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Taking The Heat

Taking The Heat

  • Six dinking strategies for scoring around the kitchen
InPickleball Issue 2 | On the Bounce | Peak Performance | Dinking | Pickleball

Off the courts, staying out of the kitchen is what you do when you can’t take the heat. In pickleball, many players would contend, it’s just a smart move. That’s because of the rule that all volleys must be initiated outside the “kitchen,” the area extending seven feet back from the net and from sideline to sideline across the court. If the volleying player’s paddle or feet land in that part of the court—also known as the non-volley zone, or NVZ—they will be charged a fault.

Some players, however, say, “Bring the heat.” The kitchen is a highly strategic—and undervalued—asset, especially for dinking, insists Bob Haskin, president of Florida’s Lakewood Ranch Pickleball Club, a member of the International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association and the Professional Pickleball Registry, as well as a certified instructor on Team Onix.

“Dinking is about extending the point out until your opponent makes a mistake that you can capitalize on,” Haskin explains. “Strategic placement and patience may force your opponents to return awkward or difficult shots. In reality, you are looking to gain the upper hand, utilizing defensive and offensive dinks.”

Read on for Haskin’s strategies for keeping opponents on their toes (demonstrated by pickleball player Bradley Carney).

DEFENSIVE DINK STRATEGIES

 1. FIND THE MIDDLE GROUND

Getting a ball to land in the middle of your opponent’s kitchen takes practice. Here’s a smart way to do it.

A. Keep an athletic posture, toes three to five inches from the NVZ line, with your paddle in an upright position, its leading edge aimed toward the ball. Slightly flex your arm into the kitchen to be ready for a dink or volley.

B. Place your dink so it is unattackable by your opponent by getting under the ball, pushing it over using a soft grip pressure.

B. Place your dink so it is unattackable by your opponent by getting under the ball, pushing it over using a soft grip pressure.

C. Follow through with a shoulder swing to ready position.neutral spine and lengthening the hamstring.

2. WHEN THEY GO HIGH, YOU GO LOW

Since pickleball nets are 34 to 36 inches high, balls that bounce higher than three feet can easily be driven or slammed back. Dinking the ball lightly over the net reduces the height the ball bounces—and the chances of your opponent smacking it hard back at you.

3. WATCH YOUR FEET

Add arm swings to this lunge to prepare your body and create muscle memory for real play. Standing in To maintain your position, protect your feet, making sure the ball doesn’t approach them. Reach out into the kitchen to take the ball in the air if possible. “Do not back up!” Haskin warns. Instead, neutralize those aggressive hard hitters by dropping the ball in their kitchen, as described in step 1.

OFFEFENSIVE DINK STRATEGIES

1. MIX IT UP

Relying on the same moves and techniques makes your entire game predictable. Keep your opponent guessing by moving your dinks from short to deep, side to middle. Try to create an error, or an opening to engineer a put-away, by pushing the ball at the opponent’s feet or slightly behind them, driving them back. This may force a high return, allowing a winning punch shot.

2. PUT A SPIN ON IT

As dinks start going cross-court and increasing closer to the net, hit a topspin roller tight to the net, pushing your opponent below the net or off the court, Haskin advises. This move puts you on the offense, forcing your opponent to respond.

3. ADD AN ELEMENT OF SURPRISE

Consider sending an offensive lob over the outside shoulder of the opponent across from you. It might not be a direct winner, Haskin says, but it could throw them off, adding a fun twist to the match. Pickleball, like many sports, is both a physical and a psychological game. By keeping your opponent guessing about how you will respond, you may make the match more challenging and interesting for everyone involved.

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