In the sport of pickleball, a body shot is a shot where the pickleball is aimed directly at an opponent’s body. It is typically a fast, low shot that is directed towards the midsection (i.e., hips, chest, or shoulders—like the “chicken wing” area). Although you may hit your opponent with the pickleball, body shots can be an effective shot and strategy on the pickleball court because they can be difficult to react to and can put your opponent in an uncomfortable and awkward position.
With that said, what if a body shot is used against you? No player likes to get hit with the pickleball—in other words, getting “tagged” or “body bagged” as some players will call it—as it can be a blow physically and to your ego. So, how can you best neutralize your opponents’ body shots and avoid getting “tagged” or “body bagged” on the pickleball court?
Here are some pickleball tips to help you avoid getting tagged on the court:
- Stay Alert and Read Your Opponent: Pay attention to the pickleball. Look for clues as to which shot your opponent will hit—for instance, does your opponent take a big backswing when he/she speeds up the pickleball? Stay focused and zoned in to maximize your reaction time.
- Keep Your Pickleball Paddle Up: Keep your paddle up and ready—instead of down below your waist. Stay ready to cover shots to both sides of your body by keeping your paddle face at 10 or 11 o’clock if you imagine that you are standing on a clock face (or 2 or 1 o’clock position if you are a lefty). This semi-backhand ready position will help cut down on your reaction time, so that you can better defend against a body shot on the pickleball court.
- Move Your Feet: Anticipate where the pickleball is going and move your feet—or at a minimum, sway your body—to best react to the body shot.
- Hit Unattackable Shots: The best way to avoid a body shot is to keep your own shots low (below the pickleball net) and unattackable. Make your opponents have to hit up on the pickleball. By doing this, you will generally prevent your opponents from hitting a body shot in the first place.
- Communicate with Your Partner: If you unintentionally hit an attackable shot for your opponents to go on the offensive, communicate with your partner (e.g., “Watch it!”) to give them any extra heads up.
- Consider Taking a Step Back: If you are struggling with defending against the body shots, it may be a good idea to take a step back off of the Non-Volley Zone line in order to buy yourself a fraction more reaction time. If you choose to step back into the transition area, be sure that you are not moving when your opponents are hitting the pickleball. Remember, moving while hitting will likely result in more unforced errors. So, only take advantage of this step back when you have time. And, if you choose to step back into “No Man’s Land,” be sure to immediately step back up to the Kitchen line, as your chances of winning the rally increase when you are hugging the Kitchen line!
- Let the Out Balls Go: If your opponents have decided to hit a body shot, consider whether the body shot will stay in the pickleball court if you were to let it go passed you. “Punish” your opponents for the attempted body shot by letting it go out of bounds when possible. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get out of the way because of the short time to react. However, do your best to read your opponent, determine whether the pickleball is heading out of bounds, communicate those out balls with your partner (e.g., “OUT!”), and let the out balls go.
While no player should be intentionally trying to hit another player, hitting awkward targets on an opponent’s body (like hips and shoulders) can be smart strategy on the pickleball court in the right settings. If you are on the receiving end of these body shots, be sure to try the pickleball tips above. And, if you are on the delivering end of these body shots, be sure to say sorry if you unintentionally “tag” an opponent.
Lastly, consider wearing eyewear on the pickleball court to protect your eyes from an errant pickleball. Even the best of players, who have mastered these pickleball tips to avoid being “tagged” on the court, can still be hit by a pickleball. And, one of the most sensitive and important spots on your body that you can protect are your eyes. So, protect your eyes and wear eyewear on the pickleball court.