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Pickleball Volley Strategy: Mastering The Basics & Rules To Make A Successful Hit In Court

woman hitting a pickleball ball in the air

Last Updated: May 15, 2024

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that merges elements from ping-pong, badminton, and tennis, translating all the skill requirements of these games. 

Oh, but...

I’m going to skip the whole pep talk about how pickleball is an amazing game and perfect for tuning your body.

Instead, let’s get started with our business: the basics of pickleball volley.

Understanding Volley In Pickleball

USA Pickleball defines a volley as when you hit the ball in the air before it bounces in the court. Hence a volley entails a successful hit that occurs before the ball hits the ground. Pickleball players use volley as a gaming strategy.

Mastering it can help you make it difficult for the opponent to return the ball.

A volley is also ideal for producing a challenging stroke that is hit either too low or hard; to this end, I’ll share some of my most effective pickleball volley tips.

Simple Three-Step Pickleball Volley Strategy

woman with pink shirt holding a paddle hitting a ball

While performing a volley, the players keep the racket up and block the ball in front of their bodies. It also needs to be really quick. In other words, you won’t have time for backswing and wind-ups.

However, coming to the net will leave you vulnerable to deep lobs or passing shorts. Deep lobs, at such moments, can ruin your advantage by sending you scrambling back to the baseline.  You’ll have to do so to regain control of the point.

Hence, as with many other skills, volleys demand considerable timing when positioned closer to the net, and you should not let this slip your mind when following a pickleball volley strategy. Not to worry though, here is a step by step guide to delivering a good volley:

1. Focus On Your Grip

The best approach is to hit both backhand and forehand volleys by changing your hand position.

If you are at the net, every second counts.

Your efforts at trying to reposition your hand will determine who wins and who loses.

2. Focus On Your Stance

As you approach the net, you will need time to split the steps.

A split step is a jump in the air followed by landing on a balanced point with open legs. The best-executed split step will help you regain balance. It will be especially effective if you are moving a lot.

Moreover, it will secure your stance and set your position to hit the volley.

3. Focus On Your Motion

The correct motion is very important here. A standard volley will always need an open racquet. It will also need a downward cut in the volley motion. Both will result in a backspin and make the volley bounce lower in the opponent’s court.

You can move your hand in the direction you want the ball to go and keep your head down with an eye on the ball.

Be sure to practice it a bit, coz it won’t happen overnight.

Beginner Tips For Pickleball Volleys

couple playing an outdoor sport

From beginners to advance level players, the pickleball volley tips vary.

Beginners usually avoid hitting a volley. The reason is that they are not much comfortable with doing so. Hence, they typically allow the ball to bounce by stepping back to hit after the first bounce.

But the pickleball game is either won or lost at the net.

Almost everyone can hit the forehand and backhand volleys with reasonable practice. But for a beginner, a significant problem is when to hit the volley. The simplest answer to this situation is whenever you get an opportunity, you should go for it.

It gives lesser time to the opponent to react.

Moreover, volleys eliminate the chances of lousy bounce caused due to inconsistency.

Here are some tips on how to do pickleball volley:

Keep The Paddle Tip Upward

When we talk about pickleball volley, the paddle tip should always point upward. It means that you need to create a V shape with your wrist and paddle. 

Also, the resting position of the paddle should be higher than your wrist.

But make sure the tip of the paddle is towards the ball.

Contact The Ball In Front Of Your Body

It is important to contact the ball in front of your body.

You can do this by keeping the paddle at your front all the time. Players usually find it easier to manage when it comes to hitting the backhand volley. But while hitting the forehand shot, the player must keep the elbow inward, as closer to their body as they can.

This body position will allow you to catch the ball behind you and this is generally referred to as a wrist shot.

The Pressure On Grip

It is important to know how tight you are, and you must hold the paddle. An ideal way is to grip the paddle in the finger and not the palm. Also, if you hit the ball and don’t notice any “pop,” adjust your grip on the paddle.

Make sure you maintain a firm hold on the paddle and keep it stable when it contacts the ball.

Basic Pickleball Volley Rules You Must Follow

old man hitting a pickleball ball

There are a few rules to pickleball volley.

Knowing and following them can give you enough confidence to enjoy the game properly:

No Volley Zone

One of the simplest rules to the kitchen is that it is a non-volleying zone.

In these areas, you cannot hit a ball out of the air. Hence the ball must bounce before you hit. Moreover, the volley may only hit past the non-volley line and between the baseline and line of the court.

Understand The Rules Regarding Your Partner

While volleying near the non-volley line, the partner player can hold your back, so you don’t accidentally cross the line due to momentum. However, even if you are not crossing the line, it can be a fault of something you are wearing at the moment.

For example, if your hat falls off and lands in that zone, this will be considered a fault.

Know When To Enter The Kitchen

You can enter the kitchen anytime. Just do it before the volley is hit. Moreover, you can hit the ground-stroke from the kitchen. Also, if the player moves out of the non-volley zone, both feet must stay outside the zone before they strike the ball.

Also, remember that you can only hit the volley after two bounces.

Here the first bounce will be from serve and the other one from the return of the serve.

FAQ Section

Now that we have discussed all the basics of pickleball volley, let’s respond to the most commonly asked questions on the topic:

When can you volley in pickleball?

Generally, you can play a volley in pickleball after the initial groundstroke has been made.

You can also hit the volley in the air and volley the ball one more time over the net. This is an advanced version of the previous pickleball drills where rather than catching the ball, you will actually volley it one more time back on the net.

Can you serve and volley in pickleball?

The serve must be clear from the seven-foot-non-volley-zone right in front of the net and land in the diagonal service court. In the pickleball serve rules, a serve made diagonally crosscourt must clear the non-volley zone, including the line.

Moreover, only one serve attempt is allowed except when the ball touches the ground and serves in a proper service court.

Where should I hit my volleys?

Different types of volleys come with different patterns of shot. In punch volley, you will punch your racket forward and slightly down. This way, you will add underpin to the ball and push it over the net at a height.

In drop volley, you will need to apply a slight push on the ball to punch it on the other side of the net, as close as possible.

The block volley demands lesser body movement and the player needs to hold the racket up and block the ball; here you do not need to apply any punch or swing. You can also hit a swinging volley using a groundstroke swing to smack the incoming ball out of the air.

Usually, players play this shot when they are stuck in no man’s land – the space between baseline and service line.

Swinging is for advanced-level and professional pickleball players as it demands extreme balance and power.

What is the ready stance for pickleball volleys?

It means being able to move swiftly in any direction. Here your feet must be approximately shoulder-width apart. The knees should be slightly bent, and the bodyweight should be on the balls of your feet (between toes and arch).

You must also ensure that the paddle is up and right in front of your body in this position.

If you need some more help with improving your pickleball volley, check out this video:

A Final Thought!

Pickleball demands some serious skills, knowledge, and practice to tame your body and mind for any situation. Volley is one such trick that can help you score better on your opponent. Although I shared some basic tips for this shot, there is still much to learn about.

You should go ahead and explore it further before entering the court for a real game, and remember to practice with a dedication to master it!

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