A volley in pickleball refers to hitting the ball out of the air before it bounces on the court. It's a fundamental and strategic shot used in the game, typically executed close to the net outside of the non-volley zone (NVZ), also known as the kitchen.
Why is a Volley Important in Pickleball?
In pickleball, nailing your volleys and understanding vollying rules is super important. Volleying isn’t just hitting the ball in the air; it’s a whole strategy by itself. It’s about making the game play by your rules, keeping things fast and exciting, and showing off some cool skills. Plus, it’s a great way to keep your opponents guessing and on their toes!
- You Get to Call the Shots: When you’re good at volleys, you’re basically running the show. You hit the ball before it bounces, which speeds things up and can really throw your opponents off their game.
- Speeding Up the Rally: Volleys make the game faster. This is great if you like a fast-paced match and even better if your opponents are not so keen on keeping up with your speed.
- Control Over the Net: If you’re volleying like a pro, you’re basically the boss of the net. Owning the net area in pickleball is like having the high ground – it gives you a huge advantage.
- Pressure On Opponents: Good volleys put a ton of pressure on the other side. Your opponents have less time to think and react, which can lead to them making mistakes.
- Defense to Offense in a Flash: Even when you’re on the defensive, a smart volley can flip the script and put you back in the attack mode.
- Preventing Opponents From Advancing: If you’re volleying well, your opponents might find it tough to move up to the net. Keeping them back is a good strategy to control the game.
- Surprise Element: Mixing volleys with other shots keeps your game unpredictable and fun. It’s like throwing a surprise party in the middle of the match – your opponents won’t know what hit them.
What is the Difference Between a Drop Shot and a Volley?
In pickleball, the difference between a drop shot and a volley comes down to how you hit the ball and your strategy.
A drop shot is a strategic, softer shot where you gently lob the ball over the net so it lands softly in your opponent’s non-volley zone, or kitchen.
It’s often used when you’re further back in the court, transitioning from defense to offense.
In contrast, a volley is all about speed and agility. You hit the ball out of the air before it bounces, usually when you’re closer to the net. It’s a more aggressive move designed to keep the pace of the game up and put pressure on your opponents.
When Should You Volley?
After the ball has bounced once on each side following the serve and return, players on both teams can choose to volley the ball or play it off a bounce, except for volleying within the non-volley zone unless the ball has bounced there.
Here’s when you should consider going for a volley:
- Close to the Net: If you’re up near the net and the ball is coming your way, that’s prime volley territory. It’s easier to control and direct the ball when you’re closer.
- To Speed Things Up: When you want to increase the pace of the game, a volley is your go-to shot. It keeps the ball moving quickly and can catch your opponents off guard.
- Keep Opponents at Bay: If your opponents are trying to move forward or are comfortably playing from the back, a well-placed volley can disrupt their strategy and maintain your control of the court.
- Take Advantage of a High Ball: If you get a high ball that’s within your reach, a volley can be a powerful offensive move. It’s a chance to strike the ball forcefully and put your opponents on the defensive.
- Break the Rhythm: If your opponents are getting into a groove with baseline rallies, a volley can mix things up. It’s a great way to change the flow of the game and keep them guessing.
Either way, if you can get under a ball and volley, you should take reaction time away from your opponent who just swung.
What Happens if you Enter the Non-Volleyball Zone (NVZ) When Volleying?
When you’re playing pickleball and decide to volley the ball, which is hitting it out of the air before it bounces, it’s crucial to stay clear of the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ).
Remember, it’s not just about where your feet are. You need to make sure that your paddle, or any part of you or your gear, doesn’t touch the NVZ during your volley. This rule includes every part of your volleying action – from the start of your swing to the follow-through.
Plus, there’s another important point in doubles play: if you accidentally make contact with your partner who is in or touching the NVZ while you’re volleying, that’s also a fault. So, keep an eye on your position and your partner’s to avoid these mistakes.
Can You Serve and Volley in Pickleball?
No, you cannot serve and volley in pickleball, and this is due to the two-bounce rule.
In pickleball, the two-bounce rule is a fundamental part of the game. After the serve, the ball must bounce once on the receiver’s side, and then, when returned, it must also bounce once on the server’s side before it can be played.
This means that the serving team cannot hit the ball out of the air (volley) immediately after their serve; they must wait for the ball to bounce first.
Where Should You Hit Your Volleys?
Hitting your volleys effectively in pickleball involves strategic placement to gain an advantage over your opponents.
