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!
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)