7 Beginner Pickleball Shots (& Lingo) You Need To Know

7 Beginner Pickleball Shots (& Lingo) You Need To Know

Did you recently hear about pickleball and want to learn the basics before hitting the court? Or maybe, you recently played for the first time and had no idea what people were talking about…

Dink, drop, atp, erne… who the heck is erne???

There is a lot of pickleball lingo and rules that can be quite confusing if you’re just getting started. Today’s article we will break down 7 shots that will help you out if you’re new to pickleball.

The Serve

Since pickleball is semi-similar to tennis, a lot of beginners assume the serve is similar… false. 

One similarity is the server needs to stand behind the baseline and serve into the diagonal box.

In pickleball there are a few unique things about the serve:

  • The server must have an underhand motion
  • The contact point must be below the waist
  • The tip of the paddle must be below the waist
  • It is considered out (a fault) if the ball lands in the kitchen or on the kitchen line
  • It is considered in if the ball lands on the side, middle or baseline

Related: 3 Simple Tips To Skyrocket Your Pickleball Serve

The Return

Before we get into the return of serve tips, let me answer a few common questions:

Can you return the serve without a bounce in pickleball?

No… the ball must bounce once before returning the ball. This is part of the two bounce rule

Can a pickleball return land in the kitchen?

Yes! Unlike the pickleball serve, the return CAN land in the kitchen. Continue reading why this is NOT recommended though.

So why don’t we want our return to land in the kitchen? Because the goal of our return is to give our opponents a harder third shot. 

The deeper you hit your return the better. Why? Your opponent is then hitting their third shot further away from the net resulting in a harder shot and highly likelihood for error.

Our final tip on the return… Don’t stand too far inside of the baseline. Remember, we (as the returner) have to let the ball bounce. If the serve lands near the baseline (which should be the goal of the server), we will have to move backwards to allow the ball to bounce… moving backwards while hitting in pickleball is not advised. We want to try to stay behind the ball and move forward.

The Drive

Essentially a drive is just hitting the ball hard. You are probably familiar with the drive if you’ve ever seen tennis or other paddle sports…

However, there is one main difference in pickleball. The ball doesn’t bounce as high… it’s basically a wiffle ball.

So what does that mean for us? 

We need to get low and stay low… We can’t be standing straight legged or jump up when we hit the ball.

Start down and stay down throughout your swing.

Drop Shot / Third Shot Drop

Ok… now we are getting into some of the lingo I mentioned earlier.

What the heck is a drop shot? And why is it so important?

So first off, a lot of people use drop shot and third shot drop interchangeably. 

  1. Server serves the ball
  2. Returner returns the ball
  3. Server has to let the ball bounce… two bounce rule
  4. Server then can hit a third shot drive, third shot drop or third shot lob

Drop shot on your third hit of the point = third shot drop

Drop shot on any other hit of the point = drop shot

So… a drop shot/third shot drop is the opposite of a drive. It’s a softer shot.

The goal of this shot is for the ball to drop into the kitchen, in front of your opponent.

Because your opponent can not stand in the kitchen and hit the ball out of the air, they will have to wait for it to bounce… this gives you time to move forward to the kitchen!

This shot is best used anytime you are in a more defensive position or if your opponents are in control… It kind of resets the point to neutral.

Check out the full video at the bottom of the article if you need a visual… the form for this shot is more like tossing a cornhole bag. Not a swinging motion like the drive.

Think of it more like a toss/push.

The Dink

The dink is more of an intermediate/advanced shot and strategy. With that being said, you will hear this word a lot and it’s important to start practicing.

A dink is basically a drop shot but when you are already standing up at the kitchen line. 

It is a short, soft shot that lands in your opponent’s kitchen.

The technique will be similar to the drop shot… you just will be hitting the ball a shorter distance.

Goal: for your dink to stay low and land in your opponent’s kitchen without them being able to attack it out of the air.

Quick tip: for dinks and drop shots, keep your grip at about a 4/10… loose grip is key so you don’t pop the ball up for your opponent’s to smash

Related: Want to dominate the pickleball kitchen? 3 easy tips

ATP (Around The Post)

The term ATP gets thrown around a lot and it is super exciting when you get your first one!

ATP stands for around the post and it’s exactly what it sounds like… when you hit the ball around the post.

This shot occurs usually when there is a lot of dinking going on. If a dink lands inside the kitchen then travels outside of the court, you can hit the ball around the post! 

This is totally legal and really hard to defend!

The Erne

This is super advanced but you will definitely hear people talking about it… 

Ps: Don’t feel like you need to learn this shot. There are a lot of 5.0/pro players that don’t use this shot.

On the other hand, if you do learn it, it is a great weapon to have!

The erne is when a player jumps over the kitchen and hits the ball while landing on the side of the court (out of bounds).

This shot only works if the opponent hits a dink or drop shot down the line.

Thanks for reading the article and I hope you understand some of the pickleball lingo a little better. For a visual explanation and to see the shots/technique, check out 7 Shots EVERY Pickleball Beginner MUST Know by That Pickleball Guy.

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