You show up at the courts looking to play a controlled, dink-focused game. But, here comes the big-hitting backer who loves to wail on the ball incessantly.
They don’t dink or focus on placement, instead choosing to drill the ball at their opponents over and over.
You know what they’re going to do, but you feel helpless to stop them from smashing the ball shot after shot.
At sub-4.0 levels of play (where the vast majority of pickleball players reside), bangers often run rampant and take advantage of players who don’t know how to counter their aggressive style of play.
You’ll be happy to learn that being a banger doesn’t work at the higher levels of pickleball. Once you hit 4.0 levels of play, bangers start to get punished for their methods. By 4.5+, skilled players flip the script entirely and take advantage of a banger’s impatient and predictable playstyle.
As experienced players know, bangers do have clear weaknesses that can be exploited. You’re about to learn the techniques and strategies that will enable you to beat bangers every time.
It’s time to flip the script and send those pesky bangers packing, forced to reflect on how their game plan got destroyed.
Let’s dive into the strategies.
- What exactly is a “banger”?
- 1. Keep them pinned back at the baseline as you work your way to the kitchen line
- 2. Improve your reaction speed & ready position
- 3. Force them to dink by perfecting your counterattacks and dinking game
- 4. Know when to let their drives fly long
- 5. Know when to target them and when to avoid them
- Bonus tip: Be patient
What exactly is a “banger”?
Pickleball is becoming faster than ever. We’re seeing more drives than ever, at all levels. But a player that uses a lot of drives isn’t necessarily a banger.
A banger is someone who relies almost exclusively on hard drives and other fast-paced shots. They will go all in on pace and power without hardly ever engaging in the soft game. You’ll hardly ever see them hit drop shots are enter dinking rallies.
Now, let’s dive into all the ways to counter these types of players.
1. Keep them pinned back at the baseline as you work your way to the kitchen line
You always want to get to the kitchen line in pickleball, but it’s especially important against bangers. If you get caught back at the baseline or in no-man’s land against a banger, they’ll hit it hard at your feet over and over.
Once you’re at the kitchen line, you’ll be in a much better position to counter a banger with blocks, counters, and dinking (more on that later).
At the same time, you want to keep your banger opponent pushed back as much as possible. The further away they are from the kitchen line, the better. The ideal is to keep them pushed back to the baseline where their drives are going to be way easier for you to counter.
So hit the ball deep and low. Avoid hitting little floater shots that give them an opportunity to come up to the kitchen line. You want to hit low, penetrating volleys at the depth of their feet but out to their wings. This keeps the ball out of their strike zone and keeps them from moving forward easily.
While it’s helpful to put pace on the ball, you don’t need to be hitting it super hard. It’s the height and depth that you want to focus on.
2. Improve your reaction speed & ready position
You need to be able to react quickly and consistently when playing against bangers. You won’t stay afloat long if you can’t counter their deep drives and hold your own in hands battles at the kitchen line.
Reaction speed is more about technique than raw fast-twitch ability. The following tips will help quicken your game.
Ready position. Your ready position is the most important aspect of reaction speed. Having the right positioning ensures that you’ll need to move as little as possible when reacting to a fast shot.
- Keep your paddle up at the 11 o’clock position. Don’t give into the temptation to let it hang low. Bring it back to ready ASAP after hitting a shot.
- Keep a wide base, slightly bent knees, and a ready-to-move stance. Bangers will hit the ball straight to you at times and away from you at others. They’ll try to catch you off guard as much as possible. You need to be ready to spring to action at any moment, sometimes reacting to a ball headed straight to you, and other times, away from you, requiring you to quickly explode in one direction.
- Always get back to your ready position after moving or hitting a shot. Bangers rely on catching you out of position. If you stay vigilant with your ready positioning by keeping a wide base and your paddle up, they won’t be able to rely on keeping you off balance or out of position. You need to be able to maintain this after rapid-fire volleying. Don’t let them tangle you up or wear you down.
