Death Grip! How Deadly Is It?
Players come to my Bootcamps for a variety of reasons. Some want to improve a specific shot. Others are looking to learn strategy. While others want to mix some pickleball instruction with their vacation. Bootcamps are designed to meet players wherever they are in their pickleball journey and to send them home with a boatload of knowledge that they can immediately put to use on their home courts.
I cover virtually every aspect of pickleball over the course of our four days together, including some of the basics such as the best way to grip your paddle. The grip is important because it influences every shot you hit. It affects the angle of the paddle. Too open, and you’ll pop the ball up. Too closed, and the ball slams into the net.
There are several grip positions – Eastern, Western, and Continental just to name a few – and it can be confusing to figure out which one is the right one. Like I always say, if you’re happy with how you’re doing something – hitting the ball, moving on the court, or gripping the paddle – keep doing it and never change something just because an instructor tells you to. I tend to not want to change aspects of anyone’s game unless it’s not supporting or enhancing their play.
But if you think you need to adjust your grip, I’ll make it easy – pick the Continental grip.
The reason I like the Continental grip and suggest that most players use it is that it’s very versatile. You can easily hit backhands and forehands with the Continental grip without having to change grips between shots. This is especially helpful when you’re at the NVZ and need fast hands.
The Continental grip is often called the handshake grip because you hold the paddle the same way you’d shake someone’s hand. With the Continental grip, your index finger and thumb form a “V” on the paddle handle, with the knuckle of your index finger at 2 o’clock (11 o’clock for lefties).
Less Grip Pressure = More Control
But grip doesn’t just mean how you hold the paddle. It’s also how hard you’re holding it. Grip pressure translates into how much power goes into your shots. After teaching many players over the years, it’s clear that most people grip their paddles way too tight. I completely understand this, especially if you play tennis and are used to using a longer, heavier racquet and hitting a ball on a court that’s almost four times larger than a pickleball court. But when you grip a pickleball paddle as tightly as a tennis racquet you’ll spray the ball all over the place.
So how hard should you hold your paddle? Great question!
Using a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no pressure at all and 10 being a death grip, your grip only has to be in the three-to-five range for most shots. That’s less than you thought, right? The only time you might want to grip the paddle at a nine or ten is when you’re hitting a drive or smashing an overhead for maximum power.
When it comes to dinking though, if your paddle grip is too tight, you’ll hit the ball too hard and leave it up for your opponents to attack. I recommend a grip pressure of around three for hitting dinks. This will allow you to really feel the ball on the paddle face so you can place it low and unattackable.
To hit a drop, a grip of around five will provide the amount of energy and power you need to hit an effective drop shot from deeper in the court.
Proper grip strength is also important for resets and blocks. You only need to grip the paddle at a four or five because there’s enough power already being generated by your opponent’s shot. On a reset, a loose grip lets you gently place the ball back in the kitchen. A softer grip also absorbs your opponent’s power shots so you can direct a block volley back at their feet.
Okay, so a looser grip is better for most shots, but how do you train yourself to do it? Some coaches tell players to take their pinky off of the paddle to reduce grip pressure. While this can work, it tends to make the paddle wobble and feel unstable in your hand.
Instead, I suggest taking your thumb off of the paddle. You’ll still be able to keep a firm hold with four fingers, but the grip pressure will be much less. You can leave the thumb off the paddle entirely or place it on the top of the handle. This simple thumb repositioning will allow you to maintain a looser grip to hit softer, more controlled shots.
How do you like to grip your paddle? Do you prefer to switch between several grips? Again, if it works for you, keep doing it! And if you want more information on all the other things I cover at upcoming clinics and Bootcamps, head over to www.pickleballguru.com.
Now go have fun on a pickleball court near you!
And remember, it is only Pickleball.