5 beginner dinking mistakes in pickleball: Learn how to dink like a pro

5 beginner dinking mistakes in pickleball: Learn how to dink like a pro


By Danea Bass & Barrett Bass

On: 02/14/2024

Here are five pickleball dink mistakes that a lot of beginners make.

Dinking is one of the most important shots in the sport of pickleball, and if you're not dinking consistently or aggressively you're severely hindering the progress of your game. Here are five pickleball dink mistakes that a lot of beginners make.

Mistake #1: Letting the ball bounce every time

One of the biggest mistakes that may hurt your pickleball dinking consistency is letting the ball bounce every time. There are a couple of reasons why this is a mistake:

  1. Letting the ball bounce every time can cause you to be off balance. If you have your weight on your back foot (because you're going to be stepping back into this transition zone), and then hitting the dink, it will cause a lot of movement. If you want to be consistent, you will want to eliminate unnecessary movement.

  2. If you're stepping back and waiting for the ball to bounce and come back up, you're giving your opponent a lot of extra time to see what you're doing. It's advantageous to take balls out of the air when you can, because:

    • It's going to help with consistency.

    • You're not going to be moving as much.

    • You're taking away time for your opponent to react.

Additionally, when you step back and let every ball bounce, there will be a lot of back-and-forth movement and head movement. Many times this will cause pop-ups, giving your opponent time to react.

What you should be doing is holding your position at the kitchen line. Hit a bounce when it’s within your reach in the kitchen, and hit the ball out of the air when it’s going to push you back.

Mistake #2: Overreaching outside of your contact zone

Overreaching outside of your contact point zone, in an attempt to take the ball out of the air, is another dinking mistake that beginner pickleball players often make. However, this puts you in a vulnerable situation.

Imagine that there's like a bubble around you: extend your arm straight out in front of you and draw an imaginary circle around you. This is your bubble, or your contact point zone.

When you’re attempting to take a ball out of the air, you should never overreach into the kitchen outside of your contact point zone. A good indicator that you're overreaching is that your body will no longer be in your athletic stance, and you're vulnerable to an attack coming back your way.

When you're attempting to take that ball out of the air, bend your knees, get low, and hit everything in that contact point zone. Don't let the ball bounce because it will cause you to be one-dimensional, and it will be much more difficult to attack off the bounce. Attacks off the bounce are becoming more and more prevalent in pickleball, so you’ll want to be in a nice athletic position.

Mistake #3: Not recovering back to the transition line

If you do not recover back to the kitchen line after a dink where you are pushed back to the transition zone, you are putting your team at a disadvantage. When you're dinking, you will probably be getting moved around. Sometimes that means that you're going to have to take a step back, but the mistake happens when you get pushed back and keep dinking from here. That gives your opponents many different angles to choose from.

The kitchen line is the best real estate on the court — this is where you want to play because it’s where you’ll have the best advantage. It’s important that if and when you get pushed back into the transition zone, hit your shot, and then immediately hold your ground again at the kitchen line.

Mistake #4: Not following the ball

Another pickleball dinking mistake that many players make is not moving your feet and following the ball. When players are dinking, especially in a crosscourt battle, they can get pushed out wide and they fail to recover back toward the middle. When a player does not follow the ball when they are dinking, they can create holes on their side of the court for the other team to take advantage of. 

If you’re dinking and get pulled out wide, you will want to follow the ball and close off that middle gap. If you do not, you are creating a big hole down the middle.

Mistake #5: Not moving your dink around

A lot of people are under the impression that the dink shot is a defensive shot when you can make it an offensive shot, depending on speed and placement. One mistake beginners make is dinking to the same spot, so their opponents just have to stand there and hit it back — it doesn't make it hard for them.

You can make a dink a very offensive shot if you move your opponent around. You want to make it challenging for them, and moving them around decreases their chance of putting you in a vulnerable situation. Be intentional about moving your opponent around the kitchen line, and forcing them to move from their outside foot to their inside foot. Make them uncomfortable with movement, which will create an offensive dink.

Beginner pickleball dink mistakes

If you are learning to play pickleball, there are a lot of things to learn. But mastering your dink from the very beginning will keep you a step ahead of fellow beginner pickleball players.

Watch the video above for drills on how to fix your beginner dink mistakes.

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