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6 Mistakes To Avoid When Volleying: Elevate Your Game with These Tips

Pickleball Volley- 6 Things To Avoid

pro player in the kitchen
(Image credit: Kerry Pittenger)

1) Forcing the low shots.

Striking a low ball with too much force often leads to unforced errors. The results can be unpredictable – your shot may end up in the net or turn into an unwieldy pop-up. If you take a highly angled shot, it’s likely to soar beyond your opponent’s reach, flying out of bounds. Alternatively, it may morph into an accessible high shot, enabling players on the other side to ruthlessly smash it away for a winning point.

When dealing with low shots, remember not to force power when you’re not in a favorable position. More often than not, a strategic soft cross-court dink shot can provide you with an edge. Try aiming over the net, targeting the opposite player’s backhand. However, be cautious not to serve a feeble dink shot to the center of the court, as that would merely set up your opponent for a powerful forehand finisher.

2) Allowing yourself to get pushed off the kitchen

Avoid the common pitfall of getting pushed off the ‘kitchen line’, ending up in the troublesome mid-court region. Many players find themselves gradually, or sometimes rapidly, receding into this dreaded “no man’s land”. Trust me, no favorable outcome awaits you there. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Although stepping back from the line might provide an extra split second of response time, it simultaneously opens up a significant gap right in front of you. Savvy opponents can exploit this by directing the ball towards your feet. Therefore, it’s essential to recognize this gap, both on your side and on the opponent’s side of the pickleball net.

When you identify this gap on your side, advance! Let your toes kiss the line! Spotting such a gap on the opponent’s side when they’ve drifted back into mid-court, seize the opportunity to go on the offensive. Aim right for their feet with a powerful smash.

3) Returning the ball too high

One of the most prevalent errors players make is returning the ball too high. Such a move presents a golden opportunity for your opponents to smash the ball, likely targeting your feet, making your return exceptionally challenging. Maintain the altitude of your dink shots low and aim for them to land within the No Volley Zone.

Should your opponent compel you to deviate wide, your best counter is a robust crosscourt shot that grazes just over the net, landing ideally within the kitchen. High shots should be reserved for strategic deep lob shots or swift shots that outpace your opponent’s reaction time. Avoid at all costs feeding them air balls ripe for smashing!

4) Don’t send the ball to your opponents strong side

Avoid dinking towards the forehand of your opponent, as this practically hands them an opportunity for a straightforward kill shot.

Furthermore, don’t let sizable gaps form between you and your partner. Visualize an 8-10 foot rope connecting the two of you, promoting synchronized movement. This imaginary tether should guide your movements, ensuring you’re always within one lateral step of the ball and within comfortable reach of your paddle.

See our 7 Beginners Tips for more on this.

If you’re having trouble covering the gap, an elongated paddle might give you the extra bit of reach you need. This is especially true if you are playing singles pickleball.

5) Letting the ball get too close to your body.

Allowing the ball to get too close to your body and losing reach for a proper swing.

This issue often arises due to inadequate footwork. The secret lies in keeping your feet nimble—don’t allow yourself to be caught off guard, frozen in a flat-footed stance. Embrace a rhythm of constant movement, continually adjusting your stance to align with the dynamic nature of the game. Be as light on your toes as a ballet dancer floating across the stage.

Think of each warm-up session as a dance rehearsal. Invest some effort into mastering quick lateral steps. As with learning to dance, initially it may require some effort, but with practice, it will become second nature.

For those crossing over from tennis, this should feel familiar. The agility you employ in your swift lateral footwork as you prepare to return a serve is precisely what’s needed here. Stay light and soft on your toes, perpetually adjusting your position, always prepared for the next move.

By mastering this technique, you’ll be able to swiftly adjust to an incoming shot with a couple of nimble lateral steps. It’s crucial to maintain enough distance to execute a natural swing at the ball. If not, you may force yourself into awkward positions, overburdening your wrist.

Instead of straining your wrist, let your shoulder drive the swing. To achieve this, you should maintain approximately an arm’s length distance from the pickleball. If given the choice, it’s better to be slightly too far and lean into your shot than to attempt returning a ball that’s too close to your body. This avoids twisting your wrist and elbow uncomfortably to scoop out the shot.

6) Don’t be late to the party

When you decide to launch your first fast shot, it’s critical to outpace your opponents in terms of reaction time. More often than not, the team that ignites the rapid volley stands a higher chance of scoring if they secure the upper hand with their initial fast shot.

Starting the fast game with a weak shot is akin to signing a contract to lose the point. If you’re unsure about your ability to deliver a potent fast shot, it’s far more prudent to exercise patience. Continue to dink until a golden opportunity presents itself.

For more beginner advice, see our Top Tip For Improving Your Pickleball Serve here, and Our Top 7 Pickleball Tips HERE

About Dan Langston

With experience in the ecotourism industry and time well spent as a fly fishing guide in the remote absaroka mountain range for 6 years, Dan brings a unique perspective on customer service to the digital world. As the operator, Dan is now committed to revitalizing Pickleball Portal and plans to build a digital support system for content creators and provide helpful information for the pickleball community. dan@pickleballportal.com

5 thoughts on “6 Mistakes To Avoid When Volleying: Elevate Your Game with These Tips”

  1. I thought both on serving team had to be behind serving line; and can you return a wide shot below the top of the net?


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