Pickleball Lob – All You Need to Know

Posted: 9/15/2020 | September 15th, 2020

A pickleball lob is an effective and necessary shot to have and is used at all levels of play … yes even the pro’s lob. For years I have heard players say that the lob is either not important or it is only for beginner players – not true. The lob is a necessary shot to learn and use for all ages and skill levels if you want to win.

I have a TON to share with you in this post, so stay with me. We’ll see how the pro’s use lobs, check out a few how-to videos, read some Q & A from a player and review what a lob is and how they should be incorporated into your game.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a lob is defined as- “To hit (a ball) in a high arc to the back of the opponent’s court.” Preferably to their backhand shoulder as deep in the court as possible. Lobs can and should be used both offensively and defensively. When should you hit a lob? When your opponent is leaning forward into the non-volley zone, off balance or perhaps their momentum is carrying them forward.

On the professional pickleball level, off the top of my head, I remember watching two championship matches live at USAPA Nationals where pro players used the lob and got the point. Visualize these two scenarios (maybe you were there too?):

Men’s Open Doubles Kyle Yates/Ben John vs. Matt Wright/Dave Weinbach. Matt/Dave have championship point and Kyle throws up a lob over Matt’s left shoulder. Matt runs back, lets it bounce and drops it into the net. Momentum shifts, Kyle/Ben end up winning the next three games for gold. It was UNREAL, Kyle took the risk putting up that shot and was definitely rewarded!

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Women’s Senior Doubles finals Cammy MacGregor/Jennifer Dawson vs. Kris Anderson/Bonnie Williams match point. All four players on the kitchen line, Cammy throws up a lob and it lands deep, straight up the center of the court and both Kris and Bonnie are rooted on the kitchen line and all they can do is look up and just watch it land in. Gold for the lob!

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So, YES pro’s use the lob very effectively, in fact I would say that Callan Dawson (a twenty-something pickleball pro) has been a big reason why the men’s open play have seen lobs… it’s a great shot to have.

Any age, any skill level – Get Your Lob On!

My favorite Pickleball Quick Tip on the lob is by my friend and master lobber – Stephanie Lane. Check out this video:

Now here’s a great (and common) question from Jerry Saner of Humboldt Bay Pickleball Club, CA:

“My question is – can’t I just lob everything?  We have recreation players that do that a lot – lob everything – very annoying, but, it’s pretty effective.  You are constantly running back and trying to figure out where to return the shot. Now, we play mostly indoors up here, so that is a big consideration – probably wouldn’t be as effective for outdoor play, but I was thinking about how to beat the 4.0 players we have. They are great at the line, but not so great at returning lobs – a great equalizer.”

To answer Jerry’s question I reached out to Stephanie Lane, master lobber and indoor player from Tennessee. Hey Step, how would you answer this one?

“Funny you should ask Jen!

A couple of years ago, my partner and I played a couple of girls from Chattanooga in the senior games qualifier and this was their strategy. By playing the way I teach, which is to keep my opponents back and get all the way to the kitchen line. They did that effectively and we lost game one. We realized we were playing the style they expected and wanted us to play which proved to be a losing combination. I remember we used both timeouts as we just couldn’t figure out a workable strategy (and my partner’s arm was really hurting after hitting which felt like 100 overheads).

So, in between games, we changed our strategy. We decided to do the complete opposite. We brought our opponents to the net and we played in the transition area. Instead of trying to hit winning overheads, we just tapped them to bring them to the kitchen line. It worked! We took control of the points and took them out of their game of lobbing everything! We won the next 2 games and learned a valuable lesson. Even when you don’t believe in a style of pickleball, you may need to use it in order to take your opponents out of their comfort zone!”

Great story Steph! So, we always have to be ready to change something up if it’s not working. And if something is working, do we change it? Heck no!

Okay, next let’s get a visual of what it looks like to hit a good pickleball lob.

HOW TO HIT OFFENSIVE LOBS

Video from number #1 player Simone Jardim with great tips, techniques and drills to improve your offensive lobs.

Jerry also had a part two to his question regarding pickleball lobs:

The idea for the question about lobbing probably comes from my favorite shot – the lob.  I don’t use it often, but, against big guys who are only there to see if they can give you a black and blue mark somewhere, poking a ball over their heads from the kitchen line is just plain fun – gives them something to think about! (In response to my past blog post), Your “Best Pickleball Drill” no lobbing on that one, right?

WRONG. Yes, you can lob because that is a valid shot and you need to know how/when to use it, and how to defend against it. You can’t learn if you don’t allow the shot in the drill. Remember the story that Stephanie just shared?

 

To dig deeper, here’s some great insight and tips from another pro Sara Ansboury:

WHEN TO HIT A LOB

If you notice your opponent leaning forward, into the non-volley zone, consider hitting a  pickleball lob.  You want to keep your head and chest up when you are at the non-volley zone line.  If you see your opponent’s head dropping, it will be more difficult for them to retrieve a well-hit lob.  If you have confidence in your ability to lob, consider capitalizing on this opportunity.

