Soft Dink Shot

I believe that the soft dink shot is the best choice for your third shot. What exactly is the soft dink shot from the baseline?  It is a looping, softly hit ball that just makes it over the net and lands midway in the kitchen (non-volley zone).  This is one of the most difficult shots to master in the game and will take some practice to execute.  One of the mistakes that people make when they are first trying to learn this shot is they hit a soft shot and then race to the kitchen.  This is a mistake because when you are just learning to hit this shot, you most often will hit it too high and it will be a kill shot for the other team. Or, you will hit the soft shot into the net.  This is a “good miss” because you are trying to hit the right shot.  I would rather have a partner trying to hit a soft third shot into the net than blasting the third shot and we just eat it.  So what to do when you hit it too high? If you watch some of the higher level players, you will notice that this third shot has very little back swing. It almost looks as if they push the ball over the net.

If it is too high the other team will put it away, however many times when players go to put the ball away they hit directly at you, so in this case get ready to block it back over.  If you hit the soft shot and you can get a couple of steps closer to the net, take those steps and then split step [both feet parallel to each other in your volley ready position]  and get ready to hit another soft approach shot over the net. It is better to stop in no man’s land balanced and ready to move in any direction than a little closer to the net and not balanced or ready.  You will know that your third shot is successful when the only thing the other team can do is hit a soft dink back at you.  This will allow you and your partner to get to the net and then get in a good dink game until a mistake is made. One other way you will know that you hit a great third shot is if the other team pops it up and it becomes a kill for your team.  It is so much fun to set up your partner for the kill!

Practicing and mastering this third shot strategy will also improve your overall game because you will gain control in taking pace off the ball–successful Pickleball players need to reliably execute both soft and hard shots.  At a higher level, pickleball becomes a game of placement to create opportunities to employ power  (put away) shots.

So, when warming up, find a partner to feed you balls and you try to hit the ball into the kitchen at different distances from the net and then you feed your partner.  The person on the baseline is practicing hitting a soft third shot, the person who remains at the kitchen line is working on hitting a low, deep, controlled shot to different spots on the baseline as accurately as possible.