CJ Johnson Headshot
CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

What it REALLY takes to hit a GOOD Pickleball Backhand!

I think it’s pretty safe to say that for most pickleball players, our backhand is not as consistent as our forehand. While you might be able to run around your backhand for a time, it’s not a successful long-term strategy.

So, how do you develop a good pickleball backhand?

Laura Fenton-Kovanda says it starts at our feet. Laura probably doesn’t need an introduction because whenever she visits Tahoe, we shoot several videos for the Better Pickleball YouTube Channel. While she is a 4-Time US Open Gold Medalist, her most outstanding pickleball achievement is her teaching ability.

According to Laura, “One of the biggest things that I see everywhere I teach is we have a commonality of people struggling with their backhands. So, the first part of learning how to hit a backhand starts with our feet. That’s why we call it footwork, making the feet do the work.”

Good Pickleball Backhand Footwork

The key to backhand consistency is that, ideally, every time we hit the ball, it’s the same distance from the body and height from the ground. Most people’s footwork doesn’t position them to do that.

If you want to hit a good pickleball backhand, there are three critical points to proper footwork.

1. Drop Step

The very first thing you want to do is drop step.

If you’re not familiar with the drop step, start by assuming your ready position facing the net. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart,  parallel to each other with your toes facing forward. If you’re right-handed, reposition your left foot, so you have the same stance but are now standing perpendicular to the net. When your left foot moves back, the paddle swings back too.

2. Shuffle Step

Once we’ve drop stepped, w are going to need to move to a position behind the ball.

The most effective way to accomplish this is by using a shuffle step, which positions our bodies behind the ball to hit the shot.

3. Use Forward Momentum to Hit the Ball

Lastly, we want to utilize our forward momentum.

Often people are very good at getting back to the ball, but then they stop their feet and swing with their arm. Instead, we want the entire body doing the work. We want one smooth, complete motion starting with our feet. The arm swing is an extension of what our body and feet are doing.

So how do we get to that point?

We push off the front leg when we begin to move forward. Begin by turning your toe slightly outward and push off that foot.

At the very end of the swing, your eyes and shoulders should be directly over the ball. When you’re balanced and can hold that position, you know that you’ve done it correctly. If you feel you’re going to fall over or you’re reaching way out for the ball, and you’re off-balance, something’s not right. Usually, your feet aren’t doing the work.


Your footwork sets up your success or lack of it. There are three things to keep in mind to position your body consistently from the ball and have the ability to hit the shot at the same height.

1. Drop Step
2. Shuffle Back
3. Momentum Forward

If you want to hit a good pickleball backhand, start at the bottom!

CJ Johnson

Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)


  1. Avatar photo Nancy Conner on February 22, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    Great video. Couldn’t find the forehand instruction link.
    We use many of your videos for skills and drills in our club. Thank you

  2. Avatar photo Susan Lyerly on February 22, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    Hi CJ,
    I’ve been viewing your videos for 10 months now. Every video has offered good fundamental instruction. I appreciate all you do for our Pickleball community!
    Will there be another Clinic in Tahoe this year? I would be very interested in attending.
    Thanks, Sue

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on February 23, 2020 at 7:30 am

      Hi Sue
      Thanks so much for the compliment.

      I’m working on the schedule now and I’m trying to plan one camp in early June and then I’m working with Laura Fenton Kovanda on a Women’s Camp for the end of September. The best way to stay in touch with all of my content is to be a part of the mailing list. If you aren’t already on it you can click this link https://cjjohnsonglobal.com/31tips/.

  3. Avatar photo Johan on February 22, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    Loved it. Easy to understand and follow.

  4. Avatar photo ANNA DESROCHER on February 23, 2020 at 4:29 am

    loved this article. the total breakdown gives me a total understanding OF STARTING AT THE BOTTOM!

  5. Avatar photo Marten Koops on February 23, 2020 at 8:13 am

    I’m spending way too much time watching your videos, and, then practicing the drills. However, each time I do the game gets better. So, thank you, from a greatfull Canadian. Marten

  6. Avatar photo Chuck Goldman on February 23, 2020 at 8:57 am

    A good idea in concept, but most of the time the ball is coming too fast to do all that. You have to take it out of the air or from a low bounce. But swinging through using back and leg muscles, not just arm, is the key.

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on February 23, 2020 at 2:25 pm

      Hi Chuck, I know that there’s been a little confusion as to where to execute this shot based on the lines on the court and when she talks about backing up there is some assumption she may be backing up from the NVZ. This footwork is for a backhand groundstroke from the baseline or midcourt. Taking the ball out of the air wouldn’t be an option. As you mention using your core and legs are important but you can’t do that unless you turn your body to the shot.

  7. Avatar photo Marc Auerbach on March 19, 2020 at 6:21 am

    I was planning to comment on this weeks ago but “stuff” got in the way. I thought the video with Laura was excellent. I have a history with Laura that goes back to 1996 when she was on the US National Racquetball team and I was the team leader. We traveled to Cali, Columbia, Winnipeg in 99 for the Pan Am Games and to Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2003. She is a great athlete and it was no surprise that she was selected to the team. It’s nice to see her doing so well in pickleball. I switched from racquetball to pickleball after undergoing a knee, both shoulders and a hip replacement (scheduled for 4/28??) and love the game. I look forward to your emails. Give my regards to Laura.

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on March 19, 2020 at 8:49 am

      Hi Marc, Welcome to Pickleball!
      I agree with you, Laura is awesome! I’ll tell her hello but why don’t you come by and see her yourself. Next week we are doing a virtual pickleball summit on YouTube. Click this link to register and get all of the details. She’ll be coaching around 1:30 Monday March 23. https://cjjohnsonglobal.com/pickleball-summit-registration

Leave a Comment

Like what you see?

Subscribe to the free newsletter today for more exclusive pickleball tips.