Many pickleball pros and teachers speak of the benefits of playing a soft game. A soft return enables you to reset the pace of a pickleball game, gives you more time to travel on the court, and keeps your opponent back, allowing you to set up for that winning shot. But how do you hit a pickleball softly?
The best way to hit a pickleball softly is to be intentional about your strategy, your position on the court, and the ball’s placement while being aware of the angle of your paddle. Soft shots in pickleball include serve returns, dinking shots, and some volleys.
Learning to hit a soft shot in pickleball is a foundational skill that you should not undermine. The valuable skill of hitting a soft shot will help you to exercise patience and encourage a calm and cool game. You will frustrate the heck out of your opponents and be able to strike when you are ready.
Why Is It Important To Hit Softly In Pickleball?
Pickleball players who like an aggressive, hard-hitting, and fast game of pickleball are referred to as bangers. In an aggressive game of pickleball, players are more likely to be hit by a high-speed ball on their body or face, making it unpleasant.
Soft hitting in pickleball doesn’t necessarily mean a slow-paced game. A soft game requires practice pickleball, skill, and patience and can move tremendously fast, depending on the players’ proficiency. Playing a soft game is a skill that will help you to reset the game’s pace to your advantage.
The pickleball court has the kitchen, or non-volley zone, which is a zone that limits your proximity to the ball, depending on how you want to play it. By learning how to play a soft pickleball game and how to get better at pickleball, you will be able to take advantage of the kitchen and the rest of the court.
When you reset the pace of a game with your soft returns, it is likely to cause frustration amongst your banger of an opponent. A frustrated banger will likely make more mistakes, allowing you to score. So be cool, be patient, and play a slow game of pickleball.
How To Hit A Pickleball Serve Return Softly
A fine way to start a soft game of pickleball is by responding to a serve with a soft return or an unexpected offensive lob. The perfect soft return will see the pickleball placed within 3 feet of the opponent’s baseline, deep into their court, and preferably on their weak-hand side.
The benefits of a well-executed high and soft return include the following:
- The pickleball will be deep on the opponent’s side of the court, keeping them further from the net.
- It allows you more travel time on the court so that you can get to the kitchen line and prepare for the third shot.
- The pickleball speed will travel slower, and your opponent must create their own pace by hitting it very hard or blocking it.
You can watch this video to see the benefits of the perfect offensive lob and how to implement it.
Your Body Movement And Position When Hitting A Soft Return
The following pointers will help you execute an offensive lob with the right amount of force and loft:
1. Plan where you want the pickleball to go on your opponent’s side, turn your body accordingly, and assume the ready position.
2. From the ready position, approach the pickleball as you would when hitting a groundstroke.
3. You should hold the paddle in an open-faced position, holding the paddle tilted a few degrees upwards and not perpendicular to the ground.
4. Prepare to use less power and more follow-through when hitting the ball.
5. Keep your eyes on the ball until contact has been made.
6. Swing your paddle arm forward and make contact with the ball in a lifting motion.
7. Shift your body weight from your rear foot to your front foot to help follow through.
8. Your follow-through should follow the ball’s path quite high.
9. Give the ball enough loft to go over your opponent’s outstretched arm and paddle.
How To Hit A Pickleball Dink Softly
According to the Department of Academic and Student Affairs at NC State University, the dink shot is maybe one of the most important shots to learn in pickleball.
A dink shot is a soft shot that just clears the net so it will bounce into the non-volley zone. Before your opponent can hit the ball, it needs to bounce. A soft net game depends on the players’ ability to execute dink shots successfully.
If you are in the non-volley zone, no part of your body, clothing, or 13 vs 16mm pickleball paddle may touch the net. This rule is to discourage aggressive slamming over the net.
Your Body Movement And Position When Hitting A Dink Softly
To practice good dinking habits, you can do the following:
1. Stand in the ready position, just behind the non-volley (kitchen) zone.
2. You should hold your paddle in front of your chest so you can move it to either side quickly.
3. Keep your paddle face perpendicular to the ground to aid quick paddle movement.
4. As the ball approaches, move towards it with quick short steps.
5. Bend lower but maintain your balance.
6. As you reach for the ball, move your pickleball paddle into the open position (face up).
7. The movement should come from your shoulder. Avoid wrist break and backswing as this will overpower the ball.
7. Take a step forward with your dominant foot.
8. You should contact the ball low to the ground and scoop it up with a lifting action.
9. Be patient; dinking can continue for a long time, but it is worth the wait. You will find your opportunity to outmaneuver your opponent with a put-away shot.
You can visit the USA Pickleball site to learn more about proper dinking and watch pickleball games videos on how to improve your dinks.
How To Hit A Pickleball Volley Softly
A volley in pickleball is when you hit the ball without it first bouncing. Volleys can only be implemented after the first two shots in a game. The main purpose of a volley is to speed up the pace of the game so your opponent cannot get to the ball in time.
There are various volley shots in pickleball, but not all are soft. Soft volley shots include the drop volley orthe dink volley.
A drop volley is also called a catch volley. It is a strategy you can use when your opponent keeps firing the ball from deep in their court, and they expect you to fire it back to them at the deep end of their court.
To accomplish a drop volley, you need a soft continental grip on your paddle to allow some impact from the fired shot to be absorbed. You can then gently hit the ball, so it will land softly over the net in the non-volley zone, making your opponent run for it. For a video tutorial on a drop volley, you can click here.
It is called a soft dink volley when you contact your volley from a low point and close to the non-volley zone. You would execute it like a dink, except that your feet may not touch or cross the non-volley zone line.
A soft dink volley is useful when your opponents are close to the non-volley line and hitting the ball hard at you. It helps you gain control of the point at play by slowing down the game’s pace so that you can get to the ball faster when it returns to you.
You can watch this video to compare the pros and cons of bounce dinks and volley dinks.
To hit a pickleball softly requires patience and strategy from your side. Once you have learned the correct paddle grip and the best way to position yourself on the court, you will be able to solo practice your newfound skill of resetting the pace of a pickleball game to your advantage and your opponent’s frustration.