Saturday, October 16, 2021

Tickle the Pickle

Coach Wayne’s Corner

As a youngster growing up, I played baseball and I was a shortstop. It was a position which required me to have to deal with a lot of fast moving, low bouncing balls. As a baseball player, at this position, the basic theory of fielding a grounder was to stop the ball with my glove.

The fundamental theories and skills required of fielding a grounder in baseball are the same for dinking in pickleball. A player needs to learn how to take speed off the ball with the paddle.

This skill of taking speed off the ball in tennis, when executing volleys, requires what is referred to as having “soft hands.”

So how do we develop soft hands?

Ryan Reader, instructor at The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida, demonstrates proper paddle and ball control, doing “Tickle the Pickle” drills.

Forehand bounce.

Backhand bounce.

Stopping the ball on the paddle.

Bouncing the ball on the edge of the paddle.

Well, if you are a regular follower of my column, then you you know the answer is to practice and drill!

I call this drill, “Tickle the Pickle.” The idea is to be as soft and gentle as you can, with your hands and the paddle during contact with the ball.

It is a drill you do by yourself and you don’t even have to be on a pickleball court to do it, you can do this drill anywhere.

Begin by doing what I call up-zee’s, which is simply bouncing the ball on the forehand side of the face of your paddle. Then proceed to flip-zee’s, which is bouncing the ball on the front and then flipping the paddle over and bouncing the ball on the backhand side of the face of your paddle, and continue flipping back and forth.

You want to be able to control the cadence of the ball and make it sound like a clock ticking, and you want to be able to do it at several different speeds.

Once you have mastered up-zee’s and flip-zee’s, try to actually catch the ball on the face of the paddle and stop its motion completely.

The ultimate challenge is to do edge-zee’s, which is bouncing the ball on the edge of the paddle!

The whole theory of this practice drill is to have the paddle actually become part of your hand (like a glove in baseball)!

As the Kung Fu master guru would say, “You must become one with the paddle and the ball, young Grasshopper”!

Once you have conquered the skills of “Tickle the Pickle,” you will be amazed by the amount of control you will have with the ball and your ability to confidently execute shots in the NVZ, aka, the kitchen.

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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