Smashing in pickleball involves hitting the ball above your head before it bounces on your side of the court, usually after your attacking play has forced your opponent into a weak, high shot. Smashes can be particularly effective when combined with other shot strategies, such as forehands, backhands, offensive lobs, or dinks, to keep your opponent on the defensive.
What Is A Smash In Pickleball?
In pickleball, smashes are powerful shots that propel the ball down and into the non-volley zone (or “NVZ”) on the opposite side of the net to win the point. The smash is typically hit with a lot of force and is often used as a finishing shot after setting up the point with more controlled shots, such as dinks or lob shots that force the opponent back toward the baseline. It is an effective shot when executed correctly, but it can also be risky, requiring precise timing and good footwork.
You can only smash or volley on the third shot or later in the rally after the ball has bounced on either side of the net.
Third Shot Sports Coach Mark Renneson has produced a step-by-step clip to show you the finer points of executing a pickleball smash. The full video is available on YouTube.
How Do You Hit a Smash?
To hit a smash in pickleball, follow these steps for the fundamentals of executing the shot:
- Position yourself near the non-volley line on your side of the court, and get ready to move forward as the ball comes towards you.
- As the ball approaches, take a large step forward with your dominant foot and bend your knees slightly to get into a low, balanced stance. Fine-tune your movement by using your non-paddle hand to balance yourself.
- Turn sideways and swivel your hips when making contact with the ball. Pronation of the wrist as you hit the ball will also increase the power of the shot.
- Ensure you know where your opponent is standing. Hit your smash accordingly: wide toward the sidelines, the net, or the baseline.
- As you make contact with the ball, use a quick, downward motion to hit it with force. You can use an overhead or side-arm swing, depending on your preference and situation.
- Aim for the middle of the pickleball court on the opposite side, as this will give you the best chance of hitting a winner.
- Follow through with your pickleball paddle and watch the ball as it goes over the net to anticipate your opponent’s next shot or move.
Remember to keep your eye on the ball and your body in good balance as you hit the smash shot. New players may need some practice to get the timing and technique right, but with a little time, you should be able to develop your pickleball skills sufficiently to execute this powerful shot effectively.
Different Types Of Smashes
Players can use several types of smashes in pickleball to hit the ball with power and accuracy. These include:
- Pickleball overhead smash: This is a shot in which the player hits the ball with an overhead swing, using their dominant hand. It is a powerful shot that is often used to finish a point or to hit the ball out of reach of the opponents.
- Side-arm smash: This is a shot in which the player hits the ball with a side-arm swing (a “swinging volley”). It is less powerful than the overhead shot, but it can be more accurate and is often used to set up the point.
- Drop smash: This is when the player hits the ball softly and with a lot of spin, aiming to make it drop near the net on the opposite side of the court. It is a deceptive shot that can be difficult for the opponents to return.
- Lob smash: This is a shot in which the player hits the ball high and deep into the opponent’s court, aiming to put it out of reach. It is a risky shot that requires good timing and positioning, but it can be effective if executed well.
- Spin smash: This is a shot in which the player adds spin to the ball at the contact point to make it more difficult for the opponents to return. It is an advanced shot that requires a lot of practice and skill to execute correctly.
- Pop-up shot: If you notice your opponent might struggle to execute a smash properly, you can use a pop-up shot to lift the ball into the air. This shot forces them to smash rather than turn and attempt a difficult return while running backward.
What Are the Pickleball Rules for Smashing?
There are a few rules in pickleball that relate specifically to the smash:
- Players are not allowed to smash the ball while standing in the kitchen (the area within 7 feet of the net on either side marked by the non-volley or kitchen line). If a player smashes the ball in the kitchen, it is a fault, and the point is awarded to the opposing team.
- Players cannot hit the ball out of bounds on a smash. If a player smashes the ball and goes out of bounds, it is a fault, and the point is awarded to the opposing team.
- Players cannot hit the ball into the ground on their side of the court when smashing. If a player smashes the ball and it lands on their side of the court, it is a fault, and the point goes to the opposing team.
How Much Power To Use When Hitting Smashes
The power to use when hitting pickleball smashes will depend on various factors, including the speed and placement of the incoming ball, the positioning of the opponents, and the player’s own skill and comfort level.
In general, it is important to use enough power to hit the ball with authority but not so much that the player loses control of the shot. A player should hit the ball with enough force to reach the backcourt but not so hard that it goes out of bounds.
It can be helpful to practice hitting smashes with different power levels so the player can develop a feel for how much force to use in different situations. Using pickleball drills, a player can judge the right amount of power to use on each smash.
How Do You Defend a Smash?
To defend a pickleball smash, follow these steps:
- Position yourself in the center of the court, near the back line, and get ready to move as the ball comes towards you.
- As the ball approaches, watch it carefully and anticipate where it will land.
- As the ball lands, move towards it and get into a low, balanced stance.
- Use a quick, upward motion to hit the ball back toward the opponent’s side of the court. Aim for the middle of the court, as this will give you the best chance of returning the ball successfully.
- Follow through with your swing and watch the ball as it goes over the net to anticipate your opponent’s next move.
Remember to keep your eye on the ball and your body in good balance as you defend the smash. It may take some practice to get the timing and technique right, but with a little practice, you should be able to defend this powerful shot effectively.
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