How to Serve in Pickleball
Let’s start from the beginning: how does one serve in pickleball? In this guide, we’re walking you through everything you need to know about the pickleball serve, from initial stance to follow through. Let’s play!
Get in Position
Whether you’re playing singles or doubles, stand behind the baseline to serve. (If you’re playing singles, try serving from close to the centerline so that you have maximum control of the court and can easily get the return.) You’ll want to stick behind the baseline or just inside it to hit the serve return after it bounces (the sacred Double Bounce Rule).
Consider your Aim
Aim your serve deep and in the corner of the court. This is especially helpful when playing singles: by craftily getting your opponent to one side of the court, they lose control of the rest of the court – and thereby set you up to hit a winning shot that they can’t reach in time. (Go you!)
Backswing (But Don’t Swing Back)
When it comes to backswing, start your paddle by your right hip (or left hip if you’re a lefty) – no need to reach your arm back any further.
Drop it Low
Holding your paddle by your hip, extend your free arm in front of you at about hip height and gently drop the ball in front of you. No need to toss it up in the air and try to time your swing right. Just drop the pickleball in front of you at hip level.
You’ll then use a smooth low-to-high motion to hit the ball. Be sure to keep your wrist, arm, and shoulders loose so that your serve is smooth and measured rather than jerky and inconsistent.
Don’t Ghost; Follow Through
As the ball bounces off your pickleball paddle, your arm holding the paddle will continue its swing-path by following through to the opposite shoulder. (If you’ve ever watched baseball, you may have noticed how when the players are up to bat, their whole body rotates with the swing so that the swing fluidly crosses the body and ends at the opposite shoulder.) So when your paddle makes contact with the ball, don’t quit there! Continue to swing alllll the way through so that your elbow is in the middle of the chest and your paddle is near your left ear (right ear for lefty friends).
More Pickleball Serving Tips
Use Your Whole Body
Think of it this way: when you’re lifting a heavy object, you’re not supposed to lift from your back (because #ouch), but are instead supposed to engage your legs, core, and arms to best distribute the weight. The proper pickleball serve technique is much the same way. Don’t let your wrist do all the “heavy lifting” of the serve – for a strong, steady serve, engage your whole body by powering through the legs and up to the core, and rotating the body as your arm swoops into the serving motion.
Experiment With Different Stances
Many of us default to an open stance (toes and chest facing the net straight on) when serving. But as you get more advanced in your pickleball-ing, experimenting with different stances becomes increasingly key. Next time you grab a drink/friend/paddle and hit the courts, try out a closed stance, where your body is perpendicular to the net (toes and chest facing the sidelines), or a semi-closed stance, which is the happy medium between an open and closed stance (toes and chest at 45º from the net).
Most of All, Loosen Up!
For best results, loosen up! Having tense shoulders and a tense wrist leads to a jerk serve.
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So that’s it! May your swings be smooth, your drinks be cold, and your pickleball paddles be Recess. We’re rooting for you!