How to Avoid Getting “Hit” in Pickleball
Pickleball is a sport where you sometimes have to deal with a body shot. This is when your opponent aims the pickleball right at your body. Usually, it is a quick, low shot that goes towards your middle part (like your hips, chest, or shoulders—the area where you would tuck your arm like a “chicken wing”). Even though you might get hit by the pickleball, body shots are a good way to play and win on the pickleball court because they are hard to respond to and can make your opponent feel uneasy and clumsy.
But what if someone uses a body shot against you? No one likes to get hit by the pickleball—that is why some players call it getting “tagged” or “hit”—because it can hurt you physically and mentally. So, how can you stop your opponents’ body shots and avoid getting “tagged” or “hit” on the pickleball court?
Here are some tips to help you dodge getting hit on the court:
1. Be Alert and Watch Your Opponent:
Keep an eye on the pickleball. Look for signs of what kind of shot your opponent will make—for example, does your opponent swing their arm back a lot when they speed up the pickleball? Stay sharp and focused to make your reaction time faster.
2. Hold Your Pickleball Paddle Up:
Hold your paddle up and ready—not down below your waist. Be ready to block shots to both sides of your body by holding your paddle face at 10 or 11 o’clock if you think of yourself standing on a clock (or 2 or 1 o’clock if you are left-handed). This half-backhand ready position will help you react faster, so that you can better protect yourself from a body shot on the pickleball court.
3. Move Your Feet:
Guess where the pickleball is going and move your feet—or at least, shift your body—to best react to the body shot.
4. Make Unhittable Shots:
The best way to avoid a body shot is to make your own shots low (under the pickleball net) and unhittable. Make your opponents have to hit the pickleball up. By doing this, you will usually stop your opponents from making a body shot in the first place.
5. Talk to Your Partner:
If you accidentally make a hittable shot for your opponents to attack, talk to your partner (like, “Watch out!”) to give them some extra warning.
6. Think About Taking a Step Back:
If you are having trouble with defending against the body shots, it might be a good idea to take a step back from the Non-Volley Zone line to give yourself a little more reaction time. If you decide to step back into the area between the Non-Volley Zone line and the baseline, make sure that you are not moving when your opponents are hitting the pickleball. Remember, moving while hitting will probably make you miss more shots. So, only use this step back when you have time. And, if you decide to step back into the “Danger Zone,” make sure to quickly step back up to the Kitchen line, as you have a better chance of winning the rally when you are close to the Kitchen line!
7. Let the Out Balls Go:
If your opponents try to hit a body shot, think about whether the body shot will stay inside the pickleball court if you were to let it pass you. “Teach” your opponents a lesson for the attempted body shot by letting it go out of bounds when you can. Sometimes, it can be hard to get out of the way because of the short time to react. However, do your best to watch your opponent, figure out whether the pickleball is going out of bounds, tell your partner those out balls (like, “OUT!”), and let the out balls go.
Body shots are not meant to hurt another player on purpose, but they can be a smart way to play on the pickleball court in the right situations. If you are on the receiving end of these body shots, be sure to try the tips above. And, if you are on the giving end of these body shots, be sure to apologize if you accidentally “tag” an opponent.
Finally, think about wearing eyewear on the pickleball court to protect your eyes from a stray pickleball. Even the best of players, who have learned these tips to avoid being “tagged” on the court, can still be hit by a pickleball. And, one of the most delicate and important parts of your body that you can protect are your eyes. So, protect your eyes and wear eyewear on the pickleball court.