What Is An Erne and How Do I Master It?

TL;DR Summary

An Erne is an advanced pickleball shot: a volley that you hit while your body is in the air. It’s a fun, thrilling shot to pull off. Erne Perry was one of the first players to execute the play in competition and helped bring the shot into mainstream competitive play.

  1. What is an Erne?
  2. Who is Erne Perry?
  3. What does USA Pickleball say about Ernes?
  4. Why add this shot to your pickleball repertoire?
  5. Best ways to set up an Erne
  6. Best ways to defend against an Erne
  7. Fun Fact: Bert and Erne

What is an Erne?

An Erne is considered an advanced pickleball poach shot that is high-risk and high-reward. It is a volley that is hit while your body is in the air. The best way to describe it is that you hit an Erne while traveling over the kitchen (or the non-volley zone) and land outside of the sidelines of the court.

Basically, an Erne is when you jump into the air (or use a large step to avoid the kitchen) and hit the pickleball while it’s in the air as it crosses the net. Use the momentum of your jump (or large step) to land your your feet out-of-bounds. As long as your feet land outside the lines, you’ve executed a legal Erne and avoid a penalty.

The shot can also be considered an Erne if it is a volley that is hit after both your feet clear the pickleball court’s sidelines.

Why is it called an Erne?

The pickleball trick show was named after Erne Perry, a pickleball OG who elevated the shot and brought it into mainstream pickleball and competitive play.

Since one of the easiest ways to learn and master the Erne shot is by watching, here’s Mr. Erne Perry himself teaching us how to Erne:

Here are two other helpful videos on how to execute this shot:

  1. Pickleball Pirates’ Why and How to Erne in Pickleball
  2. Simone Jardim Pickleball – The Erne: How, Why, and When to hit it

Who is Erne Perry?

Erne Perry is a pickleball player and evangelist who’s been known in pickleball circles for decades. In 2005 when the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) was established, he was on the first Board of Directors overseeing marketing.

Jeff Shank, a pickleball instructor and self-described student of the game, coined the shot Erne after seeing Mr. Perry perform the exciting move in the 2010 Nationals in Sun City, Arizona. Mr. Perry has been doing the shot since 1993. However, the first time Mr. Perry saw the shot himself was when his friend George executed the thrilling volley on him.

Source: USA Pickleball

What does USA Pickleball say about Ernes?

The Official USA Pickleball says that any contact with the non-volley zone (or kitchen) while hitting a volley is a fault. This rule on contact includes your feet which is not allowed to step on the lines. Since USA Pickleball rules mandate that volleys must be executed outside of the non-volley zone, the “loophole” is that you can run around or jump over the kitchen. An Erne!

Just make sure your feet do not touch the line or the kitchen surface area. Instead, your feet must be established or re-established outside of the court, which is why you need to step over or jump around the non-volley zone. There are also a few rules about paddle and body. Overall, to execute an Erne:

  1. You cannot have contact with the non-volley zone while hitting a volley
  2. You cannot step on the lines
  3. You have to step over or jump around the non-volley zone so that you establish or re-establish your feet outside the court
  4. Your paddle and body cannot hit the net
  5. You cannot clear the net with your paddle to contact the ball

Here’s the excerpt from the Official Rulebook:

Rule 9.B of the 2020 Official Rulebook for USA Pickleball provides that any contact with the Non-Volley Zone while hitting a volley (in other words, hitting the pickleball out of the air, without bouncing) is a fault – and this includes the swing, follow-through, and the momentum from the swing. All volleys – which includes all Ernes – must be executed outside of the Non-Volley Zone. Again, you may jump over the Non-Volley Zone, as long as you do not touch the Non-Volley Zone line or the Non-Volley Zone surface area, or, if you touch the Non-Volley Zone, then you must re-establish your feet outside of the Non-Volley Zone before hitting your Erne.

USA Pickleball

Why add this shot to your pickleball repertoire?

