread out/increase the number, extending the theorem to claim there can be hundreds of shots over the course of several hours in a match and that would not be false.
The bottom line is players do not hit many shots during the average Pickleball point. So, how do you work on shots to improve your game? That nasty word may be even worse than maths. Yes, drills!
Improving your Drinking Game with Drills
So, there is an old joke about a man being lost in New York, trying to find Carnegie Hall. He stops to ask another man, who happens to be playing violin, on the street for directions. The violinist promptly responds: “Practice, practice, practice”
Although that is a horrible joke, it is true.
Playing a game of Pickleball will give you a chance to hit a lot of shots, but drilling/practice will double, if not triple the number of shots you will be making in the same time period.
Drilling allows you to make mistakes and address them immediately – your foot position, paddle position, angles, mindset…
Take a look at professional athletes in Pickleball and other sports. They spend more time drilling and training than playing in matches, to hone their game:
- Simone Jardim – spends at least 2 hours a day with tough practice, then drills for 1 hour followed by playing in games the last hour.
- Other professional Pickleball players suggest their ratio of practice to play time is 3 hours of drilling to 1-hour of gameplay at a minimum.
- Top Tennis professionals spend 3-4 hours on the court for at least four days per week, with less intense sessions on two other days.
- They will fit strength and conditioning sessions, incorporating speed, agility, and weights, in between on-court sessions
Take Roger Federer for example
Here are four dinking drills that will help improve your dinking game and give you some suggestions for your drill days:
4 Dinking Drills to Try
These 4 drills are perfect for all levels of players from beginners to advanced. You can add your own personalized twists to these rallys depending on specific dinks you’re working on.
#1. Straight-up dinks
- Start at the kitchen line and play to 11
- Use half the court, playing straight ahead or cross court
- Only dink shots allowed
- Score one point every time your opponent hits the ball into the net, out of the court, or to the wrong side
- For some additional fun, subtract a point if a player hits an unforced error into the net
#2. Straight-up Back hand dinks
- Same as the straight-up dink drill, but all dinks must be hit with a backhand shot
#3. Three in the Kitchen
- The game starts with the players at the kitchen line
- The first 3 shots by each player must be dinks
- After that, the drill opens up to full court game, with the key to the drill being to make your opponent pop the ball up, for a smash return
- Remember to always have fun – taunt, praise, and laugh with your opponent
#4. Dink to ATP
- This game must start with 5 dinks from each player
- Players start at the kitchen line and begin the drill with normal cross-court dinking
- At some point one of the players must hit a wide dink, to the sideline
- That player yells ATP
- If their opponent hits an ATP, they can decide to end the drilling and move on to normal gameplay
- If they miss, you start the drilling over
- If the ATP is called and the dink is not “ATP-able” the person calling the ATP loses the drill
- This drill is best used to claim the title of “Player of the Day” and is a great way to end a productive day of practice
If you want a bonus drill try out Skinny Singles
How to Making Dinking Drills Fun
So, you want to improve your dinking. To see a significant improvement, you have to drill. That being said, today, we will focus on dinking drills to improve your game, but all of the same principles can be applied to any type of drill:
- Make it a game – keep points, set rules, taunt your partner
- Limit each specific drill to about 10 minutes (one Pickleball game)
- Celebrate your shots, both when you are drilling and also during your matches. Nothing feels better than making a great shot in a match after spending time working on it during drills
Compliment your drill partner
- Let them know you see a difference in their play
- Say “Nice shot!” and boost their morale during the drills
- Try to win the drill games – make it fun
Dinking Drill Wrap Up
Most players agree that drilling can be dull and not as “fun” as playing live games, but drilling gives players a chance to work on shots over and over. It gives players a chance to stop, think about their feet, paddle positioning, and then try the same shot again. Over and over. Repetitive drilling will significantly increase your game and your confidence. Drilling with a friend or supportive coach can make the act of drilling less of a drag and more of an exercise in improvement. Adding some competition to your drilling will also make it feel less like drilling and more like playing. But honestly, if you are drilling, your drilling at a game, so how bad can it really be?
So, get out there and drill, ask your drilling partner for advice, and encouragement, and to contribute to making your drills fun and productive. Add scoring to your drills to make them a little competitive and give you another reason to go for that 7th, 9th, and 20th, … cross-court dink. Once you spend some time on the court practicing those tough shots, your gameplay will feel much easier and you (as will your opponents) will see a definite improvement in your game.