In today’s blog we’re going to talk about the key skill you need to control the court and keep your opponent’s back. We’ll also discuss how to develop it.
You can easily adapt what we’re about to cover using a wall at home or with a partner in your driveway, backyard or a low traffic street.
A court is not necessarily needed, you just have to be sure to hit the ball firmly and a few feet over an imaginary net as the goal is to get it deep.
You are going to specifically be working on your volleys. You need to have solid volleys so that when you’re up at the net or when you’re transitioning from the baseline to the non-volley zone you can keep your opponents back as they’re hitting the third shot.
When practicing with your partner, you’re going to start up at the imaginary non-volley zone and you’re going to hit controlled volleys to each other’s torso, so right around the chest, waist or belly button area.
You’re going to try to hit nice solid volleys. A key to a good volley form is that you’re going to push that ball to hit it.
You want to have a stable paddle face. What a lot of people do when making errors in volleying is that they are moving their paddle a lot. They’ll either move it down or they’re moving their wrist in some way.
You want to have a stable wrist while pushing that ball in your swing path.
When you’re practicing you’ll probably be hitting mainly backhands. Usually in the game of pickleball the ball is directed at your body and inevitably you’re going to be hitting a backhand.
When you’re at the net you won’t have to swing very much. You shouldn’t be taking a big backswing and you should not swing through to hard because you’ll be so close to your opponent.
Since the ball will be coming at you with some speed all you have to do is just push the ball a bit.
At this point your opponent is going to stay at the non-volley zone line and you’re going to take a step back and stay about two to three feet from the non-volley zone line.
*As a disclaimer, this drill is specifically for skill development, NOT strategic advice. Your drilling partner is “acting” as a ball machine. Imagine they are at the baseline while doing this drill.*
As both of you are hitting the ball you will aim the ball to the waist/torso area of your opponent.
In a real game, as you’re further back from the line, you’re not really going to want to hit it up high because your opponent is going to hit it at your feet. But, since this is just for training, you’re going to try get get the ball back to your opponent so you can continue with the drill.
As you get further from the net, or the further from the net your target is, the more backswing you will have because you will need more power. Also, your follow-through is going to be a little longer. Your paddle and your wrist should still stay stable.
Next you’ll take a few more steps back, you’ll almost be in the no man’s land transitional area and you’re going to do the same thing we described above from there.
This drill will work on your control. You’re aiming at the same spot every time so your practice partner could try to get it back to you.
While practicing, if that ball drops to the net, you either have to push it a little bit further or you have to open up your paddle face.
Now you can switch with your partner.
After you switch, your partner can start off a few feet back from the non-volley zone and progressively move back while you take your turn up at the non-volley zone line on your side.
After you run through the drill for a bit then both of you could change it up and be about one step back from the non-volley zone line and use controlled volleying to get that ball to your target (opponent).
Remember that you want to keep it at torso level.
After practicing there for a bit, both of you will take one large step back to get you about 6 to 10 feet from the non-volley zone line and you will keep practicing the same thing.
You will both be pretty far from each other in this practice situation (both in the middle of transition area). This will simulate a situation/distance where you would be up at the non-volley zone line and your opponent would be way back at their baseline.
When you’re up at the non-volley zone, you really want to pin your opponent back at the baseline by keeping those volleys deep.
Remember the further back you are there’s three things you need to know.
The take back on your backswing is going to be a little bit more pronounced, you’re going to come back a little bit more and your follow-through is going to be more pronounced.
You’re going to have to push that ball. Along with that your grip pressure on your paddle will have to tighten up the further you get from the non-volley zone line. The closer you are the non-volley zone line the looser your grip will be.
As you have to hit that ball further you’re going to have to tighten up that grip to give a little bit more push to the ball.
As your further back your follow through should be super pronounced and you also need to make sure you’re contacting the ball out in front of your body as you keep your eye on that ball.
We hope these tips help with your volleying. These tips should give you some nice, stable volleys as well has develop wrist, forearm and shoulder strength for better volleys.
So go out there and try these drills and practice scenarios with a friend.