How To Stop Popping Up The Ball In Pickleball

How To Stop Popping Up The Ball In Pickleball

It’s happened to everyone. You hit the perfect drop and your reset is flawless. Once you make it to the kitchen, your first drink is the epitome of perfection. The only issue is on your second dink. You pop the ball up and your opponent crushes you. Everything you did up to that point was worthless.

Today we’re going to go through how to stop popping the ball up in pickleball and getting yourself killed. If this is something that you frequently screw up on, read the full article because I have some tips today that I’ve never heard anywhere else.

Dinking situation

To start, I want to go over the main scenarios where I see players pop the ball up. The first and definitely most common is in a dinking situation. This is not a good time to do this because usually, your opponent will be in the perfect position to crush you.

Reset Situation

The second most common time I see this happen is on a reset. It’s pretty tough on a reset to make it in if you’re giving your opponent a high ball. So it’s important that we learn to consistently keep these shots low. Other than that, you can pop the ball up on any shot that you’re trying to hit into the kitchen. So all these tips apply to dinks, resets, and drops.

Techniques

So looking at the technique here, one of the main things to consider is that you should be using the continental grip on all the shots that I just mentioned.

This is where the paddle faces perfectly up and down when you hold it in the center of your body. If you don’t have this grip on your drinks, volleys, and your drops, I encourage you to switch. Looking at the wrist, one of the main things that I see players do wrong is they point their paddle down and they hit their shots as shown below.

man holding a pickleball paddle
Image: Screenshot| Enhance Pickleball

These players also usually try to avoid their backhand at all cost. Using this motion causes a very up-and-down swing, which is a recipe for pop-ups. Whenever we’re hitting one of these shots, we want to have a wrist out to the side like this.

Image: Screenshot| Enhance Pickleball

And we want to try to make contact with the ball out to the side of our body. This makes it much easier to switch from forehand to backhand. On your forehand, your wrist should be cocked, and on your backhand, your wrist should be straight. With this grip whenever the ball comes right at you, you should use your backhand.

Another thing to consider, whenever we’re trying to hit the ball softly, you need to have an extra loose wrist in hand. I think if I drop a ball in concrete, it’s going to bounce higher than if I was to drop it on a mattress. So try to have soft hands here and hold your paddle out of two or three out of ten in terms of tension.

In terms of your swing path, I see a lot of players who go way too low, too high. You need some arc here, so you’re going to have to go a little bit low to high. The best way to think about it is that you’re drawing a line with your paddle toward your target. As I said, the ball needs some arc, so you’re going to have to go a little bit low to high like this. Just don’t go too crazy like this.

Another thing that goes wrong is the face of the paddle is too open. I think that most players get that if your paddle faces too open, the ball will go too high. It’s pretty obvious your paddle should be at the angle where the ball is going to go about six inches to a foot over the net. And as you go back, you should increase this a little to give yourself more margin for error. But like I said, most players are aware of this.

So then why do they still pop it up?

They do because the number one reason that players pop up the ball is they lose control and put too much speed on the ball. Most coaches that see this can identify and they’ll tell you to hit the ball slower, but obviously, you’re not trying to hit the ball too hard. So let’s dissect the main reasons that would make you accidentally put too much pace on your dinks, resets, and drops.

In relation to your swing, one reason why you could be putting too much speed on the ball is that you’re taking too big of a backswing, or you using too big of a follow-through. The point of a backswing is to give you more power. So if you’re hitting the ball slowly with a dink or reset, you want to use the minimal backswing.

The entirety of the stroke should take place in front of your body. Looking at the contact point and follow through. Whenever you’re hitting one of these shots, you should not use your wrist as a power source. So don’t flex your wrist at all like this.

man holding a pickleball paddle
Image: Screenshot| Enhance Pickleball

This doesn’t mean to lock your wrist with too tight of a grip though. Keep it loose. Just leave it in the same position throughout the shot. And after you hit the ball, you don’t want to use too much of a follow-through.

As a rule of thumb, whenever you’re trying to hit the ball slowly, don’t take your swing path off the path of the ball. Remember, draw a line to your target. Don’t come around on a slower ball like this.

man trying to play a shot in a pickleball game
Image: Screenshot| Enhance Pickleball

So overall, in terms of your swing, you want to use a more compact motion. The other reason is that players dink the ball too hard are in relation to poor positioning and late decision-making. Looking at footwork, whenever you’re hitting a dink, you want to try your best to position your body behind the ball. Making contact with the ball behind your body is very risky.

Giving yourself space lets the ball rise up so you can use the proper swing path. The main time this goes wrong is when players are out of the kitchen and they get the ball hit to their feet. If you don’t move properly here, your only option is the SCOOP method, aka the pop up stroke.

Whenever we’re moving out of the net. Always have a wide base so you can step with your outside foot to position yourself behind the ball. If the ball comes right at your feet, it should be as simple as a pivot back to a lunge that gets you right behind the ball. Try not to take unnecessary steps here that make you lose balance.

If the ball is going to be too deep for you to pivot back, then you should be able to volley dink this out of the air. This is where good decision-making comes into play. If you can get very low or you have really far reach and you may want to volley more.

If you can’t get low or reach very far, then you may need to get really good at pivoting back. Every player is different. So what’s important is that you get used to all of these situations so that when you get into them, you can use the right technique and footwork.

So to recap, using a more compact swing and focusing on footwork and decision-making under Dinks will be what you need to do to stop popping the ball up.

The only way to master this is with practice. The bottom line is, no matter how good your technique and footwork are, you need to develop what most players refer to as feel or touch. This only comes from hitting thousands and thousands of shots. Just know this guy’s feeling touch aren’t so magical powers that only 5.0 plus players have.

They come from practicing to the point where you’re used to every situation that you’re being put into, so your paddle just responds automatically. If you want to be able to consistently hit slower shots that don’t set up your opponents, you need to put in the reps.

So I’m going to go through a few drills now that can help you consistently keep your dinks low. The last one is my personal favorite, so make sure to read it till the end.

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Drill Number 1

In the first, both players are out of the kitchen, dinking back and forth. The catch is that one of the players is trying to make their dinks very difficult for their partner to respond to. They should aim deeper and use more power to force the other player to have to work on their footwork in decision-making.

This player should respond by trying to absorb their power and consistently drop the ball into the kitchen. If the defensive player ever pops the ball up, the offensive player should exploit this and go even bigger. It’s important to note here that when you’re opponents hit the ball harder, you need to use even less of a swing because their faster ball will come off your paddle with more pace.

Drill Number 2

The next drill is actually a really common game that I see players using to practice. All it is is a half-court game where you start off the point with four Dinks. After the fourth thing, anything goes. Players can use speed-ups and power to win. The key is to work on not popping up your dinks so that you can properly construct points.

Drill Number 3

The third drill is similar to the first, but one player will back up to the transition zone to work on their resets. It’s the player at the kitchen job to try to make the shots difficult so that the player in the transition zone could practice slowing the ball down. Footwork is extra important here. The further back we go, the harder it gets to control the ball. So you really need to emphasize being low and active with your feet.

Drill Number 4

This last drill is my personal favorite. Here we are working on these shots on the wall. What’s awesome is that with this, you can literally do everything that we just talked about without having to call up a partner. One of my favorite drills for preventing pop-ups is where I’m dinking on the wall and I intentionally hit the ball to where it will go at my feet.

Here I can work on deciding between a pivot or a volley dink. You can really grill in using the proper footwork in decision-making here so that you can consistently keep the ball low.

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