One of the biggest challenges for pickleball beginners is keeping the ball low when hitting to the opposing side in order to avoid volleys or smashes from more experienced players.
But why is keeping the ball low important?
Well — giving your opponent a high ball means you are putting yourself at risk of being on the receiving end of a strong offensive play.
Handling such offensive plays is hard for most players, and almost impossible for most beginners. To improve your game, it is vital that you learn how to keep the ball low in pickleball do limit the possibility of a strong, fast hit coming back at you.
Keep in mind, a great way to drill this kind of shot is to use a pickleball machine to give you repeated practice and improve your muscle memory.
Looking to improve your game?
Check out this excellent pickleball video training course from High Performance Pickleball Academy. (Affiliate link) They break down the game into 8 key skills and instruct you on how to master them.
Furthermore, learning how to keep the ball low will help you develop as a player. If you have played a game or two, you will know that keeping the ball low is more challenging than it sounds. It will take a while to learn to do it, but it will help you learn faster and improve your game.
So let’s get to the tips…
Check Your Grip Pressure
Tightening your grip on the paddle is one of the major problems faced by pickleball beginners. This is not surprising since they are generally inexperienced and not as relaxed as you should be.
This problem contributes significantly to high balls as it results in more aggressive plays. Playing aggressively reduces your control of the ball, and this can always lead to high balls or hitting the ball into the net. At times, the ball goes over the line because of your tight grip. To return the ball low, keep your grip on the paddle loose.
You may have issues keeping your grip loose during lengthy rallies. As your body grows tenser, your grip on your paddle will invariably become tighter. You can make a conscious effort to relax your grip since you know it will affect your control and the trajectory of your shots.
Hold your paddle like a fragile item you want to prevent from flying off – don’t hold too tight to destroy it.
Mind the Angle of Your Paddle
This one is a no-brainer: if your paddle is angled up, the ball will go up!
Now, getting the ball over the net normally requires that your paddle be angled up a bit or vertically to keep it low. You can only angle it down when you are hitting overhead or when you have become very confident.
In the early days, hitting at the perfect angle can be difficult. You need to make an effort to ensure that it is not facing up too much through drills and conscious attention to how you are holding the paddle and the angle of your hits.
Make efforts to keep it vertical most often or very slightly angled up. Being cautious of the angle will help you make necessary adjustments with every new shot.
Don’t Get Caught Out By Direct Shots
When you are challenging experienced players, you’ll notice that they’ll always try to play the ball directly at you. If you are not careful, you will get caught out and give your opponents the advantage by playing a high ball. Do what you can to keep the ball low and away from your body.
To keep the ball away, try to position your body well. You need to move the right way. In the heat of the action, it may seem you don’t have the time to step into a better position. A slight step out of the way of the ball will get you into the right spot to dink, volley, or hit the ball and keep it low.
Play the Ball Early
The trajectory of your shot will also be determined by how early or how late you make contact with it. It is always advisable to hit the ball as early as possible to get the shot across quickly and keep ball low, in fact, as low as possible. This is especially important when you are close to the ‘kitchen’ line.
If you watch experienced players, you will notice that they reach out to hit the ball as early as possible.
This is not because they are in a hurry.
They simply want to make contact with the ball at a higher point and keep it low during the rally. You don’t have to play hastily, but try to play as early as necessary to keep the ball low and avoid giving the opponent the advantage. Also, dinking can help you control the pace of the game better the next time you play.
Always Hit the Ball When It Is In Front Of You
Hitting the ball when it is front of you is probably the most critical factor when it comes to keeping your shots low. Don’t get me wrong, all the points here are important, but if you fail to play when the ball is in front of you, getting your best shot will be impossible.
If you observe, you will see that every experienced player hits the ball when it is in front. This is because the area in front gives them the best control over the ball. If you have played a similar game, it will be easier to hit the pickleball when it is in front of you. If you are a complete novice, constant practice will help you to learn the trick.
Don’t Be Afraid To Catch the Net
Most beginners want to avoid the net as much as possible. While this is necessary to a great extent, it can ruin your shots. Hitting the net may make you lose, but touching the net slightly in a manner that will let the ball cross can help you win points.
If you get to the point you can easily graze the net with your ball, playing that way consistently will always keep your shots low.
It is important to note here that it will take a lot of practice to learn to graze the net and get your shots across. You should take time to practice this often. Don’t be discouraged when you fail. With constant practice, you will learn to play those super-low shots that touch the net, go over, and win you points.
Feel Comfortable and Relaxed
Sometimes, beginner pickleballers focus so much on their paddle and the position of their opponent that they become too uncomfortable and stressed to play well. When your body becomes tense, you will unconsciously tighten your grip on your paddle and dink more awkwardly.
Try to relax.
Part of this relaxation and ease comes with experience and growing confidence in your game, so the best way to get it is by practice and playing more.
Try to pay more attention to your body and how comfortable and relaxed you feel. This way, you will maintain the right posture and keep your grip loose to play your best shots. Likewise, it could help you keep the ball within the line or court.
There you have it! Ensure that you use the tips above to aim your serve and dinks, and keep the ball low whenever you play. With time, your game will continue to improve and you will become very good.
Okay: now that you’ve got the grounding for this, check out our 13 Excellent Pickleball Drills for Beginners and keep these tips in your mind as you do your drills.
Keep that pickleball low!