By: CJ Johnson | August 19, 2019 |

The Nine Point Third Shot Drill

Can you hit a pickleball drop shot into the kitchen from anywhere on the court? Unless you’re a top pro, you probably snickered when you read that. If so, you’re not alone.

The third shot drop is arguably the toughest shot in pickleball. At the same time, there’s nothing that will improve your game more than a consistent drop shot from anywhere on the court. This third shot drill is devised to make that your reality.

Anyone new to the game often asks why the drop shot or affectionately called the third shot drop is so essential.

The team controlling the non-volley zone is in command of the point. For their opponents to neutralize this advantage, they must get to the non-volley zone too. A drop shot is an effective way to make the team at the NVZ hit up on the ball and buy time to move to the line.

This is the third video in the third shot drill series. In the first one, we covered the fundamental technique. Last week, we utilized an easier shot, the dink, to develop touch as we move further away from the net. In this drop shot drill, we again use the touch we learned from the dink and position ourselves in the transition zone and the baseline.

The Nine-Point Third Shot Drill

Place nine small pieces of tape on the court, three at the non-volley zone, three in the middle of the court and three on the baseline.

In this third shot drill, one player stays with the net while the other moves to the nine points on the court. Start at a marker on the end of the non-volley zone and move laterally. Once you reach the last piece of tape, move backward to the next set of markers. Continue to move sideways and then back until you get to the last piece of tape on the baseline.

Once you’ve moved through the pattern a few times, do the same thing pretending to hit the ball into the kitchen from each spot.  Your initial goal is precision. Move between the targets at a pace that allows you to be precise. Once you’re moving precisely, then add speed.

Now it’s time to add a ball. Your goal is to drop the ball into the kitchen from all nine points on the court. Whenever you miss, go back to the beginning and start all over again.

If you want to make this harder, work your way to the baseline and then see if you can get back to the net using that same pattern.

To make it even more difficult, make this drill, less cooperative. Have the person at the non-volley zone attack any ball above the height of the net.

Once again, a word of caution!

Just as we did in the last third shot drill, we’re moving laterally and backward. It’s essential to pick up your feet and to use proper footwork. Go only as fast as you can be precise. Here are some additional resources to improve your footwork and balance.


Softening the ball from anywhere on the court is a skill that helps your team get to the kitchen quickly and ultimately win more points. It’s essential to practice that skill from the transition zone as well as the baseline. This third shot drill effectively uses the dink to help you develop touch as you move further away from the net.

What shot do you hit most consistently the dink or the drop shot? Put your answer in the comments below.

Make sure to join me next week for the final drop shot video, which takes us back to the baseline. In the meantime, get out and practice these two drills.


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)