Secondly, if you notice that your opponent is off-balance, a lob may be an effective offensive weapon.  Running down a lob is difficult for anyone, but it is nearly impossible if the player is not beginning from a balanced position to start.

WHERE TO HIT A LOB

At the professional level, everyone is quick enough to run down a high floating lob.  At the pro level, the key is to disguise the shot and hit it just out of reach of your opponent.  But at any level, you want to consider where you want to hit a lob.

Ideally, you want to go over the backhand shoulder of a player.

If both of your opponents are right-handed, the left shoulder of the player on the “odd side” of the court, is the best option.  If the player on the even side attempts to cover it, they are left with a backhand shot.  If the other player attempts to cover it, he has to go outside the court to retrieve the ball with his forehand.

If both players are left-handed, you would want to go over the right shoulder of the player on the even side of the court.  Of course, if you have two backhands in the middle, the middle of the court can be a great lob target.

OFFENSIVE OR DEFENSIVE

It is important to recognize when you are lobbing if it is an offensive or defensive shot.  Sometimes, hitting a defensive lob in hopes of resetting the point and/or getting yourself back into position may be the only shot you feel you can get over the net and into the court. But in most situations,  you want to be offensive.

Practice hitting pickleball lobs from the non-volley zone.  But be thoughtful about it…both when and where you hit pickleball lobs.  Practice identifying the instances when your opponent is off-balance or leaning too far forward. Then practice hitting it where it will be most difficult for them to return.

PICKLEBALL LOBS – MID-COURT, BASELINE, NVZ

Newer players also seem to lob from anywhere on the court.  Perhaps it is because they toss up a lob as a reaction or to buy time.
At the pro level, you will rarely see a defensive lob (i.e. a lob to buy time).  Instead, nearly all lobs will be initiated when all four players are at the non-volley zone line.  And when we lob, we aren’t expecting to win the point.  Instead, we fully expect the player or players to retreat, retrieve the ball and most often hit a third shot drop to reset the point and work their way back to the line.

Okay, did you get enough lob information? Did you have any other pickleball lob questions?

 

Here are links to Sara Ansboury’s helpful information on her blog.

https://sarahansboury.com/pickleball-lobs-lob-not-lob/

https://sarahansboury.com/pickleball-lobs-3-keys/

8 comments on “Pickleball Lob – All You Need to Know”

  1. The club I belong to is very competitive, with over 450 members and 20 courts. When I play on the 4.0 level courts, I hear almost all of them criticize players who use the lob as “shouldn’t be playing 4.0”, or “that’s not pickleball play”!
    What is the current teaching pro’s thoughts on this, in terms of the curriculum they use?

    1. Jennifer Lucore

      Hello Steve, thanks for your questions. “Current teaching pro’s thoughts” Myself, Simone Jardim and Sara Ansboury are top teachers and players of the game and as the post shares we teach the lob because it’s another shot all levels should know and use. Unfortunately some players do criticize (or whine) that certain shot are not “pickleball”. For years I heard that my third-shot drive was “not pickleball” and I had to only use the third shot drop (true story from a traveling pickleball teacher). Well … my drive is what got me the gold at Nationals many times. My tip is you use what shot works to win the point. My guess your 4.0 players do not like running the lob down or can not get to it – if that’s the case, keep it up!

  2. Deborah Campbell-Knopp

    Great article covered it all and Simone’s videos were fantastic! Like a private lesson on lobbying and footwork perfect! I use the lob often with great success now I can be even better. Yeah. Excellent article full of good advice.

  3. Here’s parts of Jerry’s email comment to me:

    I have to say I was gobsmacked! I thought it was going to be an article on lobbing, but when I saw my email included, I was “astounded”, I think is the best word. “My email”, included with responses from Sarah Ansboury, Stephanie Lane and a video by Simon Jardim – Wow!

    The article addressed exactly what I was asking – when to best use a lob. Sarah’s response talking about when and where to hit a lob and the strategy and tactics of hitting lobs – great tips from a pro.
    Watching Simon’s video was inspiring – made me want to go out and hit the ball somewhere.

    Before the Covid shutdown occurred, I was instructing beginning classes in a local community center. I always included the “Lob”, but did not put a lot of time into it as players seemed more interested in the other aspects of the game. With this new insight, I will certainly spend more time on it. The story from Stephanie Lane is a great reminder of how to approach any game you are in.

  4. I had similar questions as did Jerry in your story. Good answers and now I will have confidence in using the lob knowing that it is a good shot to have at any level. Some players I play with claim the lob is a dumb shot, I will send them to your blog to straighten them out.

    1. Hi Phil, Just a note in reply. Depending on the level of players you are opposing, I and my partner will not take advantage of opponents that are not able to run back to return a lob. This does not happen often. I play at a YMCA where anyone can put a paddle in line to play. If I know they don’t have the skills or the mobility to return lobs I just keep the ball in play in front of them. I wish we could always have competitive play, but doesn’t always happen. Would rather give them a chance to return. Thanks for your comments.

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