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Cross-Court Dinking: 6 Things NOT to Do!

Here are some of the most common dinking mistakes in pickleball, and what you should be doing instead. Read further for guidance on how to dink more effectively.

Though pickleball is becoming faster and more aggressive, dinking is still the pillar of the game. Even the best attackers in the pros will still often dink 2-3 dozen times in a rally.

dink pickleball kitchen game

A player most likely will not get past the 4.0 level without some knowledge of the dink game and some discipline to make use of it. Train yourself to consider the following:

Dinking IS a weapon.

It's just not a fast one, or one that requires strength and power. But dinking opens up all the possibilities of a balanced pickleball attack.

The importance of being able to control your dinks, under pressure, cannot be understated. Dinking is a soft, delicate shot that requires gentle touch and a keen sense of timing. And being able to dink well can prevent a lot of problems in pickleball!

To dink well, it's important to know what NOT to do. This article will focus on the cross-court dink specifically. Without further delay, let's start preventing mistakes!

Here is what NOT to do when dinking:

Do NOT use too much wrist

It's tempting to flick your wrist when you dink. Especially cross-court.

It looks so far away and oftentimes a cross-court dink is misdirected from another direction. Don't fall for temptation.

Newer pickleball players often rely too much on their wrist when hitting a dink shot.

While it's true that the wrist plays an important role with power and spin, over-reliance on the wrist is risky when placing a dink. It leads to inconsistent shots and loss of control.

A dink should look and feel like a golf putt, maybe a chip shot. You should be guiding the ball.

Focus on keeping your wrist quiet, and using your whole arm and shoulder as one swiveling unit. Generate a smooth, fluid motion.

You can still brush under or over the ball. Just don't have your wrist be the entire catalyst. Have it instead be rather quiet and uninvolved.

Do NOT take a full swing

A dink is a touch spot, a placement shot. You are guiding the ball. You are often pushing or lifting the ball.

This is not a power shot. It's barely a swing at all. As such, you do not need a huge backswing and definitely not a big follow-through.

Keep it compact.

Do follow through out in the direction of your target, whether an opponent's shoe, or out wide. But don't make your swing be a big full pendulum. Make it be a compact push, instead.

A delicate shot like the dink does not need big swings. Keep it simple, and emphasize control.

dink block pickleball game

Do NOT hit straight forward very often

Most of your dinks will be cross-court.

Cross-court dinks get opponents moving, spread out, and makes use of the whole court.

Dinking across is also safer. You have more room to work with, and your own shots are less easy to attack than a straightforward pop-up.

Many players fall into the trap of hitting too many dinks straight ahead, but this can make you predictable and easier to defend against.

Instead, hit most cross-court, and if you mix it up, consider going middle.

Keep spreading and pinching your opponents. Then go for attacks down the middle!

Do NOT neglect footwork

Don't let your feet be "stuck in the mud."

Though you and they may be hitting soft shots, your feet should still be busy.

Disclaimer: It would be optimal if you can keep your feet as still as possible when you actually hit the ball.

But when you are engaged in a dink rally, don't be afraid to move around with small steps. Footwork is crucial in pickleball, and it's especially important when hitting a dink shot.

Proper footwork can help you get into position quickly and maintain balance and stability throughout the shot. Get to the ball's arrival spot quickly, and plant your weight in a balanced way. More weight on the foot on the side you'll hit the ball on.

You should try to be still when you dink. But a dink rally in general is not a static affair. Everyone will be shuffling and adjusting positions quite a bit.

Do NOT take every dink off the bounce

If you can take a ball out of the air, you might be behooved to do so.

It takes time away from your opponent. The ball returns to them sooner.

You also don't have to move. You can hold your ground and dink out of the air. You also reduce the risk that the ball will skid or drag you far away on a tough bounce.

Sometimes dinks do take a tough bounce, especially if someone applies some spin. If they happen to hit it slightly too high or too far, definitely consider dinking as a volley, out of the air.

This shot is not easy. It takes practice. But once comfortable with it, it's useful. Fear not dinking a ball in the air if you can comfortably reach it without leaning too far forward.

Do NOT always hit to the same spot

Dinking cross-court has serious benefits.

You should dink across early and often.

But, you don't have to every single ball. In fact, you don't want to every dink. You would like to probably hit a majority of balls out wide and cross-court, but you also want to hit some in the middle. Make the opponents pinch.

You will also hit a rare ball forward, in order to keep the person in front of you "honest" and ensure they cannot keep creeping over to help cover the middle.

Bonus tip for dinking cross-court:

Try practicing where you appear like you will hit forward or middle, but instead hit out wide.

Basically a deception or misdirection shot.

This can really mess with opponents. Keep your head down and still, watch the ball make contact with your paddle, but focus on your follow-through. So follow-through out wide.

Your follow-through direction decides where the ball goes. Mix it up! And get them chasing balls out wide. Not only can they not attack these balls, they'll often pop up the returns.

Bottom line about cross-court dinking

Mastering the dink takes time, practice, and patience. It will always be a work in progress. It will be your "forever homework."

But by avoiding the above mistakes, you can breeze past much of the growing pains and get your dink game solid, sooner. Though pickleball has become faster and more aggressive, being able to dink well in a tough rally makes you a much more effective and versatile player.

Focus on follow-through, footwork, and compactness, and you'll have a solid dink game.


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