What is a Dink in Pickleball?

Have you ever heard the word “dink” in a conversation about a pickleball match and wondered what they were talking about? I have decided to investigate what a dink is, and like all unique names in pickleball, have a special meaning.

Explanation of a Dink in Pickleball Games

A dink is a finesse shot at pickleball and is a skillful shot intended to drop just over the net into the opponents’ “Non-Volley Zone.” Also, the No Valley Zone is called a “Kitchen.”

So, when playing pickleball, players could proclaim they just “dinked a shot into your “Non-Volley Zone in the Kitchen.”

Maybe we should back up and explain some of the unique pickleball terms.

Definitions of Some Unique Pickleball Terms Relating to Dink Shots

These are concise definitions for some of the more unique pickleball terms.

  • Dink (Drop Shot) – A dink in pickleball is a finesse shot intended to drop gently over the net into the Non-Volley Zone, where the opponent cannot return it.
  • Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) – An area of the pickleball court defined by lines within seven feet of the net. A player may be in the area but may not return the volley unless it has first bounced in the Non-Volley Zone. This outlined area is also known as the “Kitchen.”
  • Kitchen – The terms “Kitchen” and “Non-Volley Zone” are interchangeable and are defined by a seven-foot zone on both sides and next to the net extending to each sideline.
  • No Man’s Land (Transition Zone) – The transition area refers to where a player goes from the baseline to the Non-Volley Line.
  • Dinker – This defensive strategy for pickleball requires hitting soft drinking shots with a simple goal. That goal is to slow the game down and control it.
  • Erne – A shot that requires precise timing during a drinking rally where the player steps outside the kitchen and deceptively places a shot very near the net.
  • Volley – Hitting the pickleball ball when it is in the air. This shot is illegal in the kitchen unless the ball has bounced at least once before being struck or rallied at least three times.
  • Pickle – The server makes this shout to alert players when they are about to serve.

Why the Pickleball Dink Shot Is So Effective

There are several reasons why this pickleball dink shot is so effective. Among the reasons why you would want to play the dink shot are:

  1. Strategy – Placing the ball close to the net makes it almost unattackable by the opponent.
  2. Creating Shot Gaps – Dinking shots while playing doubles can create coverage gaps that lead to an open gap between opponent players chasing a ball in the kitchen.
  3. Causing Confusion – When a player creates a dink in pickleball, opponents are often off balance when making return shots, leading to less-than-desirable results.
  4. Keep Opponent Off Balance – An anticipated outcome of drinking is to cause the opponent to be off balance, returning the ball to the net.
  5. Creates the Attack – By drinking shots, players can create attackable situations by playing the ball to the opponent’s feet, causing them to pitch the ball up and create an attackable position.

How to Create Effective Pickleball Dink Shots

Learning to hit effective dink shots enables a weaker player to compete with faster and stronger opponents. These are the steps required to hit effective dink shots.

  • Use the Continental Grip – The continental grip, called “the chopper” grip, comes from tennis. The chopper grip comes from how you would hold an ax designed to hit balls or low or for making underhanded hits. The continental shot is an ideal grip for hitting underhanded dink shots. It is important to return a ball for the dink shot to bounce off the paddle softly, and holding the paddle in the continental grip will absorb energy, resulting in a softer return.
  • Exercise Bending the Knees – Practice bending the knees to make hitting a dink shot easier. It is also a good idea to work out the calves and thighs, as being able to hit an effective dink shot requires lifting the ball with your knees. Then maneuver the pickleball paddle with only the shoulder muscles for the return hit.
  • Develop a Steady stroke – To hit a dink shot requires a low, underhanded stroke. The ball must bounce once, at the height of the bounce, at the point when the ball begins to fall, then hit it. Developing a steady stroke to hit a dink in pickleball effectively requires a consistent, steady shot. The dink shot’s beauty is forcing faster players out of their rhythm. Moving a stronger player out of their rhythm can provide an edge that may win the match over a stronger player.
  • Play the ball in the Kitchen – The idea of the dink shot is to land in the “Kitchen” or Non-Volley Zone.” Placing the shot in the kitchen forces the opponent to focus on footwork and ensure not to hit the ball until it bounces in the kitchen. Landing the ball in the kitchen eliminates your opponent from hitting a hard return shot because, if they did, it typically would go into the net, or the ball would sail out-of-bounds.
  • Use the Net to Your Advantage – The ideal dink shot should flutter over the net and then drop, but consistently hitting such a shot is very challenging. A good strategy is to aim the shot some distance above the net, let the shot drop and force the opponent to make the first mistake.
  • Practice Hitting the Cross-Court Shot – The cross-court shot allows the ball to travel longer, resulting in additional time for the ball to make a better dink drop. The extra time provides a more significant margin of error if the ball is accidentally hit too high. The cross-court dink shot can be especially effective when playing double. The shot may draw the opposition out of position and present the opportunity to hit a backcourt lob or target a hard slam to the opponent’s feet.

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