Pickleball is a growing sport that combines different activities such as paddle ball, badminton, tennis, and more. With it's growing popularity many new players are getting into the game for the first time. Aside from finding the best pickleball shoes, one of the biggest challenges facing new players is trying to figure out how to keep the ball low in pickleball.
If you tend to hit the ball high unintentionally, known as popping the ball, chances are you are not familiar with the strategies of keeping the ball low. We are here to help! Here are some tips and strategies on how to keep the ball low in pickleball.
How Do You Keep The Ball Low in Pickleball
If you've played a competitive game of pickleball, you've likely noticed that the best players are able to keep the ball really low. This is a common strategy used by casual and professional players, because a powerful, low shot can be really hard to return. If you'd like to learn how to keep the ball low in pickleball, we've got some tips for you to keep in mind.
The first thing you need to keep in mind to keep the ball low in pickleball is to have a loose grip. Figuring out how to hold a pickleball paddle can be confusing at first, but the best practice is to hold the paddle loose enough so that it dips a little bit and your thumb is diagonal with the handle.
However, fatigue can play a role here and after some lengthy rallies, your fingers will subconsciously start to grip the paddle harder. If you are aware of this effect, you can loosen your grip whenever you realize that you’re gripping the paddle too hard, known as the death grip. Always remember to hold it like a fragile item, and you’ll keep the ball lower.
In addition to a loose grip, you also need wrist stability. In order to keep the ball low in pickleball, you must have a flexible wrist. If you suddenly loosen or tighten your wrist, that will result in overpowered or uncontrolled shots that are likely to pop up.
These pops will almost always result in return shots to the body which are really hard to field. Sometimes, overpowered shots will also take the ball out of bounds. So, try to find the right wrist stability where you can hit the ball consistently in the play area, without popping the ball.
Angle of the Paddle
It’s almost common sense that if your paddle is angled upwards, your shot is going to end up going high. In order to keep the ball low, you have to have a vertical paddle. Even a slight upward angle is going to force the ball to pop up in the air. Balancing the angle of your paddle can be a bit tough for the beginners, but through practice, you can find that perfect angle.
Further, sometimes focusing more on the opponent’s movement can lead to not being conscious about the angle of your own paddle. So, keep that in mind next time you’re playing.
When you are playing against experienced players, you will likely realize that they will try to hit the ball directly at you. Against newer players, this can result in a popup return that they can capitalize on when they return the ball back to you. This will be likely problem beginners will face.
The best way to counter it is to stay calm and be conscious about your position. All you need is a small shuffle to get to a better position and hit the ball under control. So be aware and ready for body shots, don’t rush, and shuffle to a better position to play the ball low.
Play the Ball Early
If you see professionals or experienced players in action, you will realize they almost always reach out and play the ball as early as possible. This is not because they are in a hurry or want to finish the game quickly, it’s because the trajectory of the ball depends on the timing of your hit.
The earlier you hit the ball, the easier it will be to hit it low. This is especially important when you are playing close to the kitchen line. Try to make contact with the ball at a higher point to keep the ball low during rallies. However, remember to play it early, not hastily. Plan your shot and be relaxed. If you know how to dink, that will also help to take the pace of the ball and hit it low.
Hit the Ball in Front of You
Arguably, this is the most important point when learning how to keep the ball low in pickleball. It is almost impossible to get the best shot if the ball is not in front of you. So, if you want to hit the ball low, make sure you hit the ball in front of you.
You will see that experienced players always hit the ball in front of them. This is because it gives them better control. It might be a bit overwhelming as a beginner at first, but keep practicing it and eventually it’ll become second nature.
Catch the Net
Most beginners tend to avoid catching the net, which is necessary to an extent. If you're not familiar with the terminology, "catching the net" basically just means that you hit the ball just over the net that it almost hits the top of it.
This can be really tough for a beginner though, and you'll likely end up hitting it into the next more often than not. However, if you can play this shot consistently, the ball will stay low and make it hard for your opponent to return.
You need to have some heat on the ball though, which can be tricky as a harder hit can be less accurate. Finding the perfect timing is crucial.
If you want to get serious about learning to catch the net, take a hula hoop with you to the court and tie it onto the net so that one-third of the hoop creates an arch over the net. Then practice hitting it through the hoop. This is a great exercise for beginners as it will develop the muscle memory of catching the net.
Remember, at the end of the day, pickleball is supposed to be a fun way to get some exercise. In the same way that tension can ruin your focus and grip, getting worked up can also cause you to make simple mistakes that could otherwise have been avoided. So breathe, relax, and enjoy the sport.
There you have it, the best tips for learning how to keep the ball low in pickleball. The key takeaway here is to be aware of the situation, relax, and enjoy the game. If you can master these tricks, you can start hitting low shots that your opponents will struggle to return with power, opening windows for you to score more points and eventually win the game.