Relishing Pickleball: Blocking Shots

David Zapatka

Would you like to neutralize the hard shots being hit in your direction? Consider a blocking strategy. Blocking a shot properly requires technique, positioning, timing and strategy. Follow this advice to improve your blocking skills:

* Stand with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. The lower you can get down, the better. This allows you to react quickly to block incoming shots.

* Have your paddle in front of your body prepared to make contact with the ball, elbow bent and without overextending your arm. Blocking is a strategy used to reset the ball. It’s designed to neutralize your opponents with a soft shot that lands in the non-volley zone or to angle balls off the court through the sidelines.

* Your paddle angle is important. Have your paddle angled toward the trajectory of the incoming shot. Be sure you are “facing the shot.” If the ball has topspin and is dipping down, angle your paddle slightly downward to block it back with control using their spin against them. If the shot is flatter, your paddle angle should be in a more neutral position. This neutral (or slightly upward position) is vital. You will generate a shot with backspin that drops quickly over the net.

* Loosen your grip. A loose, relaxed grip is very important. A strong grip will produce a shot that will fly too far or too high. You can accomplish this by holding your paddle more in your fingers and less in the palm of your hand. This grip combination will give you a softer touch allowing you to reset your opponents’ offensive shot.

* Anticipate your opponents’ shots by watching your opponents’ movement and preparation closely. Watch their paddle angle. Pay attention to their court positioning. Watch their backswing. A short backswing will produce a soft shot. A long backswing will produce a harder shot. Anticipating the opponents’ shot gives you a better chance to be prepared to block.

* Fewer moving parts is better than many moving parts. Do not swing at the ball. If anything, it’s a short punch or a loosening of the grip to carve the ball and drop it short. A long follow-though is not desired. Keep your eyes on the ball and your head still. Your objective is to neutralize the opponents and reset the point. Be calm. Contact the ball out in front of your body. Stay “quiet” with your wrist, arm, and body.

* Practice is key to becoming an excellent blocker. Work on technique, timing and positioning during practice and drill sessions. Get a lot of play in against different opponents. Play against the hard hitters practicing your blocking skills.

Have a question about pickleball? Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment or have some pickilicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at [email protected].