Pickleball Serving Drills
First up - know the rules of serving. The International Federation (IF) of Pickleball rules state that your serve must be an underhanded stroke and the ball must be contacted before it bounces. Your paddle must swing upward in an arc and the ball must be hit below your naval (waist). When you make initial contact with the ball, the shoulder of the paddle must be below your wrist.
You must be positioned behind the baseline and inside of the relevant sideline and centre line when the ball is struck. You may be in the space of the court before ball contact however your feet can't touch the inside of the court surface until after ball contact.
Now you know the rules, be determined to find your limit so that you can develop your potential through aggressive pickleball serving drills practice.
Establish a consistent reliable base serve
Get on a court with a bucket of balls and practice the mechanics of the stroke until this becomes second nature. Get the action correct and then make that action a motor skill so that it becomes automatic.
Aim for consistency in at first getting the ball in and then fine tuning the spot that you are aiming at so that in any given serve you can place the ball exactly where you want it.
Up the ante
Having established correct form and base consistency, unleash some heat. Yes, serve with the exact motor skills you have now developed and hit the ball as hard as you can. How hard and fast can you actually hit the ball? Without adjustment this will see the ball sail into next week past the receiver’s base line.
Now adjust the time and the height that you hit the ball and subsequent loft or path to get the ball to just clear the net and land inside the receiver’s baseline.
You should be very quickly surprised that you can in fact put a lot of heat on a ball and still have it land in the court.
The last adjustment that you want to make to this is to step back from the serving court line to adjust your trajectory of the ball. This will enable you to raise of lower the level at which you then clear the net.
NOTE: Don't treat any of the pickleball serving drills as hard - but just as practice.
3) Increase the challenge
Keeping the same serving pace and fine tune your accuracy at that intensity.
Aim for down the line, for the far diagonal corner or full length and centre “T” of receiving court.
4. Introduce spin
Go back to your base serve and learn to apply an inside and outside spin. The mechanics of this can be found here. It is simply a matter of then doing what was required to learn you base serve – practice and a bit more practice. The nest step up is to up the ante again and introduce some heat on the ball. Yes, hit it harder while all the time aiming to get it in court with spin applied.
You want to get to the stage that you can hit the ball like it has absolutely no friends and maintain your accuracy with spin.
NOTE: Don’t be surprised if you start to see drift in your serve as the creation of drift comes from a similar action to that which creates spin. Drift is also assisted by wind and handsomely so in the right conditions and application of sufficient spin.
5. Utilize the court
Now take your base serve, your pace serve and your spinning serve and utilize the full baseline width with the addition of required depth of serve to manufacture required trajectory of the serve.
Aim to do all you have learnt in all the types of serves you have practiced to predictable consistency from anywhere on the service line. This increases your repertoire of combinations and angles and lengths of serve to constantly add surprise and unpredictability.
6. Change it down
Certainly and mostly long serves that land deep are the ideal but just sometimes you will want to add yet another element of surprise particularly to a player who tends to stand further back on the receiving court than usual. This is something that can happen as a result of repetition conditioning with no variety in your serving game. The element of surprise to this situation is the short serve and better yet the short angled serve particularly from the outer left or right to the forward outer corners of the receivers court.
Hence, change your service down with a serve that is relatively slow and low over the net and short to the angled front corner. This is best when served from the far right corner service line or far left corner service line to create maximum angle.
Yes a risky shot and a rather small margin for error but again, not difficult when you practice. 100 balls will get you into the swing of things but 200 will double your efforts and likely triple your results. What would a 1000 repetitious short pickleball serving drills to do your success of this serve? What would a 1000 repetitious serving drills do for any serve that you want to practice. Vast improvement is the answer which is why I absolutely believe that your serve is one of the most underutilized opportunities there is in Pickleball when you utilize a “just get your serve in” approach.
7. Ensure that you can turn a base serve into a full length slow lob serve
This by now should seem such an easy serve to do and really only needs good touch and feel to accomplish but like any mastered serve requires practice. A lob serve needs to have a trajectory that is looping but slow so height and pace needs to be adjusted to achieve this. Again – this should be an easy practice having mastered the serves to this point.
So moving on to the last of the pickleball serving drills for this page...
8. Improve your serve by employing variety
Know when to employ the Pickleball Serving drills you have fine tuned in the real world in play. Will it take time, will it take practice, will you experience failure and frustration? Quite probably yes to all questions! You will also likely lose a game or two in the process.
But never fear, when you practice like you want to play, you will begin playing like you practice and in summary of capitalizing on the most underutilized area of the pickleball game concentrate and practice the 8 points discussed here and start winning more games:
1. Establish a consistent reliable base serve
2. Up the ante
3. Increase the challenge
4. Introduce spin
5. Utilize the court
6. Change it down
7. Improve your serve by employing variety
8. Ensure that you can turn a base serve into a full length slow lob serve
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