Keep your swings compact. It’s important that you can recover fast when playing against bangers. The bigger the swing, the further away from you’ll be from your ready position. If you take big swings at the kitchen line against a banger, you can expect to get a counter driven right back at your chest before you have a chance to react. You will drastically improve your reaction time and balance if you keep your swings tight and compact.
Keep a firm grip. It’s important to hold your paddle with good technique against bangers. You often want a loose wrist for most shots, such as drops and dinks. But when your opponent is driving the ball constantly and you’re trying to counter them, you want to keep your wrist firmer for more stability and to help you use their power against them. Just don’t hold it too tight with excessive tension, or your accuracy will drop when countering their harder drives.
3. Force them to dink by perfecting your counterattacks and dinking game
Most bangers are underdeveloped dinkers. They’ll avoid dinking as much as possible, often speeding up low balls that they should be dinking. This leads them to hit both long balls and shots straight into the net.
To beat bangers, you need to be able to punish them for driving the ball at you at the wrong time (i.e when a ball is low and unattackable). You do this by counterattacking their drives with punishing drives of your often, often with good punch volleys.
You want them to feel that if they drive the ball at you at the wrong time, it’s going to come back at them twice as hard.
A lot of players will simply reset a ball when a banger hits a drive at them from deep. While this may seem like the logical choice, it typically just allows them to move forward and key up for another hard drive at you from even closer up. Instead, when they’re back, counter the ball hard right at to the sides of their feet.
When you and your opponent are both up at the kitchen, you’ll want to out-dink them. Practice your dinking game as much as possible so that when you’re playing a banger you’re able to dink consistently without hitting popups. The typical banger will grow frustrated with a dinking rally and attempt to speed up the ball at an inopportune time, which yo can take advantage of.
And, again, if they speed up at the wrong time, don’t always try to keep dinking or resetting. An ill-advised speed-up typically means they’re hitting their drives high because it wasn’t an attackable shot that they went for. You want to punish these high shots with a devastating, hard-hitting counter of your own.
4. Know when to let their drives fly long
Bangers rely on raw power to win their points. They’re often uncontrolled players who just slam the ball as hard as they can to wear you down.
As a result, a lot of their balls aren’t going to land in. I see a ton of players at the 3.0-4.0 level hitting balls that they should be letting fly out, especially when playing against bangers.
You want to become a really good judge of whether a bangers shots are going to stay in bounds or fly long. A relevant phrase, which I’ve featured in my best pickleball sayings post, is: if it’s shoulder high, let if fly. People also say chest high, let it fly. Against bangers, typically those chest-high balls will indeed be flying out.
A lot of us just hit balls without even realizing that they could be going out, so work on developing your feel for judging out balls.
5. Know when to target them and when to avoid them
Bangers tend to be very volatile players. They have excellent games and horrible ones, often back-to-back.
When their game is on and they’re hitting every drive in bounds, it’s best to avoid them and to prioritize hitting to their partner. Sure, you could use the tips in this article to try to counter the banger, but if they’re coming up with crazy shots and winning point after point, it’s best to just avoid them as much as possible.
When they’re having an off-game, though, just keep funneling the ball to them. They’ll likely just make more ill-advised drives and get more frustrated, creating a cycle of even more errant shots and mistakes.
Bonus tip: Be patient
Remember, bangers are streaky players. They often have just as many bad games as good ones.
If you’re playing against a banger and they’re just ripping your team apart, stay patient. Don’t let it discourage you if they’re ripping off multiple points in a row.
Stick to your strategies from this post and play the odds. Your consistent, disciplined game could very well get you the win the long run.
The worst thing you can do against a banger is grow exasperated. I’ve seen a ton of players get flustered and either give up or start to play an uncontrolled game of their own in response. Feel free to take out some of your frustration by hitting hard balls at them, but hit them in the form of measured counterattacks, not just wild drives of your own.
If you’re unable to neutralize a banger, just keep practicing the advice in this post and improve your game overall. You’ll beat them in the long run with this strategy.
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