3rd Shot Success Secrets With Pickleball Champion Dave “The Badger” Weinbach

Do you struggle with your 3rd shot drop? If you do or if you’d simply like to have more 3rd shot success than this is the lesson for you. In this video US Open Champion and National Champion Dave Weinbach will share with us some great tips and advice on how to hit a reliable and effective 3rd shot drop.

Here’s Dave:

We’re here on a beautiful day at Nationals in Casa Grande, Arizona. And, we’re talking about the third shot. We all know that the third shot drop is the most important shot in the entire game of pickleball.

The reason it’s the most important shot is the third shot drop is the shot that allows you and your partner to get from the baseline to the kitchen line where you need to be to play successful pickleball.

It’s also the most difficult shot.

3 Keys to 3rd Shot Success

So we’re gonna talk about three key things to think about in order to have more effective and consistent third shot drops.

#1- Grip Pressure

It’s a soft shot, so our grip pressure cannot be too tight. We want to be at a 3 to 4 on a scale of 1 to 10 in grip pressure. If the grip pressure on our third shot drop attempts is to tight, the ball will bounce off the paddle too much and they will go a bit long and sit up a bit high and become attackable balls.  I can tell right away if someone is too tight with their grip pressure because the balls rocket off the face of the paddle.

#2 – Low To High Motion

When we hit a third shot drop, we want to make sure we’re using a low to high motion. It’s not a flat shot right?  It’s going to have some arc to it so we want to have a low to high motion as we’re coming through the ball in order to send it up and give it the net clearance it needs to drop in the kitchen.

#3 – Forward Momentum

The most important thing when we’re hitting a third shot drop is we want to make sure that all of our weight, all of our momentum is going forward at impact with the ball.  We don’t want to be hitting the ball while we’re falling away.  I see so many people in this game that serve and then their momentum takes them into the court.  Then someone hits them a good deep return. And what do they do?  They fall away as they’re trying to hit their third shot drop.

What happens in any racket sport when you fall away at impact with the ball?  You lose power and you lose control. You’re not going to have any consistency and you end up way back in the court.  Exactly where you don’t want to be.  Now, from way back in the court, consider how far it is to get to the kitchen line.  I’m not going to get there in time. So it’s so important to have our momentum going forward as we hit that third shot.

How to get Forward Momentum?

Resist the urge to fall away, take the ball earlier off the bounce instead of letting yourself get pushed back.  It takes some getting used to but everyone can achieve this if they practice.  We want to have all of our momentum going forward because after we hit a third shot drop where are we going?…we’re going to the kitchen line and I want you to have a head start to the kitchen.

Remember the faster you get to the kitchen line after a successful third shot the more pressure it puts on your opponent. I’ll say that again…the quicker you get to the kitchen line after a successful third shot drop the more pressure it puts on your opponent.  Notice how all my weight is going forward at impact.  We’re not falling away, we’re moving forward as we hit with a low to high motion and that gives me a head start to the kitchen.

Missing the 3rd shot

The other thing we talk a lot about it at my clinics is if you miss a third shot drop, where should you miss it?  We have to miss it high or long.  Anything but the net.  You hit it in the net and you’re done.  The point is over.  Your partner cannot help you. You hit it a little high or long and you’re still in the point. So let’s talk about what to do if you or your partner don’t hit a good third shot.  Meaning you hit a 3rd shot that’s attackable.

What to do when you hit a bad 3rd shot?

When you hit a bad 3rd shot, you’ll want to stay back.  A phrase I use a lot in my teaching is that you don’t chase the garbage. So if I had a garbage third shot that’s very attackable I don’t follow it in and come up to the kitchen line.  I don’t even come in halfway which is also called “No Man’s Land” or the “Transition Zone”.

A lot of folks will teach to come in halfway and to do a split step in the transition zone area.  I really don’t ever want to be in this position on a pickleball court because when you’re in this position you’re susceptible to basically any type of attacking shot from your opponent.

My opponent can hit it down the middle. My opponent can go out wide on an angle or hit it right on my shoelaces. I don’t like this position so the way I teach it is if we hit a bad third shot drop we stay back and we hit a good 5th shot drop.  If my 5th shot drop is not successful I stay back and hit a good 7th shot drop.

Developing 3rd Shot Success – Hitting A Winning Drop

It’s the most important shot in the game and it’s also the most difficult. So it takes a lot of practice and you have to get it ingrained into your muscle memory.

For me it took thousand and thousands repetitions where it’s almost automatic now.  But you want to put that work in because it’s the shot that will allow you and your partner to get from the baseline to the kitchen line where you must be to play successful pickleball.

Thanks Dave!

Thanks for sharing these great insights with us Dave.  Now it’s your turn. Get out there and practice.

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