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Pickleball Tactics: Mastering the Art of Handling Excessive Lobbers

The Challenge of Playing Against Lobbers

Ever faced an opponent who seems to lob every shot? It can be quite the conundrum, transforming a straightforward game into a test of patience and adaptability. Whether it’s a gentle lob at the non-volley zone or a high arc from the baseline, dealing with a lob-centric player can make the game feel both monotonous and unpredictable.

Let’s delve into some effective strategies for managing the lobbing enthusiast in your pickleball circle—because, let’s face it, almost every group has one!

Understanding the Lobber’s Strategy

Why do some players opt for lobbing at every opportunity? There could be several reasons.

Perhaps they find it easier and less physically demanding than sprinting and smashing. Maybe they feel more secure with this approach, or it’s simply how they enjoy playing the game. Recognizing these motivations can help you stay composed and focused. It’s all about respecting their style of play and finding ways to counter it effectively.

Strategies for Playing with a Lobber

Partnering with a lobber can test your skills and patience. Here are a few tactics to consider:

  • Enhance Your Defensive Skills: Use this as a chance to improve your defensive game. Focus on perfecting your overheads, smashes, and positioning to handle returns effectively. As one seasoned player suggests, “I tell the other team to aim for me if they’re going to smash. It’s excellent practice!”
  • Communicate and Redirect: Subtle guidance can sometimes help. Position yourself strategically to handle returns or gently encourage your partner to vary their shots if they’re open to it.
  • Play the Long Game: If your partner’s lobs are consistently in play, use the time to set up your next shot meticulously. This is a great opportunity to practice shot placement and strategic plays.

Anticipating Lobs

How can you stay ahead of those high-flying lobs? It’s all about anticipation and positioning. Start by learning to read the signs. A player about to lob often has a specific setup or stance—perhaps they’re more on their heels, or their paddle angle gives it away.

Once you recognize these cues, position yourself accordingly. If you expect a lob, avoid crowding the net. Hang back slightly so you’re in an optimal position to either smash a return if it’s within reach or comfortably reset if it’s a well-placed deep lob. This way, you’re not caught off-guard and scrambling back, which is exactly what the lobber wants.

Choosing the Best Shot to Counter a Lob

Selecting the right response depends on your position, the quality of the lob, and your opponents’ weaknesses. Here’s how to make the most of your return:

  • Overhead Smash: A favorite for a reason. If the lob isn’t too deep and you’re well-positioned, go for an overhead smash. Remember, a great smash is about both power and placement.
  • Drop Shot: If the lob pulls you back and you’re not in a good position to smash, consider a soft drop shot. Aim to place the ball just over the net in the non-volley zone, making it challenging for your opponents to return with force.
  • Lob Return: Sometimes, responding with a lob can be effective, especially if your opponents are close to the net. This can push them back and reset the point, giving you time to regain your position.
  • Drive: For those comfortable with forceful shots, a powerful drive can be an excellent response to a mid-court lob. This flat, fast shot can catch your opponents off-guard if they’re still transitioning from their own lob.

Personal Tips for Playing Against Lobbers

From my experience, use matches against lobbers as practice sessions. Work on those overhead smashes you’ve been hesitant to try in faster-paced games, or perfect your drop shots when the pace slows down.

The best way to handle a game dominated by lobs is to keep a cool head and stay versatile. If you let frustration take over, you’re playing right into the lobber’s hands. Instead, view each lob as an opportunity to practice a different response—smash, drop, drive, or even lob it right back.


1. Why do some players prefer lobbing in pickleball?

Players may prefer lobbing because it’s less physically demanding, feels safer, or simply aligns with their playing style. Understanding these reasons can help you develop strategies to counter their approach effectively.

2. How can I improve my defensive skills against lobbers?

Focus on enhancing your overheads, smashes, and positioning. Practice reading your opponent’s cues to anticipate lobs and position yourself strategically to handle returns.

3. What are some effective shots to return a lob?

Effective shots to return a lob include the overhead smash, drop shot, lob return, and drive. Choose your response based on your position, the quality of the lob, and your opponents’ weaknesses.

4. How can I anticipate when my opponent is going to lob?

Learn to read your opponent’s cues, such as their setup or stance. Players about to lob often have specific tells, like being more on their heels or adjusting their paddle angle. Position yourself accordingly to be ready for the lob.

5. What should I do if my partner is a lobber?

Communicate with your partner and position yourself strategically to handle returns. Use the opportunity to enhance your defensive skills and practice shot placement. Encourage your partner to vary their shots if they’re open to it.


Navigating a game against a lob-centric player can be challenging, but with the right strategies, you can turn it into an opportunity for growth. By understanding the lobber’s motivations, enhancing your defensive skills, and anticipating lobs, you can stay ahead of the game.

Whether you’re playing with or against a lobber, keep a cool head and embrace the diversity of playing styles in pickleball.

What do you think?

Written by Billy Pickles

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