First of all, Ernes are fun! More importantly, it can be a good strategic move to learn and incorporate this thrilling volley into your game, which can:

  • Put pressure on your opponents. Especially so that they have to make quality dinks. (And if you want to hit quality dinks yourself, Learn How to Master Good Dinks.)
  • Increase the chances your opponents make unforced errors. It can be a surprising sight to lift their heads and see you running around and jumping over the kitchen)
  • Be a good fake. If your opponent is afraid you’re going to execute an Erne it can force your opponent to hit a shot that’s easy for your partner

Best ways to set up an Erne

The most common way to execute this volley is to dink down the line to the opponent who is across from you. This way you move the opponent toward the middle and then towards the sideline. When your opponent’s head comes down, jump or move to execute the Erne as their return comes back.

As your opponent moves to the sideline, a good signal on timing is when you feel like your opponent is in a bad position when they’re stretching and feel like they’re barely getting to the ball.

Another good time to Erne is off your opponent’s bad drop. Specifically, it can be a good opportunity to execute an Erne when your opponent hits a poor third-shot drop.

If you’re playing with a partner who’s trying to setup or execute an Erne, be sure to quickly move into the middle and position yourself to cover your partner.

Keep in mind is that you can straddle the lines a little bit to anticipate the shot. You just step over the sidelines, almost like walking the sideline. You don’t have to jump across the kitchen lines. Sometimes players end up stepping on the line when they purely jump.

Ernes for a lefty (left-handed) pickleball player

There are a lot of pickleball advantages for lefties, including when you hit specific shots like an erne. When it comes to ernes, your advantage as a lefty is that you can reach across the court more easily. Combining that with the surprise factor with ernes makes it hard for your opponent to defend.

Are you a lefty?

- Lefties in Pickleball: Advantages, Disadvantages, and Strategy
- Pros and Cons of Switching Hands in Pickleball

Setting up an Erne as a pickleball beginner

The Erne may be a more advanced shot, but we think it’s one of the most fun to pull off. If you’re a beginning, keep your Erne simple and practice, practice, practice. Follow these steps:

  1. Set yourself up by dinking the pickleball past the non-volley zone. Aim to have it land just behind or next to your opponent’s feet.
  2. Try to aim it so it’s on your opponent’s backhand.
  3. Step (or jump) outside of the sideline and swing your paddle to hit the ball as it comes over the net. Bonus: Add some zip to the ball!

If you’re a beginner still geting the hang of Ernes, you can try adding another trick shot to your game instead, like the Tweener.

Tip: Avoid falls when you jump over the kitchen

Running around and jumping over the kitchen can be fun, but it can also cause injury if you fall. Performing Ernes require good timing, coordination, balance, jumping, and the ability to hit the ball while running and jumping. Our recommendation is to take it slowly and practice until you feel confident, including with your footwork and intuition on when to perform an Erne.

If you’re playing doubles, make sure your partner also knows what to do when you’re attempting to execute an Erne so that they’re ready to cover the middle.

Best ways to defend against an Erne

Keep in mind that opponents will try to Erne right before you hit the dink when you’re looking down. Being aware of your opposing team’s or player’s movements can help you predict when they might Erne. Your partner can also help keep a better eye on the opponents and communicate, especially since you will be looking down at the ball to hit an effective dink.

Another thing to keep an eye out for is whether your opponent ends up stepping on the line when attempting this shot, especially when they’re trying to jump off. If the opponent steps on the line, it’s not a legal Erne. People feet end up on the line all the time in tournaments, so make sure to leverage the referees.

Interestingly, an issue that pickleball referees face is when there is a missed Erne. For example, when the opponent sees an Erne coming and changes direction and hits the ball back on the diagonal. When this happens the referee has to watch where the ball goes and also whether the player who is moving or jumping over the kitchen crosses the plane of the net with any part of their body or paddle when they don’t make contact with the pickleball. (A two-referee system is typically better for catching these instances.)

Fun Fact: Bert and Erne

When you do the “volley in the air” using this shot it refers to the forehand. The same shot using your backhand is called a Bert.

Ernes are volleys you hit in the air using a forehand. The same shot using a backhand is called a Bert

1 thought on “What Is An Erne and How Do I Master It?”

  1. Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon on a daily basis. Its always useful to read content from other authors and practice something from their websites.


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