How and Why to Hit a Third Shot Drop in Pickleball

The purpose of the drop is to force your opponent to hit up on the ball - making them unable to hit an offensive shot - and allowing you to move forward. 

Quick reminder; the returning team has the advantage in pickleball. This is because both players can (and should!) get to the net immediately after the serve return. The serving team on the other hand, must let the return bounce before they can hit it. Because of this rule, after every serve and return, the returning team will usually both be at the net, while the serving team is at the baseline.

The team at the kitchen line has the advantage. If all players are the same level, the players who are at the kitchen line first will win the majority of the points.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! 
If your forehand and backhand drives aren't getting the volleyers to miss - or at least not often enough - you'll need to employ the drop strategy so you can get to the net with your partner and take away the advantage they have at the net. Click here to learn when to drive and when to drop!

A good drop bounces in the kitchen in front of the opponent, or can be volleyed only below the net level. A good drop also has just enough arc to clear the net with some safety, but not so much that it bounces up high enough for the opponents to attack. Think of shooting a basketball or tossing a ball from the baseline into the kitchen. You would likely add about the right amount of arc.

Placing the drop on one side of the court or the other is less important than getting it low, but in most cases it will be safer to drop cross court or down the middle, and riskier to drop down the line. 


The drop is one of the most effective shots in pickleball, but also one of the most advanced. It's extremely important to have proper technique to minimize the variables on your shot. Trying to use your normal forehand technique to hit softly into the kitchen will likely break down under pressure.

1. No turn

Unlike your forehand or backhand drive, you don't want to turn to hit a drop. It's important to keep the ball in front of you using a lifting motion, and turning is unnecessary and many times there won't be time. Instead of turning, face forward with a wide, balanced stance. 

2. No backswing

Similar to the previous point, any backswing will cause you to lose control of the drop. Just like a push dink, you'll be lifting the drop from low to high using a very simple motion. If you find that your paddle is going behind your body at all, you've added too much backswing.

3. No spin (or at least very little)

The less spin you put on your drop, the more control you'll have. The purest drop will have no spin. More aggressive drops may have some backspin (slice) or topspin, depending on the technique and how much pressure the player is trying to apply with their shot.

3. Open paddle face

From start to finish, you'll want the paddle face to be tilted up, or "open." As soon as you see the ball coming to either side of your body, tilt your paddle open with the tip of the paddle down and move your feet into position. 

4. Low to high

Just like a dink, lift your paddle from low to high, keeping the paddle face tilted slightly open for the entire shot. At the end of the shot, hold the finish for a split second to make sure you don't have any squirrelly movements during your drop.

5. Grip

The best way to learn a drop in my opinion is with a continental grip. This allows you to have the same grip on both sides and makes it easy to open the paddle face. Keep in mind, many pros are moving more towards a slightly more closed eastern grip for drops, which allows them to be more aggressive and put the opponents under more pressure. Oh, and don't squeeze the paddle too tight!


Once the ball has left your paddle or your partners paddle, you'll need to recognize as soon as you can whether it was a good drop or a bad drop, or something in between. If you see that the opponents will have to hit up on the ball, it's a good drop! Quick, move up a few steps and then STOP when the opponents are about to hit the ball so you can be balanced. If it's a bad drop, BACK UP! Some coaches out there are telling their students to never back up. This is bad advice! All pros back up when a shot is hit too high and allows the opponents time to crush it. If it's not good but not bad, you might hang out where you are. 

"What if my partners hitting a drop?"
Great question. One of the biggest mistakes I see amateur players make on the pickleball court is running to the kitchen line while their partner is hitting a drop (or a drive for that matter!). While your opponent is hitting a shot from the mid court or from the baseline, you'll want to be next to them. Side by side is a good general rule, but you can be a step in front or behind as well and still be in a good position.

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