Parris Todd, a former tennis prodigy who turned professional play at 14, never anticipated finding herself on a pickleball court, let alone competing professionally in a sport she found out about from her grandparents.
The pandemic-induced surge in pickleball popularity across the country was mainly responsible for her introduction to the sport.
“So Much Fun”
“I started playing socially, and it was just so much fun, and it was such a different environment from tennis, and the people were so much nicer,” Todd told Rachel Krause at Well + Good.
As she became more adept, she decided to move up a level and try her luck with tournaments. To her surprise, she frequently faced formidable older opponents, which served as a catalyst for her decision to commit fully and take the next steps to becoming a professional.
The crucial breakthrough came in mastering the delicate close-to-net “soft shots” that catch opponents off guard.
However, before engaging in her characteristic intense exchanges near the net, both Todd and every other pickleball player must establish court dominance with a well-executed and strategic serve.
One often overlooked rule, according to Todd, is that the pickleball serve must make contact with the ball below the hip. “I see people serving above their hip all the time,” she observes.
“I see people serving from high to low. I see people not following over their shoulders. I see them not aiming; they’re just kind of hitting the serve to hit.
“So what I like to tell people if I’m coaching them is have purpose with your serve.”
Reaching The Sweet Spot
To help reach that sweet spot, Todd offers the following tips for developing a more potent pickleball serve:
- Target The Back Of The Court
Delivering a deep serve is pivotal, as it keeps the opponent at bay, preventing them from advancing to the kitchen line rapidly. This delay makes it easier to execute shots at their feet, ultimately gaining an advantage.
“You want to try and hit it as deep as you can to keep your opponent back so they don’t come into the kitchen line quickly,” Todd says.
“The slower they get into the kitchen line, the easier it is to hit it at their feet.”
- Optimize Your Body Position
Your serve’s accuracy hinges on your body position. Todd emphasizes that where your shoulders point is where the ball is likely to go. Ensuring focused alignment increases the likelihood of hitting the desired spot.
“If your shoulders are every which way, then the ball is going to go wherever. But if you have your shoulders pointed to where you want to aim, then it’s usually going in that spot.”
3. Maintain A Controlled Grip
Visualize the paddle as an extension of your arm. While allowing some wrist movement, maintain a controlled grip. Todd suggests a middle-ground approach, akin to a “five” on a scale from one (floppy handshake) to ten (vice grip).
“Keeping [your] wrist loose and really swinging through the ball is important.”
4. Execute The Follow-Through
Keeping your eye on the ball ensures solid contact. Then, a full follow-through involving swinging your arm up and over your shoulder aids in both precision and power. Maintain focus on the contact point until after the ball is struck.
“I like to start with my paddle where my right hip is. From there, you just swing from low to high, so you’re kind of brushing up on the ball to get that spin and also that height on the ball.”
“When you toss the ball up, you definitely want to keep your head down.”
5. Prioritize Consistency Over Speed
Accuracy should take precedence over speed. Rushing the serve before achieving consistency can lead to errant shots. Todd advises refining accuracy at a manageable pace before gradually increasing speed.
“Once you can get consistent and get a feel for a slower speed, then from there, you can pick up the speed.”
6. Make The Most Of The Warm-Up
Although pickleball may primarily be a recreational pursuit, incorporating targeted drills and practice sessions can significantly enhance skills. Todd recommends dedicating a portion of warmup time to focused practice, emphasizing intentionality.
“You go out and play games, and that’s where the fun is, right? But the improvement is in the repetition and the drilling.”
“Say you practice 10 shots of each thing when you warm up; well, say you do that three, four times a week; that starts to add up,” Todd says. “You start to really get a feel for those shots. As long as you have intention in your warm-up, then it’s kind of like you’re drilling.”
By adhering to these tips, players can work towards developing a stronger and more effective pickleball serve, giving them a potentially crucial advantage over their adversaries.
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Let us improve this post!
Tell us how we can improve this post?