What is a Volley in Pickleball: A Complete Guide for New Players

Volleying is a popular move in many paddle or racquet sports, including pickleball. If you’ve watched experienced players, you’ve probably seen a volley in action without knowing it. Volleying is one of the most popular yet difficult shots to master in the game of pickleball.  In today’s article,  I’m going to break down the term for you.

A volley in pickleball is when you hit the ball out of the air without letting it bounce first. There are rules in pickleball that dictate when you can volley.  There is even a specific area on the court where no volleying is allowed. 

This article is designed to teach you the following details about volleying in pickleball:

  • When to volley and when not to
  • Where you’re allowed to volley based on the rules
  • Where to hit your volley
  • Tips and strategies to improve your pickleball volleying technique

Plus, I’ll break down some other commonly asked questions. 

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03/01/2024 11:06 pm GMT

What Does a “Volley” in Pickleball Mean?

A volley in pickleball means you’ve hit the ball out of the air without letting it bounce first.  It’s a very common shot, especially when you’re playing close to the net and need to perform a quick reaction volley.  This is especially helpful when you’re positioned at the kitchen line. 

Most of the time, a volley is a shot that is hit hard and puts the point away.  You can volley from almost anywhere on the court, but they’re most common when at the non-volley zone.  However, there are rules that must be met before anyone on the court can attempt a volley. 

Now let’s get into the unique rules around volleying in pickleball. 

Rules For Volleying In Pickleball

Volleying is a great tactic, but you can’t do it on every shot. A few rules impact when and where you’re allowed to volley in a pickleball game.

  • Volley Rule #1:  No player is allowed to volley until the serve and the return of serve have bounced. 

This is the famous two-bounce rule in pickleball and it means the first two shots must bounce. 

  • Volley Rule #2:  No volleying is allowed if you hit from within the no-volley zone.  If you’re standing in the “Kitchen” aka the no volley zone, you must let it bounce. 

You can hit a volley if you’re standing at the Kitchen line.  But if you’re IN the Kitchen, the ball must be allowed to bounce. So, once the serve and return of serve have bounced, and you’re not in the kitchen – any volley is legal. 

What is a Basic Volley in Pickleball?

A basic volley is a shot that is hit out of air before it bounces.  Traditionally, this is done anywhere in the middle of a pickleball court.  Somewhere between the baseline and the kitchen line. 

A basic volley is usually executed when a shot is hit high, above your waste. It’s the most common type of volley. This allows you an easy volley where the ball is out in front of you.  This is the easiest type of volley and one of the most common shots seen in pickleball. 

Why is Volleying Important in Pickleball?

Volleying represents a critical skill for players new players or 4.0 level players like myself.  So, why is it so important?

For starters, it shifts the game’s pace, keeping your opponents on edge. Hitting the ball before it bounces allows you to control rallies. By volleying, you assert dominance near the net. This is a strategic advantage when done accurately.

This skill pressures the other team, forcing quick, and often bad decisions.  Namely, popping return shots up too high; allowing you to attack with another volley.  

Volleys transition defense into offense swiftly, a game-changing move. They also prevent opponents from easily advancing, dictating the match flow. Mixing in volleys adds unpredictability, enhancing your competitive edge.

Mastering various volley types, from block to punch, elevates your game significantly. Volleying isn’t just a technique; it’s a strategic arsenal essential for winning.

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The Difference Between a Volley and a Half Volley

A volley requires hitting the ball before it touches the ground, emphasizing quick reflexes and strategic positioning. It speeds up the game.

In contrast, a half volley involves striking the ball immediately after its bounce. This shot demands precision timing and skill to execute effectively. While volleys dominate at the kitchen line, half volleys provide a crucial bridge between defensive positions and aggressive net control. 

Each technique serves distinct strategic purposes, enhancing a player’s on-court arsenal.

When Should You Volley In Pickleball?

The volley is an excellent tool to keep in your shot arsenal. If you’re always prepared to volley, you’ll be in a position to win more points.  This is because more points are won and lost at the net during volley play.

It’s not uncommon for a pickleball match to turn into a fast-paced back-and-forth volleying session. 

So, when should you try to volley in a pickleball match?

The number one rule on when to volley in pickleball is to do it when you’re at the kitchen line. It’s a great shot when your opponent hits a dink over the net. If you can volley their dink, or any shot for that matter – then you should do it. 

It’s always a good idea to get to the ball before it bounces for a volley!  This often involves a quick sprint and an agile use of different types of volleys to keep the ball in play.

This is an effective strategy because it gives your opponent less time to react.  The more you keep the other team in “react” mode, the better.  This is a great recipe for winning pickleball. 

Related: Click the link for a simple explanation of the two-bounce rule.

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4 In-Game Strategies on When to Volley

  1. If you want to bring your opponent closer to the net, a volley is an excellent option. Most players volley right outside of the non-volley zone (NVZ). It’s hard to volley from the back of the court, so your opponent is much more likely to approach the net if you start volleying repeatedly.

  2. If you want to control the pace of the game, practicing the punch volley can be exceptionally effective. Volleying is an effective way to bring the pace of the game to a frenzy at the net. Most volleys at the net are quick shots aimed at your opponent’s feet or their body….forcing a difficult return.

  3. You can also volley to reduce chaotic play styles. If someone’s running all over the place – short volleys will slow the game down. A soft volley with backspin can take the pace off the ball.  This forces your opponent to either let it bounce or attempt a volley from right outside of the kitchen.   

  4. When you decide to volley, you’ll quickly get a feel for your opponent’s skill level; particularly at the net. Banging volleys back and forth requires quick reflexes and plenty of paddle speed. If your opponent can’t keep up, you’ve found a weak spot in their game to exploit.

