3 Tips For Consistent Pickleball 3rd Shot Drops

3 for 3 – 3 Keys to the 3rd Shot Drop in Pickleball

By: Christopher Amidzich

Players don’t initially realize the difference between offense and defense in pickleball.  When first being introduced to the game one feels like they are on offense as the server, since you only score when serving. But you eventually come to realize the opposite is true.  You actually start the point on the DEFENSIVE because the serving team must let the return bounce which gives the returners “control” of the net and the advantage to start the point! 

How do you neutralize as the serving team if your opponents start with the advantage?

If you are hoping to be competitive with your pickleball game, you must be able to consistently perform a 3rd shot drop or reset shot to move from defense, to neutral, and finally to an offensive state.  

Let’s explore three keys to moving from defense to offense with a third shot drop. 

1. Use Shoulder, Not Wrists, When Executing a Third Shot Drop

A successful dink in pickleball uses the shoulder as the hinge point when striking the ball, not the wrists.  The most common error in dinking is a player trying to finesse the shot with their wrist and not using their shoulder.  The same holds true with drop shots, as dinks and drops are very similar.  Just like with dinks, if you do not keep your wrist straight, you are hitting with TWO hinges, your wrist and your shoulder.  This can lead to a mechanical breakdown and a poor drop.  A clue that this might be an issue for you is if you are finding a lot of your drop shots landing short in the net.  Hit this shot in front of your body, keep those wrists tight, and again, let the shoulder be your guide.    

You can learn more on why too much wrist is hurting your dinks and drops here:

2. Follow Through Extension

The biggest difference between a dink and a drop is the follow through extension.  With the drop shot, you are going to need the ball to travel a further distance which means you are going to need to hit the ball harder than a dink.  How do you hit it harder without taking a bigger windup?  You use the natural motion of your arm to continue through the shot longer.  Think “a dink shot with more follow through.”  The bigger the follow through, the further distance the ball will travel.  

Make no mistake about it, there is a certain amount of muscle memory that is required for consistent and accurate drops.  You will have to practice this shot from varying distances and positions, like a basketball player practices a free throw vs a three pointer or a golfer practices putting from different greens and lengths.  There is a feel that comes with performing this shot well.  The key here is to drop it into the non-volley zone with just the right amount of follow through extension.  And do NOT give up on this shot!  You are going to lose some points at first with less than ideal drop attempts. But the 3rd Shot Drop is NECESSARY to advancing to a higher level in pickleball! It is worth the time to practice this shot and make it a staple of your game.

3. Proper Footwork

The type of shot you hit is always dependent on the type of shot you’ve got.  This means you must be in the correct position to hit each shot type which means moving your feet!  When it comes to the third shot drop, you will be positioned near the baseline, and you will have a chance to strike your third shot out in front of you.  Whether the return is short, deep, or right at you, you MUST move your feet to be in the best position to execute the shot.  Lunging, falling, flailing, and rushing are all indications you were out of position, and the result of the shot is going to be inconsistent.  Sashay those feet to put yourself in the best position. 

What about 3rd shot "pop ups"?

There's nothing more frustrating than the 3rd shot "pop ups" for your opponents to smash. Learn what's causing your pop ups and how to fix it in this video from Pro Pickleball Coach, Mark Renneson:

Bonus Tip - 3rd Shot Drive Variant

Predictability in your shot selection is always an advantage to your opponent.  If 100% of your third shots are always drops, it will leave your opponent expecting and waiting for your shot. To keep your opponent guessing on your third shot, and to buy yourself a little room for error, it is important to mix in a timely third shot drive. While the third shot drop is going to be the go-to, preferred shot for many, a well-timed drive will be a compliment to the drop, and keep your opponents on their toes.


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