Dinkers vs. Bangers: Who’s Playing the Right Way?

The dinkers vs. bangers debate can get pretty heated. In fact, it might be one of the most controversial topics in pickleball. So, who’s right? Our answer might not be what you expect…

Dinkers vs Bangers Whos Playing Pickleball Right
Photo by chadpryan licensed under (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Tell me if either of these perspectives seem familiar:

Bangers just don’t understand pickleball strategy. The soft game is what separates intermediate from advanced players – why don’t they ever practice their dinks and drop shots?

– Dinkers

Aren’t those bangers infuriating? Why don’t they get with the program already and learn how pickleball is supposed to be played?

Or maybe you’re in the other camp.

Dinkers want to play slow because they just can’t handle the heat. Why would I play their game when I have an advantage hitting the ball with power? Plus, dinking is kind of boring. The fast game is so much more exciting!

– Bangers

Those dinkers can be so smug. They think they know everything there is to know about pickleball. But where the rubber meets the road, they just can’t handle a ball with power behind it.

So who’s right?

Well, if you’re looking for some ammunition to take to your local pickleball hangout and finally show those guys the error of their ways… sorry. This isn’t it.

I know, I know. A bit disappointing, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be so satisfying to prove them wrong?

Great players do both

Here’s the thing, the best pickleball players know there’s a smart time to hit the ball softly and a smart time to hit it hard.

Pickleball is a dynamic game – the factors that influence the shot you choose to take change not only from game to game, but from shot to shot during a point.

These factors include:

  • Position of the players on the court
  • Type of ball being received
  • Strengths and weaknesses of each player
  • Your team’s overall strategy

It doesn’t matter if you’re hitting a dink, a drop or a drive – if you’re playing smart pickleball you’ll take those factors into account when deciding what type of shot to take.

If you still want to prove them wrong…

I can hear it now:

Yeah, but they aren’t playing smart pickleball.

And you know what, sometimes that’s true. Just like there’s a smart time to dink or bang the ball, there are also times when it’s not so smart.

If you believe somebody isn’t playing smart pickleball, the most convincing way you can communicate that is to beat them.

And before I get any further, I want to emphasize that I’m not talking about beating them so you can rub their nose in it. That’s a jerk move and you’re not going to convince anybody of anything with that approach.

I’m talking about capitalizing on their not-so-smart shots. Humans are pretty good at pattern recognition, but it does take time. Eventually they’ll learn that ‘hey, when I hit that shot things don’t go so well for me – maybe I should try something else’.

Beating Bangers

There are a few skills you can practice and utilize to beat bangers. Just like hitting your third shot drop or dinking, these skills take time and practice to master.

  • Let balls go
  • Keep volleys low
  • Soft Blocking

Let Balls Go

Bangers hit balls out all the time. But, when you see those bangers winding up it can be easy to have the mindset that you’re going to hit that ball no matter what.

Learn to recognize which balls are headed out and let them fly.

Quick tip:

If the ball is lower than knee height and they hit it hard, there’s a good chance it’s headed out.

Keep Volleys Low

One of the things bangers love to see is when somebody hits one of their shots and pops the ball into the air. Their eyes go wide, they start to salivate, and finally they pounce and smash the ball to end the point.

Practice keeping your volleys low. You want to hit your volleys deep and keep your opponents back but, if you have to choose between hitting the ball deep and keeping your shot low – keep it low.

Soft Blocking

If you know the banger’s ball is going to land in bounds and you don’t have a good opportunity to volley it back, your last option is to block the shot. This is common when the ball is headed right for your body or you really have to reach to the side to get your paddle on the ball.

When blocking, you’re trying to keep the ball low and ideally have it land in or near the kitchen. You can accomplish this by loosening your grip on the paddle and by not swinging into the ball.

Defeating Dinkers

Players that dink ‘too much’ are less common than players that attack the ball too often but they do exist.

It’s often harder to convince dinkers compared to bangers that there might be a smarter way to play. Why? Because you don’t get the same immediate feedback you do with banging when you make a bad call.

Think about it.

If you bang the ball and it whizzes back between your legs, you figure out pretty quick that maybe that wasn’t the best play. If you’re dinking when you should be attacking, the ball still remains in play. The problem is you’re forfeiting your advantage and allowing your opponents to recover. The error is not as obvious but they’re still making a mistake.

Quick example:

A classic example of this is when a dinker has moved their opponent to the side of the court with some great cross-court dinking. Sometimes they’re so focused on the soft game that they fail to recognize the large opening in the center of the court that’s ripe for attacking.

Ask why

Your best bet is to ask dinkers why they decided to dink the ball back instead of attacking. Not in a “I can’t believe you did that, what were you thinking?” sort of a way. More of a “hey, I’m just curious why you decided to take that shot – it seemed like a good attack opportunity”.

Asking players why they decided to hit a certain shot will cause them to (hopefully) consider whether there was, in fact, a better option.

Wrapping Up

If you came to this article looking to prove to another player they’re not playing pickleball the right way, hopefully we’ve provided a convincing argument that there’s room for different styles of play.

Remember, we’re all continually improving our skills and understanding of the game we love to play. It’s great to encourage each other to improve but, we should also be careful to avoid imposing our preferred style of play on others.

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