In this two part article we discuss the pickleball volley. The volley is an essential part of the game of pickleball. As every pickleball player knows, most points are won at the net, and the volley, as we are going to define it, is a shot that you must perfect if you are going to win at the sport. You work so hard to get good position at the net you can’t squander opportunities to win points by hitting weak volleys.

Once positioned at the kitchen or no-volley line, there are only a few shots available to you: (1) smash if you have been hit a lob, (2) dink if you are jockeying for position or (3) volley if you want to keep a rally going.

Hitting good pickleball volleys is not easy; in fact, it can be a very tricky shot to master. In this article we will define what a pickleball volley is and examine three types of volleys:

  1. Pickleball Swing Volley
  2. Pickleball Snap Swing Volley
  3. Pickleball Attack Volley
In part 2 of our discussion of the volley we will focus on the following:
  1. Practicing the Pickleball Volley
  2. Sweet Spot Volley Drill
  3. Slow-Motion Pickleball Volley Technique
  4. How to Improve your Pickleball Volley

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves lets first define a pickleball volley.

What is a Pickleball Volley?

I began a recent article on overhead smashes by using the USAPA’s definition of the smash. I’m doing the same with the pickleball volley. Here is how the USAPA defines the pickleball volley:

  1. A ball hit in the air before it bounces onto the court during a rally.
  2. It is often used when at the NVZ line to return a ball hit hard and low over the net.
  3. May be hit forehand or backhand; backhand is more common.
  4. No back swing — hit in a blocking motion with the paddle face square (vertical) to “push” the ball over the net.
  5. Hit away from your opponent to make him/her reach.
  6. To hit the ball deeper, open the paddle face slightly to give the volley a little more loft.

You have to admit that this is an accurate description of what we all think of as pickleball volleys.

Pickleball Swing Volley

Let’s take a quick look at one of Deb Harrison’s videos. This is called “Pickleball: Swing Volley, Defending Against Bangers.” Here Harrison, who always seems to invent unique names for her shots, demonstrates the swing volley.

The swing volley is a shot we all use, but she breaks it down so that we can understand exactly how to hit the shot correctly. This technique, by the way, works for both forehand and backhand. Here are her guidelines:
  • Meet the ball out in front of you
  • Load it up and swing out – practice opening up
  • Keep your head and body still – true for most sports including hitting a baseball, golf ball or tennis ball
  • Keep feet stable – this is so important for every shot in pickleball
  • Swing with your shoulders – this will help you generate pace
  • Keep your back swing short

Harrison ends the video by demonstrating how she practices her swing…by hitting balls into a fence. It’s kind of funny. I’m sure we all have done this, but from my experience it is not much fun to practice this way.

Pickleball Snap Swing Volley

In a follow up video to her video on the swing volley, Deb Harrison, in this video called “Pickleball: Snap Swing Volley,” demonstrates another unique version of the volley, which she calls the snap swing volley. Like Briones’ volley technique, Harrison’s volley works well as a forehand and backhand.

So the previous video described the swing volley, and this video describes the snap swing volley. Let’s look at the video now.

The similarities of the two volleys are obvious. Harrison demonstrates both in this video so you can see how they are different. In the snap swing you start out as if you are hitting the swing volley, but you snap your wrist, which generates more pace and naturally aims the ball downward at your opponents feet or lower part of the body. It is a good shot if your opponents are at the no-volley or kitchen line, whereas, the swing volley works better if your opponents are back near the baseline.

The shot is a swing then a snap of the wrist. Make sure you finish in the ready position. Like the swing volley, the snap volley requires you keep your head and feet still, but in the snap volley you roll your wrist instead of swinging across your body. With the backhand, says Harrison, you “load it up and flip it out…let the wrist roll over.”

The Pickleball Attack Volley

In this next video, again with Deb Harrison, simply called “Attack Volley,” she explains how important it is to have many types of volleys in your arsenal so you can counter opponents with different styles of play. The attack volley, as she calls it, is a weapon she uses to surprise her opponents. Let’s take a look at the video.

When you watch the video you can see how she uses the attack volley to hit winners during a heated exchange of volleys with her teaching partner. You can see that the attack volley is a quick change of pace shot in which she makes a dynamic forward push with her paddle. Her goal is to hit the ball into an empty space, at the feet of her opponent, or hard enough to defeat her opponent’s reaction time.

Harrison provides slow motion views of the shot from front and side. She strongly advises to keep the paddle out in front of you and not take it back too far in the back swing.

What I find most interesting about this video – and it is true of most of Harrison’s videos – is that she takes a shot you normally use, gives it a name and explains in detail how it actually works and how you can use it to your advantage. She is an excellent teacher, and you can learn a great deal about pickleball shots and strategy in general from watching and listening to her. No matter what she is teaching, though, if you want to learn it and incorporate it into your game, you will need to practice. Practice! Practice! Practice!

I know this is just the first part of a two-part article on the volley, but I would like to hear what you think of the three volleys discussed in this article so far.

If you have any thoughts on the volley or any other aspect of pickleball in general please share them in the Comments area below.