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The Ultimate Guide to Pickleball Shots

Pickleball player in action hitting pickleball shot

Last updated on February 22nd, 2024 at 04:45 am

Do you have pickleball fever? As the sport continues to explode with no signs of slowing down, it’s time for you to work on your knowledge and strategy of pickleball shots!

Pickleball Origins

Pickleball combines various sports: tennis, ping pong, badminton, and squash. It’s been around for over five decades and can be traced back to the summer of 1965 in Bainbridge, Washington [2]. Rumor has it that it was named “pickleball” after one of the creator’s dogs, Pickles, who would chase after the ball while they were trying to play. 

As the popularity of pickleball skyrockets, the average age of pickleball players continues to drop. Whereas a few years ago, it was over 50 years old, it’s recently dropped significantly to below 35 years of age [3]. With a more prominent and younger pool of players, it’s becoming increasingly important to constantly improve, which starts with understanding pickleball shots.

Types of Common Pickleball Shots

Forehand vs. Backhand

These are going to be your crucial pickleball shots. It’s important to note that both need to be practiced and that there are benefits to either a pickleball forehand or backhand swing.

The pickleball forehand tends to be the most popular option as it’s the easiest to control. Knowing this means a strong pickleball backhand can be pretty advantageous. The muscle groups for a backhand can be much larger [4]; thus, with practice, you can get in a more potent shot and a further distance with a pickleball backhand shot.

Volley shot

This is a shot where you hit the pickleball itself before it hits the ground and bounces. This can be an excellent strategy if you do it correctly. You want to do a short push with it in front of you so that it can have the most control. A pickleball training aid is an excellent way to practice your volley shots away from the court. 


Put simply; a groundstroke is a broad term for hitting any shot where the ball has bounced once. It could be a forehand, backhand, dink, or pickleball shots.

Drop Shot

A pickleball drop shot is where you hit the ball softly to fall into the other side’s non-volley zone or NVZ. This is typically done as a third shot drops, where the third shot in the volley is done so that it just passes over the net and falls to the ground.

This is one of the most important shot for a beginner or intermediate player to have down cold before moving up the ranks. Adjust your game strategy based on where your opponent hits the ball, especially when planning your third shot drops and dink shots.

Third Shot Drop

The third shot drop is the third shot of the point or the second shot made by the serving team. This well-executed pickleball shot gives you time for the serving team to get up to the non-volley zone. If you can’t get up on your third shot, hold your ground and try it again on the fifth shot. The third shot drop is a foundational part of doubles play

Dink Shot

The pickleball dink shot is done after the ball bounces, usually in the NVZ, and it’s meant to be an arching soft shots. It’s intended to go over players close to the net and hit behind them, scoring the inevitable point. A great way to practice this shot on your own is with a dink pad.


The lob shot is such a fun shot to get out of a defensive position when your opponents are in control. The trick is to hit it high and deep onto your opponent’s side as close to the baseline as possible without hitting it out. This will move your opposition back to the baseline and allow you to regain control. Tread lightly with this shot – hit it short and expect them to return with an overhead smash, Hit it too far, and you lose the point!

The Drive

A drive is any pickleball shot you return as hard as possible. Used sparingly, these shots are a great way to mix up your speed and keep your opponents off-guard. If you play pickleball long enough, you’ll eventually encounter a “banger” with only one shot: the drive. From my experience, these folks are “retired” tennis players that have converted to pickleball or have a ton of upper body strength. The antidote to a banger is a well-executed block volley.


A pickleball should be all about consistency. Just focus on getting it to the same general area each time. You’re even allowed to do a drop ball serve where you bounce it once and hit it afterward. Ensure your feet are behind the baseline at contact and you’re using a low-to-high swing with your paddle at hip level or below.

Block Volley

The block volley is one of the most effortless shots in pickleball. Many players would win many more points if they remembered to use it. When facing a drive or hard shot, hold the paddle firmly in a backhand position, and DON’T SWING. Let the paddle do the work—a great way to slow down the game and neutralize the bangers.

Remember, the block volley is not a shot where power is necessary; instead, it’s a strategic move to neutralize your opponent’s aggressive play.

Pro Tip – Enhance your shot selection with the backhand spin dink, immediately improving your game. This spin adds an unpredictable element to your dink shots, making it harder for your opponents to predict and return the ball.

Intermediate Pickleball Shots

Enhance your pickleball shot selection and immediately improve your game!

Overhead Smash

After the ATP, this is the most satisfying to hit in pickleball. A high-arching shot from your opponent goes above your head and you hit it back as hard as possible. It looks much easier than it is, so practice or incorporate it into your lessons. This is a high-percentage shot once you’ve got it down.

Backspin Return Serve

This is one of my go-to shots which works great in the wind. It’s best used when you receive a serve at or above your waist. Put a ton of downward slice on the ball and watch your opponent lose their mind. When I’m playing new opponents they often underestimate the spin and sometimes completely miss the ball after it lands and takes off sideways. Pickleball is fun.

Backhand Punch Volley

When you’re up at the net, a good rule of thumb is to keep your hands up. Like you’re a boxer getting ready for a punch. When you receive the ball above waist height, punch at it. Unless your opponents have a very fast reaction time, they’ll have a difficult time returning your backhand punch.

Topspin Roll Volley

The key to the topspin roll volley is making sure to use the phrase when talking to anyone about pickleball 🙂 Even better is actually using it during play. This is when you’re at the non-volley zone and your opponent is back a bit. Hit a firm half swing shot with topspin. You’ll see pros hit this shot in almost every point.

Cross-Court Dink

The cross-court dink shot is a must-have for any player looking to advance beyond the intermediate level. Simply, the cross-court dink is a dink shot that goes to the opposite side of your opponent’s court. Once you start nailing this shot, you’ll realize there’s a lot of room when you hit the ball sideways. Speed it up, add spin, and make your opponent’s life miserable. Incorporate a powerful cross-court shot into your game to keep your opponents off-guard!

Highly entertaining pickleball shots!

Amaze your friends with these crowd-pleasing pickleball shots!

ATP (Around the Post)

The pinnacle of pickleball shots is the elusive ATP. In recreational play, these never get returned. The Around the Post shot is when you return any shot (usually a well-hit cross-court dink) that’s bounced and heading well past the sideline of your side of the court – and you chase it down and return it outside the post.

The Ernie

The Ernie is a staple for players adept at anticipating where their opponent’s shot will go. This shot was named after Erine Hann, one of the pickleball greats who mastered this shot. This shot is typically hit while jumping through the air from near the non-volley zone, over the edge of the kitchen, and outside the court. Make sure to win the point, or you’ll be out of position for the next shot!


While this game can easily be picked up by many, it can take quite some time to master it properly. Please always keep at it, have the right equipment, and check back with us often for more tips and tricks. Also, check out our post on Pickleball Training Aids for ideas on practicing and improving your pickleball shots.

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