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The Ernie

In the fast-paced world of pickleball, the "Ernie" stands out as one of the most spectacular and strategic moves a player can execute. Named after Ernie Perry, who popularized this bold play, the Ernie involves jumping the corner of the non-volley zone (NVZ), or the kitchen, to hit a ball in the air before it crosses the net. This move not only delights spectators but can also give players a significant competitive edge when used correctly. Today's blog post is dedicated to understanding when and how to perform an Ernie effectively.

What is an Ernie?

An Ernie is a high-energy, advanced pickleball technique where a player anticipates an opponent's shot and leaps from outside the court to volley the ball from the air over the NVZ. It’s a legal move as long as the player does not touch the NVZ or the NVZ line during the execution.

When to Perform an Ernie

1. Predictable Opponent Shots: The best time to perform an Ernie is when you can predict that your opponent will send a wide but shallow shot that you can intercept before it crosses the net.

2. Right Partner Setup: It's crucial that your partner is aware and can cover the court when you decide to attempt an Ernie. Communication and understanding between partners are key, as the court becomes temporarily exposed.

3. Suitable Ball Placement: Attempt an Ernie when the ball is placed where you can make a successful leap from behind the NVZ to reach it without stepping into the kitchen.

How to Execute an Ernie

1. Positioning: Start by positioning yourself close to the sideline of the pickleball court. Your initial stance should be such that you can move forward quickly and jump sideways over the corner of the kitchen.

2. Anticipation and Timing: Good anticipation is crucial. You need to read the opponent’s play and start your move as they are hitting the ball. The success of an Ernie heavily relies on timing; too early or too late, and you'll either miss the shot or give your opponent too much time to react.

3. Jump Technique: As you approach the NVZ, jump sideways with your inside foot leading. The goal is to clear the NVZ line completely in the air, making contact with the ball over the NVZ but outside the court boundaries. This requires agility and precise footwork.

4. Shot Execution: While in the air, your paddle should be ready to strike the ball sharply down into your opponent's court. The element of surprise and the angle can make it difficult for them to return effectively.

5. Landing: Ensure that your landing is stable and outside the NVZ. After executing the Ernie, quickly regain your position to prepare for the next play, keeping the momentum on your side.

Tips for Practicing the Ernie

1. Drill with a Partner: Practicing with a partner who can consistently place the ball correctly for your Ernie attempts is invaluable. This not only improves your timing but also helps your partner learn to cover the court when you go for the shot.

2. Focus on Agility Exercises: Since executing an Ernie requires good agility and explosive movement, incorporating agility ladders, cone drills, and jump training into your fitness routine can be beneficial.

3. Simulate Game Conditions: Practice the Ernie during scrimmages or casual games to get a real sense of when and how to use it effectively in match conditions.


While the Ernie is a high-risk move, its high reward can be game-changing, adding an exciting and effective element to your pickleball strategy. Remember, the Ernie isn't just about athleticism; it's about smart play, anticipation, and teamwork. With practice and timing, this advanced technique can be a thrilling and fruitful part of your pickleball arsenal. Keep playing and keep practicing, and you may find that the Ernie becomes one of your favorite moves on the court! Happy pickleballing!


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