Friday, January 24, 2020

In Over Our Heads Part One: The Logistics of the Lob

Coach Wayne’s Corner

Trajectory of an offensive lob. | Submitted

One of the most challenging shots to hit in both the sports of tennis and pickleball is the overhead.

It is a shot which is physically demanding, requires good timing, good footwork, good balance, and most importantly, early anticipation of the lob.

As I was unable to squeeze in everything that I wanted to say about hitting overheads into one column, I will be stretching it out into multiple columns over the next few issues.

I will break it down into separate, individual and identifiable aspects of all the requirements involved with executing confident and effective overheads.

In these columns, I will discuss the following topics:

  • The logistics of the lob.
  • The availability of mobility.
  • The fundamentals of executing a solid overhead.

So let’s begin with the “logistics of the lob.” It is the source of the whole issue. It is the reason we are having to hit an overhead. A primary aspect required of us hitting solid overheads is understanding lobs.

The first thing we need to immediately figure out is if our opponent is hitting an offensive lob or a defensive lob. With that said, you may be asking yourself, so what is the difference between an offensive and a defensive lob?

An offensive lob is a shot which is being hit as a winner and therefore needs to be taken in the air. A well struck offensive lob should be stealthier in its process of execution and therefore is a bit harder to detect.

A defensive lob is a shot which is being hit to buy some time to get back in position, and kind of try to restart the point. With a defensive lob we can choose to play it in the air, or to let it bounce and play it as a ground stroke; an option which I feel is a viable and recommended choice for many players. This is because of the “availability of mobility” factor (a subject I will discuss in my next column).

In general, a defensive lob should be easier to detect and therefore easier to cover.

We need to also be aware of the fact that there is a difference in the flight path of the ball. The trajectory and apex are lower and flatter in an offensive lob than it is in a defensive lob. Clearly, anticipation and comprehension of the lob is vital to our ability to execute a confident and effective overhead.

Lastly, in the sport of tennis, most lobs are executed from the baseline. While this strategy is also used in pickleball, tricky players will hit offensive lobs from the NVZ line. Because of the close proximity of the opposing players and the shorter length of the court, this requires more of a trajectory and apex of a defensive lob.

In my next column I will discuss what I refer to as the “availability of mobility,” a subject which directly affects our capabilities (or lack of capabilities) to execute solid overheads.

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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