Pickleball is a fun and energizing game, but to be on top of your game, you need to perfect a very important type of shot – the volley. Different types of volleys can be used as defensive and offensive shots. Let’s look at what a volley is, what types of volleys there are, and everything else you want to know about this critical type of play.
What Is a Volley In Pickleball?
A volley in pickleball is a word that describes the simple act of hitting the ball while it’s in the air without letting it hit the ground. There are basically two shots in pickleball – the volley and a ground shot where players allow the ball to bounce once and then make sure the ball is hit before it bounces a second time.
By its definition alone, the volley seems very basic, but it’s a very important part of pickleball. As we dig a little deeper, you’ll see that the volley isn’t only strategic but also a very nuanced shot in a pickleball game.
Why Is the Volley Important To Pickleball?
Strategically, the volley is a very important shot to the game of pickleball. Hitting volleys, when executed successfully, is a very effective way to score quick points and win the match. There are several variations to the volley shot, each with its own strategic advantage. Using the right volley shots at the right time is a sure way to score against your opponent.
Unlike some other racquet sports, pickleball is a game that is mainly won at the pickleball net. This means the types of shots you take are crucial. A strong volley strategy and a technique that masters the varying volley shots is key in mastering the game and outplaying your opponents.
Pickleball has fewer types of volleys than tennis, all of which we’ll discuss in greater detail.
What Is the Non-Volley Zone In Pickleball?
While the volley is critical in pickleball, there are a few rules that surround it. The most important of these rules is what happens, or doesn’t happen, inside the non-volley zone.
There’s an area that spans 7-feet on each side of the pickleball net. This area is referred to as the “kitchen” or non-volley zone. Just as its name implies, no volley is to be made from inside this zone.
This means that you can’t hit a ball in the air from anywhere inside the non-volley zone. This also includes immediately before and after you make the volley shot. No part of your body should be in the non-volley zone either or on the non-volley line.
These rules make the non-volley zone a more challenging aspect of pickleball. From a birdseye view of the pickleball court, not even the tip of your foot is allowed to touch the non-volley line immediately before, during, or immediately after you hit a volley shot.
So, not only do you need to make sure you’re not touching the kitchen when you hit the ball from the air, but you also have to ensure that the momentum built up by your volley doesn’t propel you into the zone after you make the shot. While you can’t hit a volley in the kitchen, you can hit a ground shot off of a single ball bounce within this zone.
Mastering Your Volley Shot Technique
As you become more familiar with pickleball and get comfortable with your own style of play, you’ll find that in typical play, you’re volleying the ball a lot more than you’re hitting it off of a bounce. This means that one of the first things you should do is to learn the basics of good volley technique.
First, how you’re positioned and holding your body will affect your chance at a successful volley. Ideally, you want to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your knees slightly bent. You should be balanced so that most of your weight is falling on the balls of your feet. This puts you in a good stable position, and you’ll be able to move quickly.
While you can certainly angle your body toward where the opposing team is hitting from, you also want to be positioned with the front of your body facing the pickleball net. In other words, always position yourself in a way that you could draw an imaginary line that, if coming from the center of your chest, would line up with a point on the net. Your pickleball paddle should also be held in front of your body and not off to either side.
Holding the Paddle
In regard to paddle position, you’ll want to hold the paddle in a way that feels natural to you while still aligning with the rules of pickleball. When holding the paddle, keep in mind that all paddle movement should be made from the elbow. You shouldn’t be swinging for the volley with the main point of movement coming from your shoulder.
The actual paddle, where the ball will make contact, should be positioned above your wrist. You might prefer to hold your paddle as if ready for a backhand volley or with the paddle face slightly angled. Play around with this a little, and you’ll find the style that’s most comfortable for you.
The last tip for mastering a volley in pickleball is all about the grip. The handle of your pickleball paddle should be held in your fingers and not in the palm of your hand. This gives you more control over the paddle and also positions you for a more powerful volley.
The continental grip is often preferred when volleying. It’s also one of the most basic grips to master early on in your experience with pickleball. The continental grip is considered a neutral grip, meaning that you’re not gripping the handle too tightly or letting it lay too loose in your hand.
A proper continental grip can allow you to volley forehand or backhand. With the continental grip, you essentially want to be holding the handle of the pickleball paddle as you a hammer, keeping the face of the paddle flat.
Types of Pickleball Volleys
If you’re new to racquet sports, then you might not know that there’s more than one type of volley and that the style of volley you use is situational. It’s good to start by getting comfortable with a single style of volley, but you’ll hinder your game if you don’t practice and become comfortable with all of them.
Pickleball has fewer volleys than some other racquet sports, such as tennis with seven different styles. In pickleball, there are four main styles of volley, and which one you use will depend on factors such as your positioning in the pickleball court, whether your shot is offensive or defensive, and the height of the ball when compared to the net.
The punch volley is hand-down, the most common type of volley used in pickleball. The main defining characteristic of the crisp punch volley is that the ball is hit with the face of the paddle being perpendicular to the court as if you are punching the ball.
With punch volleys, all of the movement is coming from your elbow, pushing the paddle forward in what can best be described as a punching motion. Both your shoulder and your wrist should be minimally involved in a punch volley. The punch volley is best used when the ball isn’t too high or too low relative to the net.
