Are you just starting to learn how to play pickleball? Are you wondering how to serve in pickleball for beginners? I understand it can be hard to grasp everything; even just getting the ball in play can be tricky. It’s very easy to overshoot the ball, sending it flying into the opposite wall. It’s also very easy to undershoot it, sending it into the net.
I’m going to share tips and tricks on how to serve in pickleball for beginners. It’s crucial that you understand the rules that determine every serve because this can help you keep the ball in play.
For a pickleball serve to be legal, these three rules need to be followed:
- Use an underhand motion
- Hit the ball below your waist
- Strike the ball with the paddle face below your wrist
With those rules in mind, let’s take a look at how to serve in pickleball for beginners.
What is Pickleball?
Before we go over how to serve in pickleball for beginners let’s quickly go over what pickleball is. Pickleball is a sport where two or four players use paddles to hit a ball back and forth. The sport combines elements from:
A common misconception is that Pickleball games use a tennis court. This is not correct; Pickleball actually uses a badminton court, which is smaller than a tennis court. The net that is used for the game resembles a tennis net but is not quite the same. The court size is a big deal because since it’s smaller in size, you can play Pickleball indoors or outdoors. The paddle that is used to play this game has features that will remind you of other sports equipment; it’s larger than a ping pong paddle, smaller than a tennis racquet, and solid.
A pickleball ball is a plastic ball with holes, but many players use tennis balls as they’re easier to find. There are pickleball serving rules to observe, and when you’re learning how to serve in Pickleball, serving rules often get discussed.
Pickleball is considered a less intense sport to play than tennis since it utilizes an underhand technique that is easier on the shoulder. Pickleball also uses a smaller court that measures 20 feet wide and 44 feet long for both single and double games.
This smaller size means less aggressive back and forth movement. This makes it an excellent fit for mature adults, those who are differently-abled, and individuals looking for a more simple form of exercise that’s fun for the whole family.
Are you looking for a more in-depth discussion on what pickleball is? If so, you can check out our guide, “What is Pickleball” here?
A Brief History of Pickleball
Additionally, before we begin discussing how to serve in pickleball for beginners, let’s look at the history of pickleball. Like many of the world’s great inventions, pickleball accidentally came about. Former congressman and lieutenant governor Joel Pritchard invented the game with his friends Bill Bell and Barney McCallum one afternoon at Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA.
The group wanted to play badminton but could not find the shuttlecock. So they improvised. Finding a perforated plastic ball instead, they lowered the net to ground level and fashioned some impromptu paddles from leftover plywood.
In other words, they created the game by stitching together elements from several different games: hard paddles like ping-pong, played on a badminton court with a tennis-style net using a Wiffle ball. This Frankenstein approach gave the sport its name.
According to Joel Pritchard’s wife (Joan), she started calling the game pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.”USApickleball.org
This earliest version of the game had no actual rules and simply provided a means to hit a ball back and forth over the net. Little by little, the activity gained structure, eventually establishing rules that cobbled together tennis and ping pong elements with a few minor tweaks.
From those humble beginnings, the sport has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, gaining the most popularity in the US and Canada. Barney McCallum founded the first official pickleball company Pickle-Ball, Inc., in 1972, fashioning the first wooden paddles using a bandsaw in his basement.
By 1976, the sport had gained nationwide popularity in the US, with Tennis magazine publishing an article called “America’s newest racquet sport.” The first tournament took place that year in Washington, and it has only grown from there.
In 1984 the first official Pickleball association was formed with the express intent to organize and grow the game. Today the sport is not just a hobby but a staple of physical education curricula across North America. Courts have begun to crop up in Europe and Asia as well.
Pickleball Serving Tips
Here’s a quick refresher on the rules of pickleball. The good news is they’re fairly straightforward. First and foremost, you have to make contact with the ball using an underhand stroke, AND the underhand stroke has to be below your waistline. Additionally, your paddle must be held below your wrist. Basically, you have to serve underhand. No overhead serves are allowed.
If you would like to view the entire list of serving instructions and rules for Pickleball from the USAPA, you can find them here.
Here are some tips for how to serve in pickleball for beginners.
Have a Regular Warm-Up/Serve Routine
It’s important to have a regular warm-up and serve routine because both allow you to prepare. Having a routine gets your body and mind ready.
For example, a regular serve routine gives you an opportunity to clear your head. The previous point is over, and you can’t change the outcome of that point. Now, it’s time to look ahead, use this time to catch your breath and focus on your serve. If you’re playing in a rec game, make sure your opponent is set and says the score. If you’re participating in a tournament, wait for the referee to call the score.
It’s crucial that you find a rhythm that feels right for you. The best part is that there is no right way to do a routine. The whole point of this tip is consistency!
