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How to Transform Your Pickleball Serve in 8 Easy Steps

Written by Adam (HV)

January 26, 2022

pickleball serve, serve in pickleball

Your pickleball serve is a critical shot, but it is often overlooked. If you ignore your pickleball serve technique, it can be a source of errors, but if you maximize this shot, it can be a source for smart strategy and setting up a point in your favor.

Today we’re going to look at 8 ways to improve your serve so you can stay consistent and win more points.

If you’d like to see the video on improving your pickleball serve, you can see that here.

What Makes the Pickleball Serve Unique

The serve in pickleball is a unique shot because it’s the only shot you have complete control over in a rally and it can create a chain reaction of moments that work with you or against you. So it’s important to take your time with every serve, consider your options, and maximize the shot in your favor. And with that said, here are a few things you can implement right away.

1. Use Your Legs

Your legs are stronger than your arms and if you don’t utilize your lower body, you miss out on power in your serve. Your legs are important because they transfer your weight to your hips, through your core, and into the ball. This weight transfer becomes power in your serve if you do a few things correctly. 

  • Bend your knees
  • Transfer your weight – you can do this with a step and a twist

AVOID 

There are a few things you want to avoid in your pickleball serve:

  • Using Only Your Arm or Wrist: Your leg muscles are much bigger than your arms. By engaging your legs, core, and the rest of your body in a serve, you can execute a more powerful serve.
  • Using an Open Stance: When both feet are facing your opponent, your feet are planted and you can’t engage your legs in the serve. Consider using a semi or closed stance. This helps you swing through the ball and rotate your body during the serve.  

2. Avoid a Big Backswing

When you have a big backswing in your serve, it can waste your energy because the majority of your power will come from your lower body and the kinetic chain you create with proper mechanics. With a big backswing, you may introduce errors because you have to focus on controlling your swing in addition to connecting with the ball. Therefore, you’ll want to avoid a big backswing and focus on a swing that you can control  consistently.

3. Stay Relaxed

As you swing, you want a relaxed, controlled, smooth motion. During a serve, your arm works like a conduit for the power from your lower body and if your arm is tense, that tension limits the power. This means you’ll want to avoid tight, tense, or jerky motions in your swing. If you’re starting out and learning the mechanics, focus on being slow, controlled, and smooth in your swing. 

4. Time Your Release

The release of the ball in a serve can be difficult for players who are starting out because it requires coordination and timing, but you can easily practice this on your own. One thing to consider for consistent serves is dropping the ball at waist height the moment you begin to swing. 

AVOID

  • Hitting the ball immediately after the release – this is actually more difficult to time and leads to jerky motions.
  • Also, you don’t want to toss the ball high because the toss introduces more variables that could lead to a missed serve

As you initiate your swing, you’ll want to drop the ball around your navel or waist. It will take some time to get the timing down, but you can easily practice this on your own. 

5. Hit Through the Ball

As you make contact in your serve, you want to engage the rest of your body and hit through the ball. Imagine as if there are 3 balls beyond the one in front of you. 

What you do after you make contact will not change the trajectory of the ball, but by engaging your shoulder and hitting through the ball, you will add power to your swing. 

To test if you’ve done this successfully, after you connect with the ball, you should be able to look over your nondominant shoulder and see your nondominant elbow or hand. 

One thing to note here is that hitting through the ball isn’t a dramatic motion, but it is smooth and consistent. 

6. Stay Focused

Your focus during the serve is critical and where your eyes are during your swing indicate your quality of focus. If you take your eyes off the ball, there’s a chance things will go wrong. Watch the ball all the way into your paddle. If you lose focus often during your serve, you can create a routine to make your serve mechanics second nature. With a routine you can incorporate a few important things like: 

  1. Time – Take your time and don’t rush
  2. Breathe – Clear your mind and take a few deep breaths
  3. Rhythm – Bounce the ball a few times to create a rhythm 

Also, do you sometimes talk while you’re serving or calling the score as you swing? This happens in recreation games, but if you’re thinking more about the score during your serve instead of your swing, that could steal your focus and ultimately lead to more errors.

7. Stay Back

After your serve in pickleball, it may be tempting to move up so that you can hit your third shot and get to the kitchen sooner, but if your opponent hits a deep return, it will put you in a tough spot every time if you take extra steps in. Therefore, it’s best to stay back after your serve and keep the deep returns in front of you.

8. Hit Intentional Pickleball Serves

If you’re just starting out, your goal should be to hit consistent serves. But if you’re progressing, you should be using your serve in your favor. Start by noticing your opponent. Where is he or she standing and what are their weaknesses? Then consider how you can start the point using your strengths. A few ideas are to:

  1. Serve it deep – aim for the back three feet of the court – it’s better to force your opponent onto their heels than to give them extra forward momentum into the kitchen 
  2. Serve to your opponent’s weaker side, like their backhand
  3. Hit an angled serve that is harder to reach
  4. Use spin 
  5. Combine all of these elements: for example serve it deep to your opponent’s backhand with pace and/or spin
  6. Also consider being unpredictable – you can Hit a lob serve to throw your opponent off or mix up these elements each time

How to Practice Your Pickleball Serve

The serve is one of the few shots you can practice by yourself. If you’ve been struggling with your serve or if these concepts were new, here are a few ways to improve:

  1. Ask a friend to watch your pickleball serve and provide pointers. A different point of view from a trusted friend can make a big difference in your game. 
  2. Record yourself. Grab your phone or a Gopro and record yourself when you serve. This new perspective will change how you play and help make adjustments.
  3. Practice. Set aside some time to just go and work on your serve by yourself or with a friend. By focusing on your serve mechanics and taking the time, you will be able to build up the muscle memory you need to improve. You can set up targets or lanes on the court to practice your pickleball servee.

path to better pickleball

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