As a new player, learning to serve is one of the most crucial parts of pickleball. It’s one of the first things that beginner pickleball players should learn and it’s something even professional players continue to work on.
Once you’ve sorted out your pickleball wardrobe and found a pickleball paddle, you’ll probably spend the majority of your time on the court working on your serving technique. The pickleball serving rules seem to be quite simple when you read them, but it can be tricky to apply said rules when you actually practice them. Don’t let that scare you off, it’s one of the only things about the game that you need to wrap your head around!
What makes learning to serve in pickleball harder than the rest of the things you learn about the game is that there’s often a fine line between legal and illegal pickleball serves. If you’ve been playing pickleball for a short amount of time or even a long time, you no doubt have had several debates during a game! When that happens, just make sure you remember your pickleball etiquette! So, what are illegal pickleball serves?
A Brief History of Pickleball
First, let’s quickly go over 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.
Are you looking for more information on what pickleball is? Then, check out our guide, What Is Pickleball?
Illegal pickleball serves
Pickleball rules are relatively easy to follow. The one time that pickleball can get confusing and even controversial is when it comes to the rules of serving. It’s crucial that you make the most of your serve for two reasons. The first reason is that you only get one shot at serving. If you commit a fault, you don’t get a second chance to serve. The second and most important is that you can only score in pickleball while serving. Therefore, making the most of each serve is critical! Here are some things that make a pickleball serve illegal:
Using an overhand stroke.
This can be confusing especially those coming from p[laying tennis but pickleball serves are made with an underhand stroke. This underhand stroke creates an upward arc on the ball. It’s completely fine to hit an overhand stroke at any other point in the game just not when serving. If this is done while serving the serve is illegal.
Serving above waist level.
If the point of contact between the ball and the pickleball paddle is made below waist level then it is a legal serve. If the point of contact between the ball and the pickleball paddle is made above the waist level then it is an illegal serve.
A serve that takes longer than 10 seconds.
Every serve in pickleball will begin with a recount of the score, this includes both the receiving team’s score and the serving team’s score. You have 10 seconds to serve after the score has been called or the serve is considered illegal.
Landing in the kitchen.
When serving the ball has to clear both the kitchen (also known as the non-volley zone) and the net. If the served ball does not clear the kitchen or non-volley zone line of the opposing team then it’s also considered a serving fault.
Standing in front of the baseline.
When serving, the server’s feet must always stay behind the baseline of the service court.
Hitting the ball anywhere but the adjacent service box.
This is where the basic rules of pickleball are similar to tennis. When serving, the ball is only considered in if the ball lands in the adjacent service box. Anywhere else is considered out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a spin serve illegal?
If you’ve been playing pickleball for a while you’ve probably heard someone claim that a spin serve is illegal. This is not true, as long as you abide by the basic pickleball serving rules, there’s nothing to stop you from putting spin on the ball as you serve.
Is it illegal to throw the ball in the air before a serve?
Some pickleball players like to throw the ball in the air before serving. There are no specific rules that state you can’t do this. This option may be preferred for some since it gives you extra time to prepare for your shot.
Paddle Features to Keep in Mind
Of course, if you’re reading this article you’re most likely looking specifically for information on illegal pickleball serves. However, I’m still going to share pickleball paddle features to keep in mind because the proper paddle is what’s going to give you the best serves.
If there’s one vital feature that you should pay attention to other than control, it’s weight. Weight determines how the paddle feels when you’re holding it, and it affects how well you swing.
Pickleball paddles can range significantly in this area, from anywhere from six to fourteen ounces. Lightweight paddles are those under 7.3 ounces, while medium ranges from 7.3 ounces to 8.4 ounces. Anything over 8.5 is considered heavy.
Every pickleball player’s goal is to take accurate, controlled shots, and finding the right grip is paramount to achieving that goal.
There is some debate about long vs. short grips. You’ll hear that longer grips offer more stability, while shorter grips deliver greater control. But in our humble opinion, the grip should be neither too long nor too short. For most people, a good rule of thumb is that it be roughly the same size as your palm and comfortable to hold.
The paddle’s width is another feature to consider, as it influences how well you can hit the sweet spot. In most cases, paddle width should not exceed twenty-four inches.
Some pickleball paddles have edge guards or protection for the edge of the paddle against chips and damage. Most people prefer medium-sized edge guards, though others go with large sizes, which increase the hitting surface. The trade-off with large edge guards is that the pickleball paddle’s weight increases, which may not be something you want.
Pickleball Paddle Frequently Asked Questions
Again, you’re here for information on illegal pickleball serves but now that you know important features to keep in mind here are some common paddle questions to review to ensure that your paddle is right for you so you can serve the best you can.
How Long Do Paddles Last?
The lifespan of a paddle depends on the materials and construction. For example, if the paddle’s interior is thin and the exterior is too smooth, your paddle may not be suitable for long-term use. However, it can be good to get you started.
You should also consider that the area between the paddle and the handle is crucial. That can be a weak spot on a lot of paddles, and that can cause your paddle to break even when the surface is still usable.
If possible, feel the paddle and inspect the edges and the handle. Then, you can determine if it’s durable enough to last through many games.
What Paddles Give You More Power?
Heavier paddles have the most power. While lightweight paddles can be easier to hold and maneuver, they won’t be as strong.
You can also look for super-heavy-weight paddles for even more power. But if you just need an average amount of that, you can get a medium-weight paddle.
What Paddles Offer More Control?
While a larger paddle is more powerful, you may sacrifice control. Smaller and lighter paddles are better for players who need to respond quickly in a game.
You should look for a lightweight or medium-weight paddle for more control. A smaller head can help reduce the overall weight so that you can have more control over your shots.
Can a Good Paddle Help a Beginner?
Many things can help beginner pickleball players, and the right gear is essential. You don’t need the most expensive paddle, but you do need a good-quality one that won’t break the first time you use it.
As a beginner, you may want to start with a lighter paddle. While it won’t be as powerful, it won’t strain your wrist. Once you start playing more, you can decide if you want a heavier, more powerful paddle.
How Should You Hold Your Paddle?
While playing, try to keep your paddle near your chest. That will help improve your reaction time to make more shots early on.
You should also consider stretching before you play. Many pickleball injuries are preventable by warming up. Start by walking or jogging around the court, then stretch out your wrists and arms to help avoid fatigue.
Make sure your paddle feels comfortable and secure in your hand. If the handle feels too short, you may not have the best pickleball paddle for you. On the other hand, it shouldn’t feel like you have to strain to hold the paddle securely.
Are Expensive Paddles Better?
While many expensive paddles are of excellent quality, they aren’t always the best. Therefore, you should consider your current paddleball experience and your needs.
Sometimes, paddles are more expensive because they’re thicker and heavier. So if you want something lighter, you may prefer a more affordable option.
Now that you know about illegal pickleball serves, hopefully, any questions you had were answered, and you’re now closer to figuring out how to avoid illegal pickleball serves and serve properly.
Looking for more? Here are some other articles I put together:
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