A falafel in pickleball refers to a shot that falls short because it was hit without enough power, also known as a “dead paddle”.
Have you ever played pickleball and hit the ball without enough oomph? If so, you’ve made a falafel shot! A falafel is when the paddle doesn’t give the pickleball a hard enough whack, causing it to sadly plop just a short distance away.
Read on to learn all about falafels in pickleball – what they are, why they happen, and how to avoid them. We’ll also explain some other pickleball terms that you may hear on the court. With this guide, you’ll be a pickleball pro in no time!
What is a Falafel Shot?
A falafel in pickleball happens when the paddle lightly taps the ball and doesn’t give it enough power. This causes the pickleball to fall short right after hitting the paddle. It looks like the ball is dripping off the paddle, without any zing or acceleration.
Falafel shots are also called “dead paddles.” This is because the paddle seems lifeless when it makes contact with the ball. There’s no follow through or force put into the swing. The ball just flops off the face of the paddle and plops down shortly after contact.
Why are They Called Falafels?
The term “falafel” comes from the fried chickpea balls served in Middle Eastern cuisine. When cooked properly, falafel balls should be light and fluffy on the inside. A falafel shot in pickleball mimics this light, airy quality. The ball floats off the paddle gently without any power behind it.
Some other theories exist for why it’s called a falafel shot:
- The ball drops straight down after contact, like a heavy falafel falling to the plate.
- When cooked poorly, falafel can be dense and soggy. A pickleball falafel is soggy and lacking acceleration.
- The word “falafel” sounds funny, which matches the silly nature of the floppy shot.
No matter the origin, the name perfectly captures the limp, weak quality of a pickleball falafel.
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What Causes a Falafel Shot?
Falafel shots happen when the paddle doesn’t accelerate through the ball at contact. There are a few common causes:
Not Enough Swing Speed
The most obvious reason is simply not swinging fast enough. Without sufficient racquet speed, the ball will just dribble off instead of firing forward. Beginners often push or guide the ball, causing a slow moving falafel.
Poor Contact Point
Mishitting the ball leads to inadequate power transfer. If you don’t connect with the ball at the optimal contact point in your swing, a falafel can result. You want to make contact slightly in front of your body, between waist and shoulder height. Striking too close to your body or off-center on the paddle can sap power.
Lack of Follow Through
Failing to carry your swing through after contact will produce weaker shots. Not properly following through robs your stroke of essential acceleration. Make sure to continue your forward swing well after the ball leaves your paddle.
Contacting the ball late in your swing diminishes force. Your paddle is already starting to decelerate if you hit the ball at the tail end of your swing. Make contact at the peak of your forward swing for maximum oomph.
Why are Falafels Problematic?
Flopping a falafel into the opponent’s court may seem like an easy point. However, these low-powered shots can actually cause you more harm than good. Here’s why you want to avoid them:
- Easily returned – Without pace, falafels are simple for opponents to return strongly. They can tee off on your slowball and put you immediately on the defensive.
- Less control – Due to the lack of spin and speed, it’s hard to place falafels accurately. They can end up in the net or out-of-bounds.
- Telegraphs your shot – The slow speed of falafels allows opponents to read and prepare for your next shot early. Faster shots keep opponents guessing.
- Limits strategy – Falafel shots don’t let you vary pace, depth or placement. Your opponents can camp out and react. Mixing in faster shots opens up more strategic options.
While the occasional falafel is inevitable, relying too much on weak shots will make you an easier target. Develop solid swing mechanics and use your whole body to put some mustard on those pickleballs!
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Pickleball Shots and Strategies
Now that you know all about the falafel, let’s review some other key pickleball terms and tactics:
Dinking involves hitting soft, subtle shots just over the net. These keep opponents up close and allow you to control the point. Expert dink placement is an art form.
Third Shot Drop
Hitting baseline drives let you move opponents back and open up the court. Mix in topspin and slice to keep groundstrokes low and difficult to return.
Lobbing high shots over opponents’ heads when they are up at the net can catch them out of position. Lobs act as passing shots.
Cutting Off Angles
Move laterally to hit shots down the closest sideline. This takes time away from opponents and limits their aiming angles.
Aim where opponents aren’t. Hitting diagonal shots or down the middle keeps them guessing. Move them around and open up the court.
How to Avoid Falafel Shots
Here are some tips to ensure your pickleball strokes have plenty of mustard:
- Lead with your arm and forward shoulder rotation to generate racquet head speed.
- Pronate your forearm and snap your wrist on contact for added pop.
- Transfer your weight into the shot and allow momentum from your legs and core to flow into the swing.
- Follow through towards your target after contact rather than stopping abruptly.
- Make adjustments to hit the pickleball at the optimal contact point out in front of your body.
- Use fast, compact backswings and accelerate smoothly into contact. No herky jerky motions.
- Keep your eyes on the ball and watch it closely onto your strings to time your swing.
- Relax your grip pressure and let the paddle pivot naturally to put spin on shots.
With improved stroke mechanics and added racquet speed, your pickleball shots will zip off the strings. Opponents will be impressed by your pace and pinpoint placement. Just remember to keep practicing your technique to avoid the dreaded falafel.
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A falafel in pickleball refers to a weakly hit shot that drops sadly to the ground right after contact. These flop shots result from inadequate swing speed, poor contact point, lack of follow through, and other technical errors. While an occasional falafel is expected, relying on them too heavily can hurt your game.
Use proper technique to generate racquet speed and put some oomph into your pickleball strokes. Vary pace and placement and keep opponents off balance. By understanding causes and corrections for falafels, you’ll boost your skills and have more fun and success on the pickleball court.