Don't think I’ve spoken about my coaching qualifications yet in #keepitPG. My certification comes from the Professional Pickleball Registry (PPR) coaching program. I was lucky because Sarah Ansboury was the lead clinician and she brought with her an awesome team to co-facilitate. This year, I’ve only just begun teaching, due to the pandemic. One area that I’ve worked on with students is the soft drop shots at the net - or more commonly known as the “dink shot”. Are your shots at the net popping up too high for your liking? Here are a few reasons why that might be happening.
Your grip pressure might be too hard. How I like to explain this to students is: squeeze your paddle handle as hard as you can. That will be 10/10 in terms of pressure. Now hold your paddle as lightly as possible without the paddle falling out of your hand. That will be a 1/10. To play at the net and produce softer shots, ideally, you want to hold the paddle at about a 4/10. Try that out, you will likely see an improvement.
Grip pressure: First image would be considered 1/10 and the second image 10/10. Find that middle ground somewhere around 4/10 or 5/10.
A laid back wrist is key to controlling a dink shot. There is a natural tendency to use the wrist to hit these dink shots, however, flicking the wrist to guide the ball over the net actually changes the trajectory of your shot. For a forehand dink shot, knock your wrist slightly backward and lock it into that position to create stability. Then, use movement and momentum from the shoulder and lower body to execute your dink shot.
First image shows the hand position similar to flipping pancakes. This will cause the ball to pop up! Second image the wrist is laid back. (Big thanks to Grace, who's in the thumbnail and the above pictures for helping me with this article!).
Reaching for the ball or hitting the ball too closely into your body will cause the ball to pop up. The most common reason for this comes down to footwork. It can become habitual to stand flat-footed at the non-volley zone and kind of “locked” into a standing position. Ideally, you want to stay on the balls of your feet while at the net and recover the feet and body into a ready position.
Each of these points will take work and time. Right now, the best way to remedy these areas or “bad habits” is to check your local area for available coaching sessions OR use recreational play as your practice - and be sure to play with intention. Before each game, think of the areas in which you can improve upon and keep them at the front of your mind as you’re playing. I am confident that this will also allow you to practice your laser-focus - as I like to call it!