Learn how to engage in some of the most effective pickleball drills to keep you fit, enhance your skills, and have the greatest impact on your overall game.
Just as with most other sports, hobbies, or even jobs, the more you play pickleball, the better you are going to get. With regular practice, drills, games with other pickleball enthusiasts, and other forms of practice, the better your mastery of the game will be. With that said, however, some of the best ways to become a highly adept pickleball player are drills that involve the part of the game where you specifically need improvement.
In other words, you could engage in drills that will help to hone your serving skills, other drills that focus more on how well you use the pickleball court in its entirety, and still other drills that will make you a master at returning a tough serve from the other side of the net. While yes, it is true that drills for any sport are not every person’s favorite part of the game, practicing through the use of drills will assuredly make you a better pickleball player.
But, because these types of drills can be a little tedious, it is critical that you pick your drill partner carefully — someone who isn’t as pumped up as you are to enhance their skills and confidence isn’t going to challenge you, and is most likely not going to want to put in the time it takes to get to be great at this game. So, choose wisely, and make sure that you, too, are a willing and challenging partner who will push your pickleball buddy to their practice limits as well!
With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best pickleball drills that are sure to have you serving up your best self on the court.
Perfect Your Dink With Two Essential Dink Drills
If you are new to pickleball, it’s probably helpful for you to first know what on Earth a dink is. In pickleball, a dink is simply the kind of softer hit on the ball you would take when the ball has been served to you. A dink should only be struck once the ball has bounced from the non-volley zone, or NVZ, and is best known for its characteristic arc-type flow over the net toward your opponent on the other side.
Additionally, a dink shot is meant to either land diagonally or straight across the net as the ball crosses the court — it is this angling of the dink that makes it so much harder for your opponent to make contact with and to return crosscourt with enough power and arc to make it across the net.
Here are two different types of drills you can use to perfect your dink shots and make yourself a more foreboding opponent — and a true master of the dink shot.
Accept the Serve, Dink, Drop Out
With this type of dinking drill, you will focus almost exclusively on accepting a serve that’s coming your way, then dinking it across the net, either diagonally or straight across, and then you will altogether forego the volley that is headed back your way.
By utilizing this type of dink drill, you will get tons of practice with accepting serves in a variety of styles with varying levels of difficulty, and you will also learn to get a good handle on your dinking skills. By not worrying about the upcoming volley headed your way, you won’t have to worry or focus on any other part of the game but accepting the serve and answering back with quality dinks.
Additionally, you’ll get the chance to serve as well as respond to a few dinks on your own side of the net when it is your partner’s turn to practice dinking. In this manner, you can learn different methods for strengthening your own serve, and you can also learn how to answer back to high speed and otherwise competitive dinks without having to worry about your partner’s response on that third volley.
Once both you and your drilling buddy have really gotten a good grasp of your dinking skills and have become pretty adept with sending and receiving dinks as well as serving to the other side of the net, you can then begin keeping score and adding volleys to the drills that will then eventually become full games.
However, even those who are exceptional pickleball players still choose to warm up on the court before a match with a few drills to get the blood flowing and to get themselves into game mode. Dinking drills like this one are a great way to do just that.
Simple Dinking Triangle Drills
The purpose of this second dinking drill is to hit three specific marks on the court in a specific order. To wit, you will serve the ball, receive the ball back from across the net, and then in a one, two, three motion you will bounce — or dink — the ball back to your opponent first on their left, then to their front-center, and finally to their right.
Once you have practiced this drill in this order a few times, you will then switch roles with your partner and let them dink to your left, your front center, and to your right.
For a little added practice, you and your partner can swap sides of the court and start all over again; this will give you both the opportunity to get in practice and dink drills from both sides of the court, ensuring that neither of you has an unfair advantage over the other when it comes time to start racking up real points during a match.
What is really great about this kind of dinking drill is that it helps you understand more than one way to effectively dink. This is really important in pickleball, just as it is with most other net, paddle, or racket sports because, without this kind of drill, you are far more likely to continuously hit the same area of the court on the opposing side of the net over and over again repetitively.
This makes you really easy to read and very predictable to your opponent, and a dinking drill will ensure that not only are you more body-aware of other areas of the court but that you also get to be better and better at hitting these areas with the level of skill that makes you harder and harder to defeat the more you practice utilizing this type of drill.
The Most Important Shot in Pickleball: The Third Shot Drop Drill
All kinds of drills are important to upping your game and enhancing your skills on the court, even those that just get your heart pumping and those that enhance your footwork and get you to pay closer attention to where your hands and racket are. While all of these are key, there is no more essential pickleball drill than those that get you to focus on — and improve upon — your third shot drop.
Because of the popularity of this quintessential pickleball move, there are many, many different ways to practice it, and probably hundreds of different drills people have thought up to improve it.
Unfortunately, however, the best way to perfect this shot is through sheer repetition. For this reason, the best drill for working on third shot drops will involve one player on the baseline on their side of the net while the other player is in the kitchen on the other side of the net, just as when you are engaging in real play.
Next, you will get started by having the person in their kitchen begin to fire off pickleballs to the player at their baseline. The goal should be to serve one ball from the baseline around every third second or so.
In this way, you’re going fast enough that you’re keeping the person drilling on his or her toes, but you’re not running them so fast that they are going to run out of gas before they complete about 75 to 150 repetitions of this drill.
Now, you’ll want to put the focus back on the person serving up all the pickleballs to their opponent at the baseline — in other words, the person at the baseline will want to begin hitting back, but in a manner that the ball just barely clears the net, otherwise known as a drop shot.
The purpose of this portion of the drill is to get your muscles to remember what it takes to both serve and send back over the toughest drop shots each of you can muster. The more you practice this drill, the better and better you will get at both sides of the equation, so it is important to switch roles before you are both too tired to continue.
These are a great few pickleball drills to get started with, but you can always add more to your drill routine to enhance your game and improve your overall game with friends or even in tournament settings. Remember, just as with anything else you’re passionate about, getting good at pickleball will require work — and practice really does make perfect!