Selkirk Sport - We Are Pickleball


Improve your overhead shot: Common mistakes and drills to fix them

By Kaitlyn Kerr

on May 16, 2024


Professional pickleball team owner Kaitlyn Kerr stands on an indoor pickleball court at the kitchen line. She tosses a pickleball over her head to demonstrate the proper swing path for an overhead shot.

Picture this — your opponent hits a weak lob or an accidental skyball. You get underneath the ball, ready to slam it as hard as you can. You swing with full force, expecting to end the point immediately. 

There’s just one problem: You didn’t make contact with the ball. 

We’ve all been there. 

Odds are, you made one of the common mistakes players often do when attempting to hit an overhead shot.

In the latest episode of her “How to Crush your Friends on the Pickleball Course” course on Selkirk TV, professional pickleball team owner Kaitlyn Kerr teaches viewers how to truly crush their friends with the perfect overhead shot. 

What is an overhead shot in pickleball? 

An overhead shot, or overhead smash, is a shot that is typically performed while at the kitchen line. It is a hard-hit, overhand shot that is directed toward the ground on the opposite side of the net.

Players performing the overhead shot extend their paddles over their heads to achieve maximum leverage before making contact with the ball. Typically, an overhead smash is the result of an opponent’s poor lob or third shot. 

Common mistakes of an overhead shot

There are two common mistakes players make when attempting overhead shots that can greatly impact the effectiveness of your shots. 

Ball placement

Most beginners who attempt to hit an overhead shot hit the ball as hard as they can with little to no focus on the placement of the ball.

Unfortunately, hitting the ball with pace will only get you so far. Instead, it’s important to focus on the placement of the overhead shot. 

Good areas to target include your opponent’s feet and open areas of the court. It’s also beneficial to hit the ball with a hard angle, when applicable, so your opponent will have to scramble to return it. 

Improper swing path

Many players will attempt to smack the ball out of the air, relying too heavily on a wrist or elbow flick. 

To achieve maximum pace on the ball, you should make contact with the ball just in front of your body and follow through to the opposite hip. Additionally, raise your opposite hand into an L-shape to help track the ball as it sails toward your paddle. This will ensure you no longer swing and miss. 

Drill to improve your overhead smash

When you’re just learning to hit an overhead smash, it’s important to focus on placement over power. 

Set up three targets — cones or sweat towels work well — in the transition zone on one side of the court. One should be placed on the center line while the other two can be placed in the middle of each box.

Stand at the kitchen line on the other side of the court. Your drilling partner can stand just off the court on the other side of the net. 

They will toss a high ball toward you. Now, using proper form, aim toward one of the targets. Take note of what was successful and what resulted in an error. Once you feel comfortable hitting one target, move to the next. 

After you are warmed up, your partner will again toss the ball in the air. As they do, they should give you a directive: either left, middle, or right. You will then aim your overhead shot at the appropriate target. 

When you are consistently hitting your targets, you can begin to add more power behind your shots. 

Download the Selkirk TV app HERE to watch the complete episode and many other Selkirk TV original shows, podcasts, lesson series from the pros, and much more. 

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