Here’s where you should aim your volleys:
- Direct volleys at your opponent’s feet. It’s hard to return a volley that’s directed at your feet.
- Aim your volleys at your opponent’s hips or shoulders. It can be awkward to return a volley from your paddle-side hip or shoulder.
- Hit towards gaps. If there is an opening or gap, hit your volley away from your opponent.
- Pin your opponents to the baseline. If your opponents are “stuck” in their backcourt, hit your volley deep so it pins them to the baseline.
5 Pickleball Volley Types
There are different pickleball volley techniques that are effective. The type of volley you should choose depends on your court positioning, the height of the ball in relation to the net, and your objective in striking the volley.
You can volley from your forehand or backhand. From the ready position on the pickleball court, using a continental grip, you can successfully execute a strong backhand volley in response to your opponents lob called a “banger” better known in tennis as a put away shot… all you need to do is practice your pickleball game.
In pickleball, there are 5 types of volleys that you can use:
1. The Block Volley
- What is it: The block volley is a defensive shot used to counter powerful drives from opponents.
- How to Execute: Hold your paddle firmly and angle it slightly upward, using the paddle’s face to block the ball and send it back over the net with minimal force.
- When to Use: Ideal when facing aggressive shots, especially in doubles play where quick reflexes are crucial.
2. The Punch Volley
- What is it: A punch volley is a more aggressive shot, designed to drive the ball quickly over the net.
- How to Execute: Using a short, controlled forward motion, “punch” the ball using the center of the paddle. This shot requires precise timing and a firm wrist.
- When to Use: Effective for putting pressure on opponents, especially when aiming for the weaker side of the opposing team.
3. The Drop Volley
- What is it: This is a softer volley aimed at reducing the pace of the game and gaining positional advantage.
- How to Execute: Gently tap the ball, aiming to drop it into the kitchen or non-volley zone. This requires a soft grip and a feel for the ball.
- When to Use: Useful when you want to reset the rally or draw opponents closer to the net.
4. The Roll Volley
- What is it: The roll volley involves imparting topspin on the ball, making it difficult to return.
- How to Execute: Swing your paddle in an upward motion while hitting the ball, creating topspin. It’s a blend of power and finesse.
- When to Use: Great for adding variety to your shots and keeping opponents guessing.
5. The Dink Volley
- What is it: A dink volley is a soft, controlled shot played mostly in the kitchen.
- How to Execute: Gently loft the ball just over the net, aiming for it to land in the opponent’s non-volley zone.
- When to Use: Ideal in close-net play, forcing opponents to hit upward and potentially setting up a more aggressive shot for you.
10 Effective Ways to Improve Your Volley
Improving your volley can really elevate your game. Here are some effective pickleball tips to get better at volleying:
- Control the Ball Trajectory: It is the player’s responsibility to control the direction of the ball. When volleying, you should consider whether to hit the ball near, far, left or right. As long as you do not perform a reactive volley, you can control the trajectory and force to the best of your ability.
- Focus on Footwork: Good footwork is key for effective volleying. Stay on your toes and be ready to move quickly in any direction. Practice lateral and forward movements so you can reach the ball faster and position yourself optimally for the shot.
- Practice Drills: Regularly practice volley drills. You can do solo drills against a wall or with a partner. Aim for consistency in hitting your volleys, focusing on both your forehand and backhand.
- Keep Your Paddle Up: Always keep your paddle up and in front of you, around chest level. This ready position allows for quicker reactions and more controlled volleys.
- Short, Compact Swings: Remember, volleys don’t require big swings. Work on keeping your swings short and compact.
- Eye on the Ball: Keep your eyes on the ball at all times. This might sound basic, but it’s crucial for timing and precision. This also helps in anticipating the speed and direction of the incoming shot.
- Work on Your Grip: A firm but relaxed paddle grip is essential for effective volleying. Too tight, and you lose flexibility; too loose, and you lose control. Find a balance that allows for both firmness and quick wrist movement.
- Use Your Body Weight: Transfer your body weight forward as you hit the volley. This adds power without the need for a big swing. Practice shifting your weight from one foot to the other as you volley.
- Angle and Placement: Work on the placement of your volleys. Practice hitting at different angles, including straight, cross-court, and sharp angles. Placement can often be more effective than power.
- Vary Your Pace: Mix up the speed of your volleys. Practice both soft (drop volleys) and hard (punch volleys) to keep your opponents guessing.
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