What Is A Volley In Pickleball?

If you’ve watched or played a game of pickleball, you’ve likely heard players talking about “volleys” and hitting shots back and forth without letting the ball bounce. But what exactly is a volley in pickleball, and what makes it unique compared to other racquet sports? This article will break down everything you need to know. 

What Is A Volley In Pickleball? 

In pickleball, a volley refers to hitting the ball out of the air before it bounces. This includes both forehand and backhand shots. Volleys are common when players are up at the non-volley zone line (the “kitchen”) since they aren’t allowed to let the ball bounce up there. However, volleys can occur anywhere on the court.

Compared to sports like tennis, the volley takes on increased importance in pickleball for several reasons:

  1. The court dimensions are smaller, so players cover less distance on shots
  2. The ball bounces lower off the paddle than a strung tennis racquet  
  3.  Strategic positioning near the net allows for more volley opportunities

Mastering the volley is key for advanced pickleball players. Having touch and control on these unique shots can set you apart from novice players who rely purely on groundstrokes.

Why is the Volley So Important in Pickleball? 

There are a few key reasons why volleys play such an integral role in pickleball compared to other racquet sports:

The Underrated Third Shot

We often think of rallies as consisting of two shots – the serve and return. But pickleball strategy regularly incorporates a crucial third shot known as the “third-shot drop.” 

On this shot, the serving team will soften their return by hitting a ball with an underspin that drops just over the non-volley zone line. This tricky shot forces the receiving team on their heels as they rush to get into position to hit a volley. Having quick reflexes and soft hands to handle these unpredictable third-shot drops can make or break a point.

Allowed Volleys in the Kitchen 

As mentioned earlier, pickleball has a unique “kitchen” area (the non-volley zone) just above the net where players cannot hit groundstrokes. Once the ball bounces inside the kitchen, the point automatically ends. 

As a result, when the battle ensues with both teams playing up at the kitchen line, extended rapid-fire volley exchanges are common as players try to keep the ball out of the air. Having solid and consistent volleys, along with dinks and drop shots, is vital for winning at the net.

The Two-Bounce Rule

Finally, the two-bounce rule in pickleball limits each team to one groundstroke per point. On the second bounce by a team, their opponent can rush the net and cut off any groundstroke attempt with a volley.

So not only are volleys essential in the kitchen – they are also used strategically to prevent teams from overusing groundstrokes during a point. Finding that balance between groundstrokes and volleys is imperative.

The Different Types of Volleys in Pickleball

Now that we’ve covered why volleys are so vital in this sport, let’s break down the various volley shots you’ll see in any given match:

The Block Volley

The block volley is the most common volley shot in pickleball. As the name suggests, the player is simply blocking the ball back over the net, usually with a closed paddle face.

Block volleys don’t generate much power and have a predictable trajectory.

 But they allow players to get solid depth on their volleys and maintain control of the point from a defensive standpoint. These shots shine when used near the non-volley zone line.

The Punch Volley

Unlike block volleys, punch volleys require an open-angled paddle face to generate power and aim the ball at the opponent’s weaker side. Punch volleys apply speed to get opponents on their heels while still keeping the ball low.

Skilled players can disguise punch volleys well, mixing speeds and trajectories to keep opponents guessing. Mastering various punch volley angles provides an offensive advantage during volley exchanges.

The Drop Volley 

The drop volley (also called a “stop” volley) is touched softly with very little power. The goal is landing these shots just over the net, forcing opponents to rush forward on their return.

Drop volleys work well when mixed unpredictably with other volleys. By changing pace, advanced players can move their opponent out of position. And the shorter low bounces generated by drop volleys make things tougher on returners.

The Drive Volley

Lastly, the drive volley adds significant power, aiming to hit through opponents much like a tennis groundstroke. Drive volleys can be hit both crosscourt and down the line. 

These aggressive shots attempt to push opponents off the court entirely or generate a weak return to capitalize on. Drive volleys do come with higher risk, so they are less common than other volley types. But when used properly, they inject offense and can overwhelm less-skilled players.

Executing Effective Volleys in Pickleball Matches

Now that you know the various volley shots in the sport, let’s cover some key tactics for executing them effectively:

React quickly 

Volleys happen rapidly, so cat-like reflexes are a must. Keep your eyes on the ball and get your paddle prepped early. 

Use proper footwork 

Unlike groundstrokes, volleys require very small fluid steps and movements. Stay balanced on the balls of your feet.

Keep the wrist firm

Avoid “flicking” too much with your wrist and overplaying shots. Keep a neutral, firm wrist to control volley placement.

Focus on touch 

You don’t have to smash volleys to be effective. Focusing on ball control and angles often works better than pure power.

Vary pace and placement

 Mix high-bouncing volleys with low-skidding ones. Hit angles crosscourt and down the line to keep opponents guessing. 

Reliable Go-To Shots

Master one or two volley shots that work well for your game when under pressure. And use them to regain confidence and rhythm.

Putting all these volley tactics together during intense rallies is easier said than done. But improving your execution in these areas takes practice and experience against different playing styles.

How Do Volleys in Pickleball Compare to Other Racquet Sports?

While volleys are useful in tennis and badminton, they become even more integral and strategic in the game of pickleball due to some key differences:

Compact Court

The smaller pickleball court dimensions allow players to reach the net quickly to cut off shots. This expands volley opportunities.

The Third Shot

Pickleball has a unique third-shot drop that keeps players on their toes. Handling this unpredictability requires strong reflex volleys.

The Non-Volley Zone

The kitchen area and its no-groundstroke rule create fun, fast-paced volley exchanges not seen in other racquet sports.

Two Bounce Rule

Limiting teams to one groundstroke per point increases the need for volleys – both for offense and taking away chances.

In many aspects, specialized rules make pickleball almost a sport in itself, where mobility, finesse, and net skills are heavily prioritized.

While serves and groundstrokes still matter, truly excelling at pickleball means mastering the volley. From quick reactions to controlled placement, versatile volleys separate the top competitors from the rest. They are indispensable!

Conclusion

Hopefully, this guide has helped explain why volleys play such an integral role in the exciting sport of pickleball – from the various types of volleys to when and how to hit them most effectively during matches.

As you spend more time playing on pickleball courts, keep an eye out for how the pros fully utilize their volley skills up at the net. There is always room to expand your “soft game” for handling pickleballs’ rapid exchanges in ways that tennis or badminton don’t match.

Soon enough, you’ll have a go-to punch volley working wonders from the kitchen line! So keep practicing all those unique volley shots with a training partner. Your broadened knowledge and skills will lead to great new strategies for outplaying opponents in this fast-paced game we love.

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