Why we dink in Pickleball

What is Dinking and why do Pickleballers do it? The act of dinking is hitting the Pickleball while generally being as close to the kitchen line as possible, while trying to position the ball just over the net and land in your opponent’s kitchen. The number of dinks per game or per match correlates with the skill level of the players involved. If you watch a match at a 3.0 or 3.5 level, you rarely see the players dink. Once you move up to about a 4.0 level, the number of average dinks per rally is about 5 - 10. When you move up to the 4.5 or 5.0 (professional) level, the number of dinks averages around 20 - 30 dinks per rally with some players getting up to 75 dinks per point! So why is it that the better players generally dink more? Why don't they just power through and get the point quicker? Different players have different reasons, but let's take a deeper look at some of those reasons.

Reaction Time

How much time do you normally have to react to a quick shot to your face? The length from kitchen to net, then to the other kitchen is only 14 feet. If someone hits the pickleball full swing, it doesn’t take long for the ball to travel 14 feet. but how long exactly? Let’s break it down. Let’s say someone hits a humdinger right at your chest going 25 miles per hour, or 36 feet per second, that ball will be at its destination in 0.38 seconds, assuming both are standing just behind the kitchen line. That is not a lot of time to anticipate where the ball is traveling to make the proper movements to prevent a pretty new welt from forming on your chest, let alone make decent contact with the ball and place it where you want to on the court.

A reaction time is comprised of a few different parts as described in this article; summarized, there is mental processing time, and movement time. Before moving on, try testing your reaction so you can get a better idea of what's going on. The following link will take you to a page where you can test your reaction time. The test is done in milliseconds, which is just seconds divided by 1000 ( so 0.38 seconds would be 380 milliseconds ).   To test your speed, go to www.humanbenchmark.com. After your on the site, Click the big blue banner to start, immediately after, the banner will turn red. The moment it turns green, click the banner again.

What did you get? I averaged about 260 milliseconds ( or .26 seconds ). This test does a good job at testing your mental processing time. There isn’t much movement time in this test — only the couple of millimeters to click the mouse in. Average mental response time is between 0.15 and 0.30 seconds (150 - 300 milliseconds ) for something less complicated than driving. This leaves only .08 - .23 seconds of movement time to get your paddle up, positioned, and swung for a good comeback. This is assuming the ball is traveling 25 miles per hour. below is a list of other times, depending on MPH



Line to Line (sec)













If for whatever reason, that ball comes back faster, or is hit within the vertical plane of the kitchen line, good luck flinching before you get whacked. The point of all this is to give a reason why you should only smash the ball if you know you can put it away.

Let your opponent make the mistake

The goal of dinking is to place the ball just over the net and far enough into the opposing team’s kitchen that they can’t reach it before it bounces, while trying to remain behind the kitchen line. If you can hit a dink that a player can’t reach before it bounces and they have to step into the kitchen after it does, it forces them to have to put significant loft on their returning shot, which will not becoming fast, giving you the advantage. Normally the first player to hit it fast, gets disappointed because the ball usually comes right back at them only faster. The longer you dink, assuming you’ve been practicing not hitting the net, the more likely your opponent is to make a mistake. Therefore, the art of dinking is patience.


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