11 Ways to Improve Your Pickleball Volley

Pickleball Volley

Inevitably, most pickleball matches come down to play at the net. This is where most points are scored and, typically, the person or team that can do the best in the non-volley zone (kitchen) area is most likely going to win.

This means that, if you want to win more matches, you have to work on your volleying game.

This article discusses 11 ways to improve your pickleball volley.

First, let’s define what a volley is.

What is a Volley?

A volley is a shot that’s taken without allowing the ball to bounce first. Basically, you hit the ball out of the air before it strikes the court. Most volleying in pickleball happens at the net, or inside the kitchen area.

The shot itself should have a low to medium trajectory and be slower-paced. However, during a round of volleys, where both you and your opponent are hitting them back and forth, the pace of play is fast and can appear chaotic.

Tip #1 – Stay Low

The first and most important tip is to stay low. You should almost be in a squatting position with your knees bent and your weight on your toes. This low center of gravity will give you more power and control over your shots. It will also allow you to react quickly to any shots that come your way.

Another reason you want to stay low is to be able to get your paddle underneath the ball and then use your legs to power through your shot.

Tip #2 – Use Your Wrist

When volleying, you want to use a light grip on the paddle and let your wrist do the work. This will give you more control over the ball and help you place your shots accurately. It also helps you not put too much power into the ball, which is wholly unnecessary during a volley war.

Of course, when the time comes to strike with an overhead smash, this tip flies out the window.

Tip #3 – Keep Your Eyes on the Ball

It sounds simple, but it’s important to keep your eyes on the ball at all times when volleying. This will help you follow the ball, but also help you to hit your shots with the sweet spot of the paddle more often and reduce errant shots.

Tip #4 – Use Your Legs

Because your body is in such a low position and most of your hits will come from the ground up, you should use your legs to generate power, instead of relying on your shoulders or arms. Often, you won’t have time to make a proper swing on the ball like you normally would in a drive shot, so using our calves and thighs can make a big difference in good volleying technique.

Tip #5 – Hit the Ball Early

Some players, especially beginners, get nervous at the kitchen line. But, one of the best ways to combat those nerves is just to get in there and start smacking the ball around. Hitting the ball early before it bounces is a great way to apply pressure to your opponent or throw them off-guard. 

Of course, there are times when you want to let the ball bounce, but true volleying is all about hitting it out of the air and out of reach of your opponent.

Tip #6 – Watch Your Footwork

Your feet should be shoulder-width apart when volleying to provide a strong base and help you stay balanced. It also helps you shuffle left and right or take a step back more fluidly.

Tip #7 – Keep Your Paddle Slightly Open

When volleying, your head should be up, back straight, and your paddle in a slightly open position. This is often referred to as the “ready position” for pickleball players. You never know where the ball is going to come from, so a good ready position is a great way to stay on your toes.

Tip #8 – Be Ready to Adjust

Volleys, even the long ones, are short-lived. If your opponent makes a mistake or tries to lob a shot over your head, you need to be ready to pounce and make them pay for it. Remember, when volleying the goal isn’t to keep volleying, it’s to score. Look for your opportunity and take it.

Tip #9 – Randomize Your Pace and Aim

Always hitting the ball from the air or always aiming your volley at the same spot makes life too easy on your opponent. Utilize all areas of your opponent’s kitchen and allow a few balls to bounce sometimes to force your opponent back on their heels.

Tip #10 – Practice, Practice, Practice

During the match is not the time to try new things or to try and get good at volleying. Sure, the experience will help you. But, it’s the time you put in on the practice court that will really make a difference in your play.

If you have a partner, practice together against a wall or cut the court in half lengthwise and focus on quick returns and volleys together. If it’s just you out there, find a wall that the ball will bounce a little well off of so that you can at least get the flow of volleying down to a science.

Of course, if you can’t find a wall, you could always set up your own temporary pickleball court.

Tip #11 – Communicate With Your Partner

When playing doubles, communication is vital. We cringe every time we see one partner fly into the other player’s zone or leave a massive hole on their side because they’ve crept over too far. Communicate and trust that your partner can handle any ball that comes their way just like you can handle any that comes yours.

Bonus Tip – Add Spin

You thought you were only getting 11 tips, huh? Well, that’s our fault. We did tell you that after all. But, there is one more tip that we wanted to throw in here and that is to add spin to your volleys. Volleying is a great opportunity to do some fun things to try and throw your opponent off. And, because it’s such an important part of every match, you want to incorporate as much confusion in your game as you can. After you get comfortable practicing the volley, begin playing around with adding back or topspin to the ball and have a lot of fun with it!

Volleying at the kitchen line is one of the most fun aspects of pickleball to play. Good players are pretty good at it, but great players have to be exceptional.

Hopefully, these tips will have you well on your way to becoming exceptional.

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