A proper paddle grip is key to your success on the pickleball court. It turns the pickleball paddle into an extension of your arm and, in doing so, improves your play. History provides a clue of the grip’s importance to your pickleball game.
Tennis, one of the precursors of pickleball, traces its roots back to a game called Paume: a form of handball played in French monasteries as early as the 12th century. Even though a racket was later introduced to the game (surprisingly after strings had been added to the glove worn by the handballers), that racket has always been nothing more than an extension (or representation) of the hand that holds it. It is fair to say that hitting the ball with the “hand” extends up to and including our sport.
Understanding that pickleball is descended from handball can help your understanding of the stroke mechanics necessary to succeed. This understanding leads us to view the pickleball paddle as what it is: simply an extension of our arm and, ultimately, our hand. Another way to think about it is that the paddle becomes our hand for purposes of making contact with the ball.
The paddle grip is the link between your hand and paddle and is what allows the paddle to become the substitute for your hand. As a result, a proper grip is critical to a correct paddle-arm link and maximizing the effectiveness of the paddle as we wield it in battle. Improper grip often results in deficiencies in a player’s stroke mechanics.
We strongly recommend the continental grip as the optimal grip to play pickleball. And we are not alone. The continental grip is also the grip recommended by the IPTPA, pickleball’s leading association for accredited instruction.
These recommendations are not arbitrary. Stated simply, the continental grip provides the greatest versatility and avoids some of the pitfalls presented by the other grips, both the western (the “over” grip) and eastern (the “under” grip). You can see more about the continental grip in this video.
If you are already a competent pickleball player with a grip that is non-continental, we do not suggest that you rush out and immediately change your grip. But if you are new to the game and do not already have a grip, or if you are struggling to improve and can withstand the pain (of changing your grip – it will be painful), we recommend adopting the continental grip as your grip. It will best allow you to grow in the sport.
Players often start playing pickleball and give nary a thought to their paddle grip. What we are telling you (or trying to anyways) is not to ignore the importance of the grip as you charge down the path to pickleball dominance. Having an incorrect grip can prove debilitating later on down the road and it will be more difficult to change it then.
Good luck out there.