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The Pickleball Tattoo: Badge of Honor or Occupational Hazard?

How to avoid (or acquire) the pickleball sting that hurts so good

August 09 2023
temporary tattoos - U.S. Open Championship Pickleball Tournament 2023
U.S. Open Championship Pickleball Tournament 2023

You may think of body ink when first hearing the term "pickleball tattoo," but among pickleballers, the phrase actually refers to something entirely different: the dreaded ball sting, the red mark temporarily 'tattooed' on a body part after taking a hit by a plastic, resin or polymer pickleball that usually occurs when your opponent strikes an easy-to-return smash.

Pickleball Drills - Defending the Overhead Smash - Photo Credit: YouTube
Pickleball Drills - Defending the Overhead Smash - Photo Credit: YouTube

Avoiding The Dreaded "Pickleball Tattoo"

If you're not interested in any sort of pickleball tattoos, both literally and figuratively, you'll need to avoid popping the ball up. Here are a few things you might try to avoid the next time you're out on the pickleball court.

1. Changing Grips During the Dink & Volley Exchanges

To ensure swift exchanges at the non-volley line, it's advisable to stick to a single grip while being just seven feet from the net. Constantly changing grips in this position may lead to awkward transitions, increasing the risk of popping the ball up and providing your opponent with an easy put-away opportunity.

2. Using Too Much Wrist

Arguably, the most common cause of pickleball pop-ups lies in the wrist's handling. While playing shots from the non-volley line, the wrist should remain stable and firm, even when laid back. Rather than manipulating the wrist, it is essential to rely on extensive use of the shoulder while maintaining a firm wrist position.

3. Not Making Contact With the Ball in Front of Your Body

This is a critical aspect to master. When you make contact too much on the side or, worse, behind your body, it often results in popped-up balls. This happens mainly because, when the ball is behind you, you end up relying on your wrists to try and clear the net.

To ensure proper contact in front of your body, it's imperative to be proactive with footwork. Taking an extra slide step can help you get into a better position for executing the shot and maintain control of the ball in front of your body.

4. Holding the Paddle Too Tightly

Frequently, a tight grip on the paddle leads to the ball careening off uncontrollably. When dinking, it's essential to avoid white-knuckling your paddle, instead opting for a looser grip. This way, the paddle absorbs much of the ball's energy, giving you better control over your shots.

5. Not Bending your Knees

Your posture during ball contact is crucial. Assume an athletic stance and ensure your knees are bent when striking the ball. Aim to align your nose over the ball at the point of contact, and avoid standing too straight up.

Pickleball Ink

However, while most people try to avoid the dreaded “pickleball tattoo,” others have embraced the idea, and, quite literally, left themselves with permanent reminders of their love for the game of pickleball. 

Michelle Tabasco Taylor, or @dinklady on Instagram, got her first “happy” tattoo, as she describes it. “A Southern California retro-colored pickleball tattoo. It’s permanent, folks. Pickleball is here to stay,” she writes.

pickleball games tattoo
pickleball tattoo women

@rvpickleballguy posted his tattoo on Instagram as well, writing, “I’m all the way in! I now am the proud owner of a #pickleballtattoo. Now my partner and I can strategize on my portable court layout.”

showing pickleball tattoo

Some people have even spotted pickleball tattoos on others and shared their findings with the world. Scott Golden posted his finding on Facebook, writing, "Was playing a little Pickleball this morning, and I ran across this woman waiting for a game! Talk about a full blown Pickleball Addiction!"

players sharing pickleball tattoo

Others understand what the term actually refers to, like Heidi Moffat who joked on Facebook: “I get tattooed almost every time I play. It’s usually bright red with a bunch of little whiter circles. Does that mean I have a seriously Pickleball addiction?”

Still, people are embracing their addiction, like Debbie Schertzer Downes, who writes, "Yes, it's a problem!"

women pickleball tattoo Photo Credit: Debbie Schertzer Downes - Facebook
Women pickleball tattoo Photo Credit: Debbie Schertzer Downes - Facebook

@YungRoll8 posted his obsession on Reddit saying, "Been playing pickleball nearly daily for a few months and really wanted to get a DK tattoo so I combined them both!"

pickleball tattoos - Photo Credit YungRoll8 on Reddit
Pickleball tattoos - Photo Credit YungRoll8 on Reddit

Temporary Tattoos

If you're not into the permanency of body ink, you can still show your pickleball love with a temporary tattoo. Here are some of our favorites we've found for inspiration.



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