As new students take pickleball lessons from me for the first time and we begin our progressions by dinking from the NVZ line, at some point during this initial lesson, I always pose the following question:
On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being a very loose grip and 10 being a “death grip” on the paddle), how tightly are you holding the paddle as you execute this delicate dink into the opponent’s kitchen?
The answer is invariably, “7, 8 or 9” – a veritable white-knuckle grip that would prevent any would-be, paddle-snatcher from grabbing the paddle out of their “unsuspecting” hand.
Although the virtual “death-grip” prevented the student’s paddle from being pried from their hand in broad daylight, it is, nevertheless, much too tight of a grip when attempting to execute a delicate, unattackable dink shot.
The Unattackable Dink
The goal of the dink is not to win the rally with overwhelming power and force. The goals are, however, to limit the opportunity your opponent has for an aggressive, attacking shot of their own – one in which they can hit the ball with a hard, descending blow.
With the goal, therefore, of presenting your opponents with a ball that is unattackable – one that forces your opponent to lift the ball over the net (and not hit downward) – it is critical that your technique/mechanics are smooth and fluid and that the ball is hit with softness, precision, and control.
By relaxing your grip on the pickleball paddle, you’ll be better able to have that fluidity and smoothness of stroke and you will, undoubtedly, be better able to “feel the ball” on your paddle – resulting in much better control than if you’re holding the paddle tightly.
Tightness Creates Tension. Yikes!!!
You can feel it when you clench your fist. A tight grip creates tension in your arm, shoulder, and elbow. This tension not only leads to a motion that is not smooth and fluid – ultimately wreaking havoc and inconsistency with your shots – but it may also result in an unintended consequence of undue stress and fatigue in your wrist, forearm, and elbow.
If you are having soreness in these parts of your body, check how tightly you are holding your paddle. You may be surprised that something so simple can solve something that has been so chronic.
On a Scale of 1-10, What’s the Magic Number?
So what’s the magic number? If 7,8 or 9 is considerably too tight, how tight (loose) should we be holding the paddle when we dink? You should grip the paddle tight enough so that someone could pull the paddle out of your hands without too much force.
I always tell my students that, on a scale of 1-10, you should strive to grip the paddle at about a “3.”
No more white-knuckling when you dink. Stop. Loosen up your grip and watch the dinks land harmlessly in your opponent’s NVZ. Your game will thank you. And so will your body. Please let me know in the comments if that helps your pickleball game.
For more strategy tips be sure to check out our pickleball strategy page.
See you on the courts.
Linda Matthews says
Thanks so much! Just started the game this summer and had bursitis in my elbow after only a few games. I’m hoping this will help!
John P Smith says
Regarding mental strategy. I find myself mentally upset when my opponent makes an obvious bad call. I get upset to the point that it ruins my game. What to do??? Thanks, John p
That’s a tough one. You have to do your best to forget about it and play the next point. Obviously, easier said than done.
Bernadette Montgomery says
This is a great reminder, this has been a on going problem for me and I have to tell myself to loosen my grip all the time. I start out playing this way and then as the game continues with dinking or I’m pulled out wide then my grip gets tighter. I also have some issues with a sore elbow sometimes.
Hi Bernadette, Glad this helps. I think most of us are guilty of holding the paddle too tightly from time-to-time!