The roll volley, also called the topspin volley, is an essential tool for hitting a low volley that’s below the line of the net and low angled shots. Topspin volleys (roll volleys) are executed using a low to high motion of the paddle and are a great tool when you want to keep your opponents close to the baseline.
The drop volley, also referred to as block volleys, are different from other types of pickleball volleys in that you intentionally make contact with the ball using less force. This is a good volley to use when your opponents are engaging in fast, challenging play and you want to reset the game and also throw them an unexpected soft shot that lands the ball more softly over the net.
A dink volley also called a volley dink, is a volley used to land your opponent’s dink shot in their non-volley zone. For those new to pickleball, a dink shot is when you or your opponent make a soft shot off of a bounce from the non-volley zone. This can be a soft cross-court dink or come from straight across the net. The goal is to arch the ball softly into the opponent’s kitchen, making it more difficult for them to return with a power shot from the kitchen line.
The dink volley is a more difficult shot and requires some skill because you need to be positioned at the non-volley line to catch the ball before it bounces, but you can’t actually cross over into the kitchen.
What Is the Difference Between a Forehand and Backhand Volley?
When discovering pickleball, you’ll hear a lot about the forehand shot, a backhand shot, or even a backhand grip. You might be wondering what the difference between the two is. The difference is actually pretty simple.
When you hit forehand, you’re hitting the ball from the dominant side of your body, using a forward stroke. With a backhand volley or backhand stroke, you’re hitting the ball from the opposite, non-dominant side of your body.
Additional Pickleball Volley Terminology To Know
There’s a lot of different terminology with pickleball. Here are a few more of the key terms to know when it comes to learning how to volley in pickleball.
Reactive Volley Shot
The reactive volley is a shot you make due to a knee-jerk reaction. It’s when intuition takes over, and you just hit the ball without giving much thought to how the volley will affect the play. In most cases, the response shot is considered a defensive shot, but for new or intermediate players, it may sometimes be used as an offensive shot also.
This is one of the more forceful volleys in pickleball. The catch volley is a defensive shot that features a backspin and swing hit as the paddle catches the ball before the player volleys it back toward their opponent.
A low shot is one that comes in low over the net, usually shot with the intent of landing in the opponent’s kitchen. The low shot makes for more challenging play, and a dink volley is often a good defense shot against it.
The drop shot is a term used to describe a soft hit off of a bounce, but instead of coming from the kitchen, it comes from deeper in the court. The goal of the drop shot is for the ball to land in the opponent’s kitchen, ideally as close as possible to the net, making it difficult for the opponent to hit off of a bounce.
The term dead ball is used to describe the situation in which the ball is no longer in play in a game of pickleball. A dead ball results in a fault or the serving team losing their serve to their opponents.
Two Bounce Rule
The two-bounce rule in pickleball states that the ball must bounce twice after the initial shot before you can begin to volley. This means that when the serving team serves the ball, it bounces once on the opponent’s court, then after they hit the ball off the bounce, the ball bounces once again in the serving team’s court before being hit. After these two bounces, the volley can enter into play.
Volleying Mistakes to Avoid When Playing Pickleball
When working on perfecting your pickleball volley technique, there are a few common mistakes you want to avoid.
The first is not resisting the urge to hit the ball hard when it’s traveling low. Your first instinct might be to catch it with a forceful volley back at your opponent but this will likely end up with the ball going straight up into the air or hitting the net. Neither of these options is in your favor when playing pickleball. Instead of trying to force low angled shots, try using topspin backhand volleys or a dink volley to land the ball back in your opponent’s kitchen.
When hitting volleys, the next major mistake is standing too far back on the court, away from the net. New players often feel that this positioning gives them an advantage for hitting an incoming shot, but the truth is that you’re actually opening up more of the court for your opponent to hit the ball out of your reach or at your feet. It’s best to stay tight against your own non-volley line.
Next, don’t be inflexible. While you’re hitting those volleys with movement coming from your elbow, it’s a big mistake to hold your body too rigid or stationary. Keep your feet moving as you’re standing waiting for the shot, and be ready to move when the ball is coming at you.
Finally, don’t get in a volley rut. One type of volley isn’t going to cut it because you need different volleys in different situations. Practice, and allow yourself to get comfortable with all different volley types, and spend some time learning when to use each one.
What is the difference between a volley and a rally in pickleball?
A rally in pickleball is when the ball is continuously in play, being hit back and forth across the net until a fault occurs. A volley is a type of shot where the ball is hit from the air instead of off a bounce. A rally can consist of a mixture of both volleys and ground shots.
When can you volley in pickleball?
In pickleball, you volley at any point, as long as the two-bounce rule has been satisfied. A volley can be made from any point on the court, except in the no-volley zone, also called the kitchen.
What is a volley used for?
A volley is used to move the ball back and forth across the net in a game of pickleball. While players can also hit off of a bounce, the volley offers the opportunity for more strategic play.
Mastering the Volley in Pickleball
Whether you’re playing singles or doubles pickleball, the volley is hands down one of the most important shots to master. The next time you hit the court, catch your opponents off guard with your mastery and precision of volley technique.