How to Anticipate a Pickleball Opponent’s Shot

I recently sent a survey to everyone that purchased my first ebook, 3 Pickleball Strategies that Will Improve Your Game, asking what topics they wanted me to cover in future books.  The most frequently requested topic was how to anticipate a pickleball opponent’s shot.  I believe there is one thing you can do that is the key to this question.  So I’ll address it today.

anticipate a pickleball opponent's shot

Track the Ball with Your Paddle

I just released a YouTube video that covers the topic of tracking the ball with your paddle.  (You can watch the video below.)  I want to encourage you to use your paddle like a heat seeking missile.  To do this effectively you must:

  • pickleball tipsLearn to Maintain a Neutral Position:  I went into more detail on the neutral position on the RVPicklers site recently, but let me reiterate a few key points here:
    1. Feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart;
    2. Stay on the balls of your feet;
    3. Bend from you hips, keeping your chest and head up;
    4. Stay relaxed, shoulders down, long neck
    5. Hold paddle out in front of you.
  • Hold Paddle out in Front of You:  I can’t emphasize this enough!  I see too many players holding the paddle too close to their chest.  I want the larger muscles in your shoulders to control your motion, not your elbows or wrist.  I want you to make contact with the ball in front of your body whenever possible.
  • Angle Your body Toward the Ball:  Don’t stand parallel to the net and turn your head.  Instead, move your torso and shift your weight to ensure you are in the correct position to return the ball if it comes your way.
Benefits of Tracking the Ball with Your Paddle

Tracking the ball with your paddle has many benefits:

  • If you do this on every point, you can better anticipate a pickleball opponent’s shot.
  • It encourages you to keep your paddle up!
  • It keeps you engaged in the point even when the ball is not being hit to you.
  • It connects your brain and body, which is absolutely essential for athletic performance.
  • This allows you to be more aggressive.  It puts you in the correct position to poach like a pro!

So there you have it.  Sometimes what seems like one simple change can benefit so many parts of your game.  I realize incorporating this into your game may be a bit more difficult.  But the first step is to recognize that tracking the ball with your paddle is the key to how you anticipate a pickleball opponent’s shot.

As you practice I want you to be very cognizant of tracking the ball.  Perhaps take a break every minute or two and ask yourself, “did I track the ball throughout that exchange?”  Ask your practice partner for feedback.  As we have discussed before, you need a plan each time your practice.  I’m confident that if you focus on tracking the ball with your paddle, you’ll never question where the ball is coming from again!

5 thoughts on “How to Anticipate a Pickleball Opponent’s Shot

  1. Are you saying that I schould turn my body when im at the net to return the ball and lead with my shoulder

    1. Rotating your shoulders when you hit the ball anytime gives you better range of motion and control on your shots.

  2. I’m a little confused, Sarah. I seem to remember you saying that when I’m up at the line and I want to block a hard shot, I should catch it with the paddle close to my body, but I also keep hearing to take a ready position with the paddle reaching forward. I’m guessing, maybe this would work: if my partner or I make a GOOD dink, take the position with the paddle out forward, but if we hit it too high, then get ready to catch the ball close to the body. Does that make sense?

    1. Yes it’s tough when you see maybe a dink it too high or they are going to attack that’s when you shift from ready position to that paddle close to the body ready to block. Or anytime you feel like you are in defense.

  3. YOU..Sarah have been The greatest asset to my game!!!! Thank you…hope to meet you one day…
    Thank you..thank you!!

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