How to play pickleball: Determining the direction of the shot

Here is a question that people often ask me during my clinics.

Question: When receiving a shot from my opponent, should I be watching the ball, the position of their paddle, or the the position of their shoulders?

Answer: When learning how to play pickleball, some players and coaches will tell you to watch the paddle for where they are going to hit the ball. However, I find that that doesn’t give you much of a head’s up as to where the ball is going, because you don’t know where the paddle is going to be facing until they are about to hit the ball.

There are really two options when trying to keep track of the ball and the shoulder.

1) You can develop your peripheral vision such that, while you keep your eye on the ball, you can still take in information about your opponent’s body position. (My wife, Wendy, swears that this is what I do, but it’s not easy to do, much less teach).

2) Watch the ball when it is coming in your direction but look at your opponent’s shoulder/positioning when the ball is headed toward them, i.e. after you or your partner have hit the ball.

For more about how to read your opponent’s shoulder, check out this article.

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