Pickleball Skill Building
So, let us move on to the remainder of the rally shots, and we will pick up the skills of the service return and third shot return along with the other needed skills to be successful pickleball players.
As stated above there are 4 main shots involved in the rally for a point, and we will take them in order.
The Dink shot is a shot that drops over the net whether from up close to the net, or from further back on the court. It is meant to land inside the non volley zone to create opportunities for your opponent to make a mistake, and to allow you to get into proper position for a rally if you have found yourself out of position. Though it is a defensive shot largely it can be very effective at setting up your next shot as an offensive shot.
Whenever you are practicing your dinks, you should try to make all balls bounce over the net, of course, but in front of the non volley line and they should be short and low enough that the player you are practicing with couldn't kill the ball if he/she wanted to do so. While you will probably have to step into the non volley zone to hit a lot of the dinks, you should immediately step back behind the non volley zone line before the opposing player hits the ball.
If you and your partner aren't able to keep the ball going more than 2 or 3 hits, then don't try to keep the ball too low or too short. It’s more important as a beginner to keep the ball going so you can gradually get the feel of how hard to hit. Just keep practicing as often as you can.
Drill 1 - Both players start by standing close to the non-volley line and opposite each other, dinking the ball back and forth nicely to each other for a few minutes. If you have 4 players, simply pair off players on each half of the court and each pair use their own ball.
Drill 2 - Both players hit cross court dinks back and forth from one side to another trying to hit fairly sharp angles to each other. Do this for a few minutes and then do another few minutes cross court in the other direction. Do not try to avoid backhands while doing these drills as you need to begin developing your backhand dinks even if they don't work very well in the beginning. Again if you have 4 players, simply have each pair of players hit cross court in the opposite direction.
Drill 3 - Both players dink the ball down the line on one side of the court for a few minutes and then a few minutes down the line on the other side of the court. With 4 players, each pair uses a different sideline.
Drill 4 - If you have 4 players, you should do this additional drill which is to use only 1 ball and dink back and forth between all players trying to practice all of the above directions while doing so. Try to hit 1/2 of the balls back to the player that hit it to you and 1/2 of the balls back to the other player so you are practicing all directions again. The more advanced players can spend more time on this drill and less time on the others. Don't forget to practice this from both the left and right sides of the courts so both you and your partner practice both forehands and backhands.
The previous exercises cover the essentials of dinking at the net, but it is important to be able to initiate a dinking game from wherever you are on the court, such as when playing the third shot.
The next two drills help in this area.
Drill 4 The 3/4 Court Dink - To practice this with 4 players, have 2 players stand at the no-volley zone line and the other two players stand at about 3/4 court position on their side of the net. The two players at 3/4 court try to hit soft dinks while the two players at the net position try to hit the ball back nicely so they can try another dink. After a little while, reverse positions and practice for an equal amount of time. This might take quite a few practice sessions, but eventually you will get the feel of how hard to hit to make a good dink. This works just as well with either 2 players or 4 players and don't forget that you can practice cross court dinks as well as down the line dinks with this drill just as you did in the short dink drills.
Drill 5 The Baseline Dink - To practice this with 4 players, have 2 players stand at the no-volley zone line and the other two players stand just behind the baseline on the other side of the net. The two players standing just behind the baseline try to hit soft dinks, while the two players at the net try to hit the ball back nicely and near the baseline. After a little while, reverse positions and practice for an equal amount of time. This works just as well with either 2 players or 4 players and don't forget that you can practice cross court dinks as well as down the line dinks with this drill just as you did in the short dink drills.
Drill 6 Dinking Game - To help you concentrate and have some fun while learning the dink, you can play a game with four players where everyone has to dink and you lose the point if the ball lands behind the no-volley zone line. You can still play to 11 points, but you have to start the point nicely to each other for this game to work.
You could also play this game with 2 players, but you would have to agree to use only 1/2 of each side of the court for this to work. You can decide whether to practice this from down the line sides or cross court sides.
The serve should be initiated as in a normal game, but must be from the non volley line to inside the no volley line diagonally to the server’s position.