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What Is a Banger in Pickleball? (And How to Beat One)

Female pickleball player wearing a dark, long-sleeve top hitting a two-handed backhand drive or counter while positioned near the net during a game of doubles.

Discover the meaning behind the word "banger" in pickleball. Learn what a banger is, how they play, and how to beat one.

In pickleball, there are many terms to describe different players, play styles, and techniques. If you’ve played pickleball long enough, you’ve likely heard of the term “banger.”

But what exactly is a banger? How does a banger play pickleball? And, most importantly, how do you beat a banger?

In this guide, we’ll break down exactly what a banger is in pickleball. We’ll also share helpful tips and strategies for beating a banger in pickleball.

What is a banger in pickleball?

In pickleball, a “banger” is a player who prefers to hit the ball hard and fast, aiming to overpower their opponents.

Bangers often rely on aggressive shots such as third shot drives and speed-ups, rather than engaging in the soft game and hit shots like drop shots and dinks. Generally, they focus on power and speed over control and placement on the court.

Not all pickleball players who hit the ball hard are considered bangers. However, players who consistently hit the ball hard instead of getting to the non-volley zone and engaging in dink rallies are often categorized as bangers.

Understanding the definition of a banger can help you become a better pickleball player. Knowing their hard-hitting tendencies can help you counter their drives and neutralize their power game.

Female pickleball player wearing a pink top hitting a hard forehand volley in a game of doubles. Her female partner stands to her left, with both players positioned behind the kitchen line.

What to expect when playing a banger in pickleball

Bangers can sometimes be difficult to deal with. Their aggressive style of play forces players to hit more defensive shots than usual.

If you’re not careful, games can slip away due to bangers’ quick pace of play. Here are some things to expect when playing a banger in pickleball:

  • Points that only last a few shots
  • Consistent third shot drives
  • Very few soft shots like drop shots or dinks
  • Random speed-ups at the non-volley zone
  • High risk of body bag shots (i.e., shots that hit your body)

How to beat a banger in pickleball

While they can be challenging to play, there are ways to counter banger opponents in pickleball.

The most effective strategy when playing a banger is to always be prepared to return their powerful shots. This requires staying in the ready position, maintaining strong paddle positioning, and quick hands.

Here are some additional tips for how to beat a banger in pickleball:

  • Stay patient. One of the best ways to combat a banger is to remain patient and wait for your opportunities. Bangers often rely on overpowering their opponents. By staying calm and focused, you can force them into making mistakes.
  • Keep the banger back. Bangers’ power shots are most effective when the ball sits in the middle of the court. You have less reaction time to block shots back. By keeping the banger deep in the court with controlled roll shots, you can limit their ability to drive through the court.
  • Focus on placement. Rather than trying to match the banger shot for shot, focus on placing your shots strategically. Aim for the sidelines and corners to make it difficult for your opponent to set up for a powerful drive shot.
  • Work on your defense. When playing a banger, you’ll need to play defensive at times and block shots back. Make sure you have good paddle positioning in preparation for their drives. Keep the pickleball paddle up and ready to defend shots toward your body.
  • Mix up your shots. Instead of engaging in a power battle with a banger, utilize the soft game and hit dink shots, drops, and lob shots. Varying the pace and types of shots can put the banger in a defensive position and force them out of their comfort zone.
  • Stay close to the net. By maintaining a strong position at the non-volley zone, you can take away the banger’s angles and limit their ability to hit power shots. Be ready to hit multiple block volleys at the net to keep the pressure on your opponent.
  • Communicate with your partner. If you’re playing doubles, communication is essential. Coordinate your formation to cover the court to take away openings and angles. Talk to each other in between points to get on the same page about shot selections and strategies to counter the banger.
  • Target their weaknesses. For many pickleball bangers, their forehand shot is their weapon of choice. If you notice this when playing a banger, try to direct the ball toward their backhand side or another one of their weaker shots.
  • Be ready to dodge. Bangers typically try to hit powerful shots everywhere on the court, including the kitchen. However, aggressive shots in response to dink shots or low volleys typically hit the net or fly out of bounds. If you see your opponent gearing up for a powerful shot at the non-volley zone line, be ready to quickly move to the side or duck to let the ball go out of bounds.
  • Focus on getting the ball back. Bangers try to end points within two or three shots. Their style of play is not conducive for long, drawn-out points. If you get the ball back into play multiple times, you’ll force them to play your style of game or increase the chance that they’ll make a mistake.
Male pickleball player wearing a white and red top and gray hat hitting a stretching forehand volley or roll shot with his right hand.

