What is a volley in pickleball? According to USA Pickleball, a volley is when you hit the ball before it bounces onto the court.
Why is a Volley Important?
A volley in pickleball is a crucial way to control your opponent’s actions and gameplay. Using the volley to control where the ball goes, you control where the other team’s players go as they must follow the ball. Volleys are close to the net in gameplay, so a good volley is also a vital part of gaining points during a game as well.
It’s also a great tool to avoid running all over the court yourself because a volley tends to be hit right back from the other side. This restricts play to a smaller area, continuing until one side fails to send the ball back. Since you aren’t chasing the ball everywhere, you conserve your energy and can play harder and longer with more focus.
What are the Types of Pickleball Vollies?
The Pickleball Manual gives four types of pickleball volleys. These are the dink volley, drop volley, punch volley, and roll volley. Each one is a little different than the other.
In pickleball, there is a “non-volley zone,” which is an area of the court 7 feet on both sides of the net. This is also called the kitchen. With a dink volley, you execute a volley from your non-volley zone line into the other team’s non-volley zone. Doing well can cause the other team to cross into their non-volley zone accidentally. If this happens, even if they get the ball back over the net, they lose that point for entering the kitchen non-volley zone on their courtside.
Picture a player smashing a volley hard over the net for a drop volley. On the other team, instead of hitting the volley back hard, they hit the ball back over the net with a soft hit. Since the other team was not expecting the ball to come back in a gentle return, they would usually miss it. This resets or blocks the original point they had made. This volley is also called the reset volley. This volley requires an ability to take the impact of a hard volley while at the same time keeping a softer grip on your paddle to return the ball gently.
A punch volley is the most frequently used in a pickleball game. The arm is extended out from the elbow at a 90-degree angle in a swift punching motion to hit the ball. The wrist remains firm as the body relaxes. The idea is to cause the ball to go towards the opponent’s feet, causing them to miss it.
The remaining roll volley is used mainly after the opponent makes a drop shot. You hit the ball back with a top spin combined with a partial swing with the paddle. This type of return volley keeps opponent players pinned to their backcourt.
How Do You Prepare for a Volley?
One of the best preparations for a volley is practice! Then, more practice! A volley may seem simple, but in reality, it takes skill. Skills are enhanced by routine practice. You can practice with another person on the actual pickleball court if you can find someone willing to do so. But players’ schedules vary, so the good news is if you can’t find a live person to practice with, you can practice alone easily.
Because the ball should never hit the ground in a volley, you can practice anywhere on any surface as long as the surface isn’t too bumpy. You’ll need to keep the ball in the air, so if the surface is uneven, you could trip and fall while attempting the volley. You can also practice volleying the ball against a wall to imitate another player hitting it back.
In addition, body position is essential when preparing for a volley. You’ll need a proper ready stance for both a volley you send out and one that has been returned across the net by the other team. If you don’t have a ready stance, when the ball comes toward you, it will be much harder to spring into action and make contact with the ball.
Your ready posture involves more than just keeping the paddle up and ready. Your body also needs to be prepared for action, with the added benefit of keeping the ball from clonking you in the head. The basic stance is where you keep your knees slightly bent with your feet set apart at the same width as your shoulders. Don’t go into a shallow squat, or you could miss the higher volley.
Bent knees should be where you can reach up or go a little lower at a moment’s notice without messing up your equilibrium. This stance is familiar to tennis players, but pickleball is a little different. Paddles in pickleball are held slightly at a different angle than tennis racquets. Suppose you imagine a clock behind your paddle and angle the paddle at about 11:00 instead of at 12:00 like a tennis racquet.
This gives you the leverage to play from the arm, not the wrist. In pickleball, the wrist does not have enough power or flexibility to hit the ball hard enough. You should grip the paddle handle firmly but not so much as to keep the arm frozen from movement.
What are Some Common Mistakes a Player makes During a Pickleball Volley?
According to Pickleball University, there are some common mistakes made during a volley in pickleball. New players especially need to watch that they don’t make these mistakes. Do not let an opponent’s volley push you into the no-volley area when at the kitchen line. When serving a volley, be sure not to step forward after you hit your volley. Accidentally, stepping into this zone costs points for you and your team.
Don’t hit the ball too hard. Sure, you want to show power in a play, but hitting the ball very hard results in it going into the strike zone or into the net, not over it. Also, do not allow the ball to get too close to you. If it does, you will have to readjust the angle of your elbows and arms to hit the ball. It only takes seconds, but that’s plenty of time to allow your opponent to play better against you while you are adjusting your response to the ball. A big mistake is just not having confidence in yourself. Pickleball is not a one and done game. Learning new skills and improving them is in constant motion, much like a game.
How do you Improve your Pickleball Volley?
There are several ways. For example, staying low, as mentioned, the weight on your toes gives you better control to hit whatever volley comes at you. Push up with your legs after the volley to push the power through your volley. Always keep your eyes on the ball. Doing so helps you to hit the ball in the best spot on the paddle, avoids injury accidents, and helps you send the ball back to where you want it to go.
Remember to hit the ball early. Since the definition of volley is to hit the ball in the air, waiting too long to hit it lets it bounce on the court, eliminating it as a volley. Be alert and open to last-minute adjustments as the ball heads your way. Yes, a series of volleys back and forth is exciting to watch, but that is not the aim of the game. Scoring points and winning is. So remember the pickleball saying, block it until you sock it. Have good communication with your partner.
Many plays have been ruined, and points lost when a partner was not expecting certain strategical moves from you. Be random to confuse the other team. Changing your volley aim and techniques puts the other team off guard and guessing, making their plays not as focused or correct as they wanted. Try to hit the ball at the most vulnerable player on the opposing team.
By vulnerable, it is meant players who have a weaker volley, are distracted, or have a history of inadvertently stepping over the kitchen line. Improving your volley isn’t just about the actual volley. It is a combination of strategies, plays, techniques, and skills. All of these mixes create a foundation on which you can improve your volley in pickleball.