Pickleball Points — The dink is more than you think

Many people must think the dink is just for warming up, because I never see them dink after they begin playing. The term “dink” in pickleball is the same as in tennis, or volleyball, and it means to hit the ball with as little spin or energy as possible so it lands across the net at the feet of your opponent.

It is not exactly, but is similar to, the tennis “drop shot,” which typically has more spin. It is hit almost as a pendulum swing from the shoulder. If you are hitting it properly, and moving back and forth along the no-volley-zone line to intercept it, you begin to feel burning in your thighs if you are not in top shape.

The dink is important strategically in pickleball because it is the best way to take advantage of the unique no-volley zone (NVZ), or “kitchen,” knowing that your opponent must not hit the ball in the air when standing in the kitchen. It is a patient game of cat-and-mouse until someone errs with a ball hit too high to the opposing team at the net, and then that person is in a real pickle, because the mousetrap snaps shut.

At one of the national championship matches several years ago, dinking went on for more than 20 minutes before someone created an opportunity.

Dinking — and the third-shot drop that typically precedes it — are the two most important shots in a well-played pickleball doubles game. You and your partner need to be able to dink until you force your opponents to either pop the ball up or leave an opening between them.

Your opponents must allow a well-hit dink to land in the NVZ on their side and then return it to the opposite side. Of course, rather than dinking a return, the player might try a surprise lob, or a hard-hit ball down the middle, depending on the quality of the opponent’s dink.

If you don’t move your feet, and get lazy and lean over to hit the ball, you might hit it poorly and pop it up in the air to your opponents. Of course, that will likely lead to a plastic sandwich, and that is the reason better players practice the dink for hours at a time.

Striking the dink with little power but great accuracy requires a very loose grip on the paddle so you don’t muscle it. Each player needs to defend their section of the zone, and move back and forth together to protect against openings that can develop between partners.

The players stand just behind the “kitchen” line, and are balanced with their feet apart and moving with small steps to get into position for each ball played.

Of course, all four players are ready to pounce on any mishit ball, or defend against any poor shot they might have erroneously popped up over the net. Against a top team, you can almost feel the invisible pressure of their practiced hand.

I asked Rick Bell, an artist at the dink, to tell me what was the single most important aspect of the dink. His response: Be very patient and prepared to dink one more time than everyone else in your pickleball community.

So you want to be in the Sports Business? ...continued

This is the next-to-last installment of the series I have written about working in the international sport business.

I had decided on this latest consulting assignment to make my home-away-from-home in an ancient walled German town while I was working on a project for the chairman of an America holding company that marketed three well-known American sport brands.

By that point in my life, I was specializing in introducing American sport products into international markets, and at least two of the brands are still current household names.

This contract called for me to turn around my client’s brands in Europe. But it was somewhat more difficult than anticipated, because every day I uncovered another major fraud that had to be dealt with before I could turn on the marketing engine.

I had to tell my client that he didn’t even own his own European company, as the employees had stolen it from under his nose, plus all his money in the bank. I should say banks, in plural, because his employees spread the money in a multiple banks under various names.

When officers from the company visited their office in Germany, they were picked up at the airport and taken to party in some nightclub, reportedly the Black Forest. They never even visited their office, and at some point, officers from the American side of the business signed over the entire business without any idea of the content written in German in documents they signed.

Once I discovered this, the German employees tried to have me arrested for unlawful entry into “their” business. I spent several hours a week defending myself in a very lopsided legal situation. But I would not give in, and I defended my client.

On this particular day — now a few months into this bizarre assignment — I was returning from a meeting with a major player in the German mail-order business. My German attorney called on my cell phone with the dreadful news about his partner and friend.

I don’t remember which car I was driving, because I had a small fleet of cars available to me that they had leased. (It seems just one of the avalanche of crimes of the German employees was to establish an automobile leasing company using corporate money that was intended for marketing their American products.)

He told me to pull to the side of the road, because he had news that might upset me. I pulled into a road off Griedeler Strasse and asked, “What gives?”

He asked me to make sure I wasn’t being followed, and then he proceeded to explain that in court that day, testimony revealed that a Russian mafia-style hit had been ordered on me. He went on to explain that his own partner in the law firm had been murdered.

The conclusion of this story will appear in my final tip, “The Volley.”

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.


By Vaughn Baker

Special to the Coastal Point