Perfect Your Technique
Many players use their elbow and wrist during a serve. When it comes to serving in pickleball, it’s not recommended to flick your wrist or bend your elbow because it can lead to inconsistent serves. You may be wondering why this can lead to inconsistent serves. You can try it for yourself and see, but it’s difficult to repeat the movement accurately.
If the goal is to play pickleball correctly, which it should be, the serve motion should imitate a pendulum swinging rather than a elbow or wrist swing. You should serve loosely and fluidly, you should never be stiff. A loose and fluid motion will make the serve more consistent and reliable. I highly recommend that you make practicing the flow of this movement a part of your regular warm-up/serve routine.
This motion should also begin with a small backswing. I would also like to mention that Pickleball serving motions don’t end once the pickleball is hit. The serving motion should continue in the direction it was going. Keep your shoulders free and finish the swing all the while making sure you stay loose!
Serve with Your Core and Legs to Increase Power
To increase your strength so you can have a more powerful pickleball serve, you should be serving with your core and legs. Here’s why:
- Doing this will improve how you serve and deliver the pickleball.
- If you feel that you have perfected your pickleball serve technique, try working on generating more speed
- Use your core and your legs when you strike the pickleball. This can give you some serious power because these are some of the strongest muscles in your body.
To execute this tip, be sure to use an athletic stance when serving. This will engage your core and your legs.
Use a Semi-Closed Stance
More often than not, pickleball players serve by pulling open with their non-paddle side. This opens up their bodies to the pickleball court. To put it simply, some pickleball players turn too much when serving. If you rotate too much when back swinging or following through on your pickleball serve, you will most likely hit the pickleball on its side. You don’t want this because the pickleball ball will be more difficult to control.
To avoid this common mistake when completing a pickleball serve, you want to:
- Avoid rotating too much on your backswing – When doing your backswing, be sure not to rotate too much with your shoulders or feet. You don’t want to rotate too much because this could cause your pickleball paddle to move behind you. This can lead to inconsistencies in the direction of your serve and lead to unnecessary errors.
- Use a semi-closed stance – If you’re doing a semi-closed stance, it means you’re partially open to the crosscourt service box and partially closed to the crosscourt service box. This kind of stance will help prevent backswings from being too big and causing over-rotation. All the while, you’ll be able to keep your point of contact between the pickleball ball and your paddle comparatively close to your body.
- Make contact with the pickleball ball close to and in front of your body – It’s important to make contact with the pickleball ball out in front of your body relatively close to the side of your body that has the paddle. This point not only allows you to generate more power since you’ll be able to use more of your body, but it also provides for a more consistent shot.
Mix Up Your Serves
It may seem like a lot, but every pickleball player should have a serve that they can do incredibly consistently. Don’t worry if you’re not there yet; just keep practicing, and you will be in no time. It’s important to practice serving drills until you have at least one very consistent serve. However, you do want to have some tricks up your sleeve, so you should also be able to mix up your serves.
Options for the Serve in Pickleball
Once you have a reliable serve, you can elevate your pickleball game to incorporate different types of serves. The types of serves you want to mix things up with are completely up to you. Just be sure that whatever serves you’ll be doing are legal.
Here are some common serves that you may want to consider using:
- Driving Serve – A driving serve is a serve where a lot of speed is placed on the pickleball.
- Lob Serve – This kind of serve causes the pickleball ball to take a high trajectory by default giving it a higher bounce when it comes in contact with the pickleball court.
- Topspin Serve – This serve causes the pickleball ball to take a nose dive into the court and have a higher bounce.
- Inside Out – An inside out puts side spin onto the pickleball ball and causes it to curve to the right if hit by a player who’s right-handed and to the left if hit by a player who’s left-handed.
- Drop Serve – A drop serve is a serve where a pickleball player hits the serve off of a bounce. These can be a little tricky because it can alter the timing or allow the serve to get a large amount of topspin or backspin on the ball.
More About Pickleball Rules
If you’re new to Pickleball, it may seem like there are a lot of rules to learn outside of learning how to serve in pickleball for beginners, but once you get the general idea of the gameplay, it becomes much more comfortable. Here are some of the standard practices of play you’ll need to be familiar with outside of serving and common situations you might encounter.
Double Bounce Rule
When the ball is served and crosses the net, the receiving side must allow the ball to bounce once before hitting it again to return it. Upon return, the ball must bounce once before the serving team hits it back. Once each side has hit the ball after it has bounced once, the ball can then get hit without bouncing, provided you aren’t within the non-volley zone.
