The Pickleball Dinking Game//Get Out Of Trouble With The Dump Dink
You’ve been pulled wide off the non-volley zone, but not far enough to hit an ATP(around the post). How do you get out of this jam?
We’ve all experienced it. You’re at the non-volley zone engaged in a pickleball dinking game with your opponents. Suddenly you get a sharp angle dink shot, and your momentum takes you off the court. Your partner is left to cover the whole court without you. What’s the best place to hit the next shot?
There are a couple of options, but it’s important to realize you’re opponents have a significant advantage, and your team is in a defensive position. In my opinion, this isn’t the time to try and hit an aggressive shot or an outright winner. My thought is to get the pickleball back over the net and make my opponents hit one more shot. That allows them to make a mistake, and maybe, it permits me the time to get back into the court.
Here are four options to get your team back into the point.
Forget the Soft Dinking Game
Hit a hard shot into the body of the opponent directly across from you.
If you drive the pickleball into their body, they may struggle to react, and you’ll get a weak return. It’s particularly effective to angle the ball between the shoulder and hip.
Tony from In2Pickle and I were talking about this hard shot drive during a webinar. He’s a fan of this option, whereas I’m a bit more lukewarm about it.
He believes it frequently catches your opponents off guard, and you get back a weak return your partner can handle. That’s exactly what happened in the game footage we analyzed and included in the video above. If you’re accurate enough to hit it at their body, they may be forced to play a ball that is possibly going out.
I’m less enthusiastic because if you miss-hit the drive at all, it’s either out or your opponent is in a ready position to blast the ball right back into the open court, giving your partner less time to react.
Cross-court Sharp-angled Dink
Another option would be to take the wide dink shot and return a cross-court dink on that same angle. Again, this is not my favorite shot, but there are potentially a few benefits. This shot is going over the center of the net, which is the lowest part, and you have the entire kitchen to work with.
The drawback is this is the aggressive winner I mentioned above. Chances are it’s either a winner or it’s out. I think an option that requires a little patience and forces your opponents to make a shot is more beneficial.
Hit a Lob
A third option would be to lob over the opponent who’s directly in front of you. I like to angle it between that opponent and the back corner of the baseline on the opposite side. That gives you the entire court to work with.
Since the lob is a slow lofted shot, you’ll get time to move back onto the court. A well-hit lob will pull at least one if not both of your opponents away from the kitchen line.
Of course, the downside is a miss-hit gives the other team an easy putaway.
The lob runs a close second to my favorite option, the dump dink. Check out this video if you want to learn more about the lob.
The Straightaway Dink or the Dump Dink
I don’t know if that’s the official name, that’s what Tony likes to call it, and it’s certainly appropriate.
The objective is a soft straightaway dink into the kitchen on your opponent’s side. You’ll need to add a little loft to the shot to allow yourself enough time to get back on the court. Since the shot is hit softly and it’s in the kitchen on the same side of the court, the ball bounces in front of your partner. This puts them in a good position to cover the court until you get back in play.
The downside is this is the ideal set up for a player that has the Erne in their bag of tricks. Realistically, most players over 50 and under a 5.0 level don’t have an Erne in their arsenal.
Dump Dink Drill
You can’t hit what you don’t practice!
Remember, the sides are 36″, the highest portion of the net. The first thing you’ll want to understand is the feeling of lifting the ball up and over the net. The pickleball paddle face is open, and the shot trajectory reminds me of an upside-down U.
Drilling partners begin by standing cross-court at the non-volley zone line. If you have a practice ball caddy, place it a few inches away from the net inside the kitchen on the court directly opposite you.
Have your practice partner feed you a soft forehand dink and begin hitting a dink shot that lifts the ball up and over the net into the basket.
Once you’ve got the feeling of lifting the ball over the net, let’s spice this up a little bit.
Have the person who has been hitting the dump dink feed the ball to their drilling partner. This allows them to increase the speed of the return or create a more extreme angle.
Now, for the last part, you want to simulate the feeling and pressure you get when momentum is pulling you wide off the court.
Do the drill exactly as you’ve done it previously, but the person who is hitting the shot into the basket begins by standing toward the centerline. That additional step or two you need to take should artificially create the momentum you would experience in a game.
When the pickleball dinking game is over and you’re under pressure, none of these shots are easy. You are on the defensive. It’s easy for your momentum and grip pressure to travel to the paddle, adding speed to the ball. Pick the option you think is most likely to make your opponent hit one more shot.
If your dink shots need a little bit of work, make sure you check out this post or, for more options, this playlist.
CJ Johnson Better Pickleball Age Well with C.J.
Train Smart · Live Bold · Age Well
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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)
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Hi CJ. My name is Joyce and I live in Ventura Co., California. I wanted to learn how to play pickleball so I went to watch some people. I went to a park and the people were NOT beginners! I’ve been an athlete all my life and I played senior olympic volleyball until my husband and I moved here. I cannot find anyone in the area who teaches or clinics or anything. HELP! I started with a few ladies that said they were beginners and one lady couldn’t hardly get it over the net. I have always been competitive and I got so frustrated I didn’t want to play with them any more. Not fun. We do have pickleball at our country club but there again they are a very clicish group of tennis players. I am not too far from Simi Valley where I thought I saw a name for a pickleball ambassador. What is that? I would appreciate any suggestions you have. I am a senior and just want to do this. I still play golf but it takes too much time up. Thanks, Joyce
Hi Joyce, welcome to pickleball. I’ll email you a resource the beginner’s guide to pickleball. It should answer your basic questions about the pickleball ambassador program and how to find resources in your area.
I am getting beat on deep down the line dinks to my backhand now that I am playing 4.0 and above players. Am I just not reacting fast enough, out of position to start or some thing else?
Is there a drill I can use to work on this?
Hi Walt, while it’s impossible for me to tell without seeing you it sounds like it might be a movement issue. if you are getting beat down the line it probably means you aren’t far enough over. My suggestion would be to put yourself on camera and see what is happening.