Are you frustrated when playing pickleball bangers? When you are being pummeled at the net during a pickleball match sometimes the only thing you can do is block the ball back. Thus, mastering the pickleball block shot becomes important to improve your game.
Blocking a power shot or smash back to the other side of the net can be difficult. Our goal is to help you be less reactive and more strategic when it comes to blocking shots back and slowing down the game.
Here are four ways to best execute a pickleball block shot:
Step 1 – Anticipation
This helps if you know your opponent, their playing style, and their playing patterns. Once you have played someone a few times, you will begin to know when they are most likely to blast shots at you. You will learn to anticipate these shots, it will become second nature, and the block will almost feel effortless – and a bit less frightening.
If you’re new to playing someone, over the course of the match – if you are paying attention – you will become aware of different patterns they use and be able to better anticipate them.
TIP: Many advanced players move into an aggressive attack mode when a return of serve is short and bounces high. Try to avoid this. Deep return of serves in pickleball are very important. One, it keeps your opponents back at the baseline, which gives you more time to react to a banger shot. Two, a deep return of serve stops short court attack shots against your partner (who’s already at the kitchen) or you (as you are moving up to the kitchen).
Step 2 – Ready Position
If you have come from the tennis court to the pickleball court, you will know that the ready position is crucial. A ready position, quite literally, gets your body ready to play – and to react!
A ready position is simply a stance where your feet are just slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keep your knees bent and your weight on the balls of your feet. This position, along with the split step, primes your body to be able to move in any direction it needs to go.
Keep your paddle out in front of you, so that you are in the best position possible to block the incoming ball back over the net.
Step 3 – Do Not Swing
This is the most common mistake when executing block shots.
It feels counterintuitive to not swing at an incoming ball, especially when they are flying at you. But, not swinging helps use their power against them. There is no way you will be able to swing quick enough. And, swinging usually causes misses or miss-hits.
Keep your eye on the ball and simply stick your paddle out in front of you to block a power shot.
Learning to not swing at the ball will take some time to learn, so practice this first.
Step 4 – Positioning
The angle of your paddle is important to not dump block shots into the net. If your paddle is angled down (or closed), the ball is going to get buried at the base of the net. What you want to try is to keep your paddle angled up (or open) when blocking a shot. This ensures the ball is going over the net and this will also put backspin on the ball. And, as we know, backspin deadens the bounce of the ball lessening the possibility of getting punished from hitting a high-bouncing ball.
The next time you’re on court and find yourself up against someone who is banging balls at you or driving them past you, it is time to pull out the block shot. Anticipate the incoming ball, be ready, keep your paddle face open, and DON’T SWING – or you will might loose your head and the point.