While this rule can be tricky to keep track of, it’s a formality of gameplay that extends the rally and eliminates any unfair advantage. This rule also gets called the Two-Bounce rule. Players in wheelchairs are often allowed to have the ball bounce twice on each side of the court as they work to position themselves.
Faults can be a wide variety of actions that cause gameplay to stop due to a violation of the rules. When the receiving team faults, the serving team gets the point; however, the opposition gets the opportunity to serve when the serving team faults.
You’ll need to read the Pickleball rulebook for a complete list of the rules that result or impact faults, but here are a few common faults that occur during gameplay:
- Serving violations
- A ball impacts the paddle before bouncing on both sides after serving
- A served ball doesn’t land within the boundaries of the court on the receiving side
- A ball strikes a player, what they’re wearing, or what they’re carrying
- The ball strikes an object before it bounces on the court
- A ball is hit into the net or travels outside of the court or out of bounds
- A ball gets volleyed while in the non-volley portion of the court
- The ball bounces more than once before hit by the receiving player
It’s worth mentioning that the lines that outline the non-volley zone matter when it comes to a fault as they get included as part of the non-volley zone. If a ball touches this dividing line when served, it still counts as a fault.
Volleys are simple movements where a player hits the ball in play without first allowing it to bounce. This action is only allowed when players are outside the non-volley zone that spans the seven feet on either side of the net, and if the player oversteps this boundary, it’s called a volley follow-through.
If the ball hits the player when they are standing in the non-volley zone, a point is lost. Likewise, points are lost if a player steps into the non-volley zone while hitting the ball. Even if the ball gets labeled “dead” before this happens.
If part of your foot is over the adjacent line for this zone, you’re inside of it. However, you are allowed to reach over the line to hit a ball, provided your feet don’t cross into the zone in the process.
If you serve the ball into the non-volley zone, your team loses a point. Your paddle is also not allowed to touch the non-volley zone before or after touching the ball, and this is considered a fault.
You are welcome to stay inside of the non-volley zone as long as you like during gameplay. There’s no penalty during a doubles match if your partner is in the non-volley zone. When you return a ball from outside of this zone.
The referee will call out the score after the players are in position and ready to play. This declaration starts the ten-second rule, where the server has ten seconds to serve the ball. Only the serving team can score points. Games usually conclude at eleven points, with one team winning by at least two points.
For tournament games, the total points required to win might extend to fifteen or twenty-one with a margin of two points to win.
The score also dictates where players stand. The serving team’s first server stands at the right side of the court when the score is even for their team. That player moves to the other side when their score is uneven. The opposing team follows the same rules when serving based on their score.
Double Play Positioning and Movements
There are a few modifications to Pickleball when you are playing a game of doubles. The most notable is that there are two players on each side, spaced equally apart. One person is the primary server, and the other is “server 2.”
Gameplay starts on the right side of the court for serving, with the main server or starting server. They will alternate sides after each point is given to their team, so both players get to serve equally.
The receiving team does not alternate their positions after the opposing team scores. They may switch after the return of the serve, provided the rally is still in progress. Once the rally ends, they must return to their original positions.
Before serving the ball, the receiving team always has the option to ask the referee for the score. This allows them to confirm the correct positioning of their players.
There’s How to Serve in Pickleball for Beginners! I hope this helped you understand how to serve in pickleball a little bit better.
Pickleball is a unique sport that is more accessible to people than a lot of other forms of exercise. This sport combines elements from badminton, tennis, and ping-pong in an easy-to-understand manner. This makes it suitable for those in a wheelchair, mature adults, and families with members of all ages!
Pickleball serving rules are relatively straightforward once you get the skill of serving down and sticking to the rules. I recommend checking out my other article, “Must-Know Pickleball Serving Rules.”
You also don’t need a ton of special equipment to start playing Pickleball. Learning to serve is a quick process, so you can start having fun immediately.
Do you want some more Pickleball content? Here are some other articles I put together:
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- The Best Pickleball Paddles for Women
- Composite vs. Graphite Pickleball Paddles
- Can You Play Pickleball on a Tennis Court?
- Best Pickleball Paddle for Beginners
- Pickleball Strategy – Advanced
- What Is the 2 Bounce Rule in Pickleball?
- What is the Double Bounce Rule in Pickleball?
- Pickleball vs. Tennis, What is the Difference?
- The Best Women’s Pickleball Shoes
- The Best HEAD Pickleball Paddles
- Pickleball Serving Rules, Techniques, & Strategies
- Pickleball Volley Rules
- What is a Fault in Pickleball?
- Best Pickleball Paddle in 2021
- Men’s Pickleball Shorts
- Engage Pickleball vs. Onix Pickleball
- The Best Pickleball Shoes for Men
- Onix Pickleball