Relishing Pickleball: The Overhead Smash

David Zapatka

Continuing our study of Pickleball Fundamentals Master the basics and compete with confidence by Mary Littlewood, it’s time now to learn about the overhead smash after learning about lobbing the past few months.

Mary Littlewood says the overhead smash is the most aggressive, offensive shot in all of pickleball. It’s usually hit off the opponent’s missed hit that makes the ball fly high or by hitting a lob out of the air. The shot is executed as high in the air as a player can reach with a shot that is directed downward at a sharp angle into the opponent’s court. A well-executed smash is almost impossible to defend. Here is Ms. Littlewood’s advice.

“As soon as the ball leaves your opponent’s paddle and you see that it is probably going to be a setup for an overhead smash, move to a position behind the ball. Continue to track the flight of the ball with your eyes as you move into position. If it appears that the ball will be either over your head directly or slightly behind you, turn your body so that your left side faces the net and side-step to a spot that, if you were to allow the ball to drop to the ground, it would land between you and the net and in line with your paddle arm. As you watch the ball drop down, you should be in a forward-stride position with your right foot back. Your paddle arm should be cocked behind the right shoulder with the head of the paddle back and down. Swing the paddle arm up and forward so that you contact the ball high in the air with arm and wrist action. The ideal position of your paddle at the time of ball contact should be behind and on top of the ball. Shift your body weight from the rear foot to the forward foot as you execute the smash. This adds force to the hit. After ball contact, follow through, letting your arm continue in a downward arc across your body and toward the ground.”

Ms. Littlewood’s book has beautiful photos illustrating the strokes and strategies she is teaching. Local Arizona player Dianne Zimmerman is captured in three consecutive photos in the book setting up for the smash, contacting the ball at its height out in front of her, and angling it to a position in the court where it will not be returned. These photos help the reader see each aspect of the strokes making learning easy.

Experience has taught me to snap my wrist at the point of impact to impart even more pace on the ball and increase my accuracy. The smash is one of the most fun shots in the game. Enjoy!

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].