As you can see, there are plenty of times you should consider volleying, including performing a punch volley or a drop volley to surprise your opponent. While it’s not necessary on every play, volleying is an integral part of pickleball. 

Related: Click here for more simple pickleball tips.

Pickleball Court Question – Can You Volley In The Kitchen?

On a pickleball court, there is a seven-foot section on either side of the net. This section is known as the non-volley zone. It’s also more commonly known as the “kitchen line”.

If you step into the no-volley zone (nvz) without letting the ball bounce, it’s a fault . This is against the rules, so let the ball bounce and choose your next move.

However, if you can stay behind the kitchen line and hit a volley, then this IS legal. So, if you’re tall like me and have long arms – then volley as many shots as possible.

Quick Tip: Always be ready to adjust your grip and stance for different types of volleys. All coaches advise that If you can reach the ball without crossing the kitchen line, do it.

Volley Types to Consider

Let’s talk about the different types of volleys in pickleball, including the punch and drop volley.  I’ll also cover the dink volley, the roll volley, and the catch volley.   Each volley type is used on different occasions, so make sure you know which one is right for the moment.

  • A reactive volley is a simple tap to respond to a quick hit.
  • Push volleys let you guide and drive the ball to a certain spot on the court with force.
  • The Dink volley is one that is hit softly back over the net.  Ideally, this is a low volley where you clear the net just by a few inches. 
  • Roll volleys rotate the ball to drop with either topspin or backspin.
  • Catch volleys allow you to momentarily catch the ball on the paddle face and take pace off the shot.

Editor’s Note:  No matter what type of volley you’re hitting, hit the volley low over the net.  This forces the other team to contact the ball from low to high – popping it up for you. 

Pickleball

How To Improve Your Volley

With that in mind, let’s discuss how you can improve on all of your volleys.

Control the direction of the ball. Unless you’re performing a reactive volley, you can do your best to control the trajectory and force. Consider hitting the ball near, far, left, or right when you volley.
Practice taking pace off the ball with volleys that return hard-hit shots at you.

Have someone blast shots at you while you’re at the kitchen line and practice volleys that slow the ball down. When playing doubles, aim any type of volley in between your opponents. This forces them to decide as to who’s ball it is. Indecision usually means a point for you.

Don’t overextend your arm. Overextension will limit your control, so it’s best to stop swinging once your arm is comfortably stretched without locking your elbow when hitting the volley. Also, don’t flick your wrist too much if you’re trying a reactive volley.

Know the difference between a light and heavy hit. Heavy hits launch the ball far, whereas a light hit will keep your opponent close to the net. However, light hits open the possibility of a catch or roll volley, so stay prepared for everything.

Plant your feet before volleying in pickleball. Your feet are the primary point of motion, as you can imagine. Volleying on one leg or while running is very difficult. Do your best to have a solid stance and hit the ball out in front of your body.

Practice makes perfect. Find a partner and drill volleys back and forth to each other at the net.  This is a great way to master forehand and backhand volleys.

Quick Tip: Good shoes can help you plant your feet without injury. Click here for my absolute favorite pickleball shoe!

What Is A Volley In Pickleball – Conclusion

Volleying is an essential part of pickleball. It prevents your opponent from getting too comfortable while keeping the ball off your side of the court, especially when you employ a quick punch volley or a strategic drop volley. It’s also an excellent way to score quick points.  I’ve been a pickleball player for 7 years and it is a super important shot to master. 

Here’s a brief rundown of what this post should’ve taught you:

  • Keep your feet out of the non-volley zone when volleying.
  • You have to let the ball bounce on both sides of the court before volleying.
  • Never overextend your arms and hands when you’re trying to volley in pickleball.
  • Find a balance between heavy-hitting and soft bounces when volleying.

My Final Take: The number one way to improve your game, and master the volley is to simply keep playing pickleball.  Nothing beats good reps on the court with players as good or better than you.  

Other Helpful Volley FAQs:

Q: Can you serve and volley in pickleball?

A: No, the serve-and-volley strategy is not allowed in pickleball.  The serve-and-volley strategy is common in tennis.  But, it is not allowed in pickleball due to the two-bounce rule.

Q: Is a Drop Shot Also a Volley?

A: Technically a drop shot is a completely different type of shot in pickleball.  But, a soft “drop volley” where your volley lands in the kitchen area is a great shot!  A hybrid volley that drops into the kitchen is an advanced shot but very lethal when perfected.  

Q: How do you execute a successful volley in pickleball?

A: To hit a successful pickleball volley, use a soft grip, hold your paddle at the paddle-side hip or shoulder, make contact with the ball over the net, and aim to hit your volley deep.

Q: What is the non-volley zone in pickleball?

A: The non-volley zone, also known as the kitchen, is a designated area near the net where you are not allowed to hit volleys to prevent players from getting too close to the net.

Q: What is the 5 volley rule in pickleball?

A: The 5 volley rule states that both teams must let the ball bounce at least once before hitting volleys, ensuring fair and strategic gameplay.

Q: What is the best grip for executing volleys in pickleball?

A: The continental grip is the most common grip used for volleys in pickleball, as it allows for versatility and control when hitting forehand or backhand volleys.

Q: How can practicing volleys help improve your pickleball game?

A: Practicing volleys can help you improve your reflexes, control, and positioning on the court, ultimately enhancing your overall pickleball gameplay.

Q: What are some tips for volleying like a pro in pickleball?

A: Some tips for volleying like a pro in pickleball include having a ready position, adjusting your grip for volleys, hitting volleys at your opponent’s non-volley zone, and using strategies to outplay your opponents.

Q: When is it best to use a backhand volley in pickleball?

A: A backhand volley is typically executed when the ball is on your backhand side, and using the correct technique can help you win points efficiently during a pickleball match.

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