What Is a Body Bag in Pickleball? (And How to Avoid One)

Third Shot Blog

By Third Shot Blog

In the world of pickleball, there’s a term that often raises eyebrows and piques curiosity: the body bag. If you’re new to the sport, you might be wondering what exactly a body bag is and why it has such an intriguing name. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the definition and significance of a body bag in pickleball, as well as how to avoid one. So buckle up and get ready to uncover the secrets behind this notorious term!

What is a body bag in pickleball?

In pickleball, when a player hits their opponent with the ball, either intentionally or unintentionally, it’s often referred to as a “body bag.” This occurs most frequently when both players are at the kitchen, where they exchange quick shots and counters.

The term “body bag” has caused some controversy in the pickleball world, as some players dislike the dark or violent connotation of the phrase. Some tournaments have even banned the use of the term.

A competitive doubles game of pickleball with a group of women on a blue and green court in summer.

Who hits body bag shots in pickleball?

While there’s no single play style that exclusively hits body bags in pickleball, these shots tend to come more from bangers and attackers at the net. Reason being, each of these player profiles hit hard, fast shots when the opportunity presents itself. Bangers especially try to win points with consecutive hard shots, relying on either the ball hitting their opponent, their opponent committing an unforced error, or hitting an outright winner.

How to avoid body bags in pickleball

While you can never dodge 100% of body bag shots, there are ways you can avoid a majority of them. Here are some helpful tips:

Keep your paddle up

While this might sound like common sense, the best way to avoid and counter body bags is to keep your paddle up and ready. Adopt the ready position, especially when you’re at the kitchen, with your knees slightly bent and paddle head up and ready to defend.

A pickleball player prepares for a return of serve on a suburban pickleball court during summer.

Hit unattackable balls

To prevent your opponents from targeting your body, focus on hitting low and unattackable dinks that bounce below the pickleball net. By forcing them to hit upwards, you effectively minimize the chances of being on the receiving end of a body shot.

Be wary of “out” balls

In many cases, shots that hit you have enough velocity that, if they didn’t hit your body, would land out-of-bounds. If you see your opponent gearing up for a powerful shot while the ball is down low, mentally and physically prepare to simply get out of the way. This is especially true at the kitchen, where dinks are usually the better and more strategic option.

Watch and anticipate your opponent’s next shot

When you’re in the middle of a point, it can be easy to focus so much on yourself, that you forget to study your opponent. However, an effective way to avoid, counter, and block body bag attempts is to watch and anticipate your opponent’s next move.

Observe their movements and technique. Oftentimes, if they’re about to speed up the ball that could result in a body bag, their technique may differ from a neutral dink. Usually, this more powerful shot will be telegraphed by a bigger pre-shot motion.

Develop quick reaction blocks

Pickleball is a game of quick reactions, requiring pinpoint movements and paddle technique. These skills comes in handy when avoiding or countering body bag attempts, as quick reaction block volleys can help you return these shots.

Most body bags hit players in their chest and torso area. Becoming comfortable with block volleys, usually using the backhand side of the paddle, can help you effectively defend most body shots.

The best way to develop this shot is to grab your practice partner, a basket of pickleballs, and have them drill balls at you. Focus on blocking these balls back without popping them up, as these balls can turn into another body bag attempt for your opponent.

Step back if you need to

If you’ve developed a good block volley and you’re still getting body bagged, consider taking a step back if you pop the ball up into the air. The extra split second of reaction time can help you get your paddle into position and defend the body shot. Not everyone has the reaction time to defend every shot at the kitchen – there’s no shame in giving yourself more space!

Be aware of your position on the court

Body bags rarely happen when you’re near at baseline or transition zone. These shots are relatively easy to avoid or return, as you have more time to react.

The Non-Volley Zone (aka the kitchen) is where most “successful” body bags occur. Players have less time to react to quick and powerful shots. So as you hit your drop and move up to the kitchen, make sure you also raise your awareness of potential body shot attempts.

Conclusion: Stay agile and watch out for body shots

Ultimately, pickleball is a game where strategy, technique, and adaptability are crucial for success. Staying agile not only enables you to move swiftly but also helps you maintain control over your own body movements while avoiding body bag attempts from opponents. So practice your footwork drills, stay nimble on the court, and be ready for anything that comes your way – because when it comes down to it, staying agile is the secret ingredient that will keep you ahead of the game in pickleball.