Take on the banger at your local court

Playing a banger opponent can be difficult, but they’re not impossible to beat. Far from it.

The most important thing is to be ready to defend multiple hard, fast-paced shots. Bangers try to overwhelm their opponents with powerful shots. This is different from the traditional soft game you encounter from most pickleball players.

By understanding this distinct play style, you’ll be better prepared to counter it. So get to the kitchen, adopt a ready, athletic stance, and get ready to defend your opponent’s powerful shots. You’ll frustrate them and win pickleball games in no time.

Frequently asked questions

Do tennis players become bangers in pickleball?

Tennis players who transition to pickleball often start out with a banger-like style of play. That’s because they are used to the baseline-to-baseline groundstroke rallies in tennis. This is quite different from the soft game at the kitchen that’s most common in pickleball.

That said, not all tennis players become bangers in pickleball. To be successful in pickleball, players of other sports are nearly required to master soft shots like drops and dinks. Several tennis players come into pickleball and quickly pick up this strategy.

What is the ready position in pickleball?

In pickleball, the ready position refers to the stance players should adopt in between shots. Generally speaking, the ready position involves:

  • Standing with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart
  • Keeping your knees slightly bent
  • Holding the paddle upright (with both hands, if you can)
  • Keeping your head up and eyes alert

Adopting a consistent ready position is helpful in pickleball. It helps you react to your opponent’s shots and return the ball from multiple angles. This stance is especially important when playing bangers, since you typically have less time to react to their shots.

How do you know if you’re playing a banger?

While the definition of a banger is a bit broad, there are telltale signs that someone fits into the category. Here are signs that you’re playing a banger:

  • They never drop their third shot. They almost always drive their third shot, regardless of where the return of serve lands. And if you return that shot, they’ll likely attempt a fifth shot drive.
  • They hit the ball hard even when pulled into the kitchen. Most players will engage in a dink rally when pulled into the non-volley zone line. Typical bangers will continue to hit the ball hard.
  • They’ll try speed-ups from anywhere. Usually the best approach is waiting for a high ball at the kitchen to attempt a speed-up. Bangers will usually attempt speed-ups even when the ball is low.

Key takeaways

  • In pickleball, a “banger” is a player who prefers to hit the ball hard and fast to overpower opponents.
  • Bangers focus on power and speed, using aggressive shots like third shot drives and speed-ups, and often avoid soft game strategies like drop shots and dinks.
  • Not all hard hitters are bangers; the term specifically refers to those avoiding the non-volley zone and dink rallies in favor of consistent power shots.
  • To beat a banger, players should prepare to return powerful shots, maintain a ready position, and have quick hands.
  • Effective strategies include staying patient to force bangers into mistakes, keeping them back in the court to reduce their shot effectiveness, and focusing on shot placement over matching power.
  • Defensive play, such as good paddle positioning and varied shot types (dinks, drops, lobs), is crucial against bangers.
  • Staying close to the net limits bangers’ angles and power shots, emphasizing the importance of strong net play and block volleys.
  • In doubles, communication with your partner is key to covering the court and strategizing against a banger.
  • Targeting a banger’s weaknesses, like their backhand, can exploit their lesser-used shots and reduce their effectiveness.
  • Encouraging longer rallies by consistently returning the ball can force bangers out of their comfort zone and increase their chance of making mistakes.
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