Donna and I went to the East Coast USAPA University at Club Med in Sandpiper Bay last week (week of January 28 – February 1). The lessons we received concentrated on dinking, with a bit on serving and volleying. We learned a few practice games and drills that I thought I would document. I myself could do these all days.

I’m pretty sure most of you know these games and drills but there were a few I didn’t know so I thought I would post them before I forget them.


This is what we would normally call a “warmup,” but in this case you would score points. The game is simple – two players play dinks cross court until one player either hits the ball long or into the net. To make the game better, there should also be a center line, whether real or imaginary. This game is pretty straightforward.

2 player drill 1


This game is the same as the first, except that you can slam a ball if you have a chance. Here’s the catch – you have to slam it into the NVZ, otherwise you lose the point. Hit it long, into the net OR into the other player and you lose the point.


This is the same as game 1, but you can throw in a lob when you have the chance. The lob must land on your opponent’s side of the court. Here’s a neat wrinkle – if you are the player who is lobbed, and you manage to get to the lob, you have to hit a third shot drop. We were taught that there are three options when you track down a lob – drive it, lob it back or hit a third shot drop. The pros said that the third option was the best. I reminded them that we were all pretty old, so the idea of catching up to a lob and being able to do something with it was a bit remote. I managed to do it once, though, and it seems like a very good technique.


The four-player games are the same as the two-player games with a few additions. One is that you don’t have to dink cross-court – you can dink to the person in front of you. This reinforces what one of the pros called a “reset.” If you get a dink from your opponent that forces you to move toward the outside line, you can use a reset to avoid a more difficult cross-court dink.

Reset Area

The other change is that you can play the point out as you would in a regular game.


I played this game on the morning of the last day. The picture below shows how the game works.

Skinny Singles

If you have an even score (including zero), you stand in the deuce court. Same for your opponent. So, the diagram above shows the lineup when you both have an even score. In this case you would be playing cross-court.

If you have an odd score, then you stand in the ad court. Assume that you are serving 2-1. Since your opponent has an odd score, he or she will be in the Ad Court. This is that lineup.

Skinny Singles Even - Odd

You can play wither a dink game in which you must keep the ball in the NVZ, or a full-on game. The ball, however, must go to your opponent’s court and vice versa. I personally liked the dink game, but the full-on game is very good for working on the location of your serve.


We also learned two dink drills – this means that you are not having a contest, but working with your partner to make sure the drill keeps going.

The court layout for these two drills is shown in the picture below.

Zone Dink Drill

Note that the NVZ is divided into six zones. In the first drill you will dink to each zone in numerical order. Your drill partner will tell you if your dink was good or not, but even if it is not, you continue playing.

In the second drill you place your dink as follows: zone 1, 3, 5, 4, 2 and 6. This is a really tough drill! Not only is it confusing, but you have to change direction a few times.

One thing I learned – and I should have known this – is that the closer you get your dink to drop by the net, the better it is. That’s why this drill is so great – you really have to focus on zones 4, 5 and 6.


We played a number of interesting games that focused on paddle control. In one game, you dinked to your partner who more or less caught the ball on his or her paddle, bounced it on the paddle once and dinked it back. This game helps in two ways – you control the paddle and you control the dink to make sure your partner can get it back. This is not a scoring game unless you want to determine who messed up your rhythm.

A second game we played was called “paddle volleyball.” In this game you played against another team. You can have three or four players on a side. The way it works is this: your opponents dink the ball to your side. One player gets the dink and then passes it to one of his teammates. That player then passes it to another team mate. You have to pass it three times before you can dink it back to your opponents.


The ball cannot must bounce when you pass it and no player can pass the ball to himself. You can hit it twice as long as another player hits the ball before you hit it the second time. It is a very fun game.


I don’t know what else to call this game. The picture below shows how you set up.

Crazy Game

You can stack as many players as you like behind the first two players.

So, imagine that player 1 dinks the ball over. He or she has to get off the court as fast as possible because player 3 has to move up and take that position. Player 1 goes to the back of the stack of players.

If player 2 gets the return, he or she has to get off the court, the that player gets off the court and player 4 moves up.

It is a very fast game and can have hilarious results. I cannot tell you how many times players tried to get off the court by moving to the middle, thereby creating a collision. Also, there were many times when the plyer moving up from the stack shoved his or her teammate out of the way.

You start the game off by dinking. After that, you can play out the point any way you like except for lobbing. You can imagine what situation that would create.

You’d think that driving down the middle would be a winning strategy, but remember that a player is moving up from the middle so that didn’t work so well. The winning strategy was to either slam it to the open spot or dink it back, with dinking being the best strategy.


The great thing about some of these drills/games is that you only need two people. If you have four, so much the better for working on an actual game situation.