Pickleball is a relatively young sport, still growing and evolving. As players develop new, effective shots, they name/patent them, and others attempt to use them.
Shots like an ATP, the Erne, Bert, and Nasty Nelson are all becoming popular and effective during games, whether it’s on the rec courts or in tournament play. But, do any of these names strike fear in your heart or worry that there is no effective counter to them?
I mean honestly, Erne and Berty are Sesame Street characters, and the ATP? It sounds like an ineffective government agency. Even the Nasty Nelson, sounds more like a despicable act than an uncounterable pickleball shot, but wait! Let’s talk about “The Scorpion.”
More Resources: List of Pickleball Lingo
What is a Scorpion In Pickleball?
Man, The Scorpion, just sounds badass, but what is it really? The Scorpion is a counterattack shot that can be used to turn a point around.
The goal of the Scorpion is to take an attacking shot, hit directly at a player, and return it, with a stronger attack.
Sounds, badass, am I right?
So, here is how to do it: the scorpion shot should be executed when a ball is driven directly at a player who is close to or on the non-volley zone line.
The player drops their stance very low, bending at the knees in a squat, raising their paddle with their forehand above their head, and striking the ball hard and down at their opponent’s feet, to counterattack the drive. Think of a scorpion raising its tail to attack its prey and striking from above. “Kersmack!”
The Scorpion- A Counterattack
This counterattack shot should be used when a ball is hit directly at you, usually with a drive that is coming in fast at the body. You could step to one side, block the ball, or try and punch it back with your backhand, but that would be playing defensively.
The scorpion allows you to attack that drive and smash it back, either at your opponent’s feet or deep in the pickleball court, turning around the tone of the point in your favor – defensive to offensive. The Erne’s got nothing on the Scorpion, baby!
Keys to the Scorpion In Pickleball
The Scorpion is not an easy shot to make. It requires the ability to react quickly to a hard body shot. As mentioned, you must drop down into a squat position, and raise your paddle up in front of you, to eye level or above.
Next, keep your paddle in front of you as the ball approaches, ready to hit a quick, short forehand. Once you are in the scorpion position, any ball hit toward your head or shoulders will be crushable.
Once you assume the scorpion position, use your forehand to make a short, overhead shot-like swing, which will allow you to hit the ball, driving it down at your opponent’s feet.
This shot turns an attacking play, back on your opponent. The most important part of this shot, besides just hitting the ball to protect yourself, is to aim it down, at your opponent’s feet, forcing them back and on the defensive.
Take a look at this video to see a perfectly executed scorpion.
The pro pickleball god, Ben Johns makes it look easy, but I recommend trying it out in warm-ups and drills before attempting it on the pickleball court. There’s nothing worse than an attempted scorpion, leaving pickleball marks on your forehead.
Lastly, once you have hit your scorpion shot, immediately get back into your ready position and wait for a possible return. To me the biggest pain on the pickleball court is making a great shot and then blowing the easy follow-up.
Trust me, I am a master at it.
Strategy For Your Own Scorpion
Using the scorpion is a powerful way to turn around a point. Again it is a counterattack shot, that is difficult to return when executed successfully.
In pickleball, body shots can be difficult to counter, many times resulting in a chicken wing return or hard dink that your opponent drives right back at you again. So, the scorpion gives you another tool in your pickleball arsenal to turn around a point.
Responses to the Scorpion
Or what to expect when you are scorpioning? Well, this is a reminder, the point is not over until it’s over, so you must be ready for the ball to come back at you and be sure you close out the point.
An effective scorpion shot will force your opponent to attempt one of three return shots, which you must prepare for. These shots are:
- Reset the ball – Best play against a good scorpion
- Pop the ball up – which you must crush
- Hit it out – which you watch fly into the parking lot
Balls hit at a player’s feet are very difficult to handle, especially when hit with pace. That is the key to the scorpion shot – returning your opponent’s power with a little more of your own pop, directly at their feet.
This is extremely effective against opponents standing at the kitchen line, as they do not have much time to react. I have personally used the scorpion and love how it can turn, what I call my opponent’s body shot smirk into the “Oh S#*%! I just lost that point!” scream.
The Scorpion Summary – Adding It to your Game
The scorpion shot is a great tool to add to your pickleball strategy arsenal, allowing you to turn around an attack, with a strong counterattack. The keys to making this shot successful are:
- Wait for a ball to be hit directly at you
- Get into the low squat stance
- Raise your paddle in front of you to protect yourself and be ready
- Hit the ball hard, toward your opponent’s feet
- Be ready for a weak return ball, that you can crush or let fly out of bounds. There will be times when your opponent does hit a successful reset, but even that is a win, as you take the wind out of their attack
Practice, practice, practice – Nothing is worse than leaving the courts with a pickleball tattoo on your face because you didn’t quite get all the steps down.
With the scorpion shop, like the ATP, Bert, or Erne, it’s never satisfying to make one great shot and dump the next, easier shot in the net. This counterattack is a great way to turn the tide during a point, but you have to be ready to finish it. So, follow the 6 steps outlined above and be ready to become the next Scorpion King/Queen!