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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Serve Variations from Sarah

We saw a variety of service motions in the Pickleball Channel video yesterday. Today, we will look at a Sarah Ansboury article called Adding Variety to Your Pickleball Serves. This is not at all about the service motion but about strategies related to placement, spin, and other variations.

Adding Variety to Your Pickleball Serves

I’ve written before about the pickleball serve. If you missed that post or are having difficulty with serving consistently, you will want to read it here. Today, we focus on adding variety to your pickleball serves.

Why Serves are Important

The importance of serving reliability cannot be overstated:
  1. First, unlike tennis you only get one try (unless of course, it is a let);
  2. Second, you can only score points when you serve.
So given the above, the most important thing is to develop a pickleball serve that you can hit in reliably. The depth, speed, placement and spin is secondary to getting it in.

Adding Variety

At the 5.0 level, everyone is capable of returning a serve. In fact, unless you hit a line, hit it very fast, or add some crazy spin to it; return of serve is fairly routine at the advanced level. However, any player (regardless of skill level) will have more difficulty returning a serve if they don’t know what to expect. That is why adding variety to your pickleball serves is important at any level.

Experiment with Your Serves…Then Practice

Variety also keeps me from getting bored when I practice. I find it more interesting if I try new things. Lately, I have practiced adding a couple of steps before my contact. When I tried this I realized I was able to hit the ball with more power. Once I am able to consistently hit my “new serve” with power, I practiced:
  • Hitting for a Target: You can pick a target in your mind, or place a towel or chalk mark on the court. Work to hit your target, more advanced players shot for deep corners, consistently. Once you feel you have a handle on one target, move on to the next.
  • Adding Spin: I also work to modify serves with spin. I create topspin by swinging low to high. By swinging up and concentrating on a long follow through I am able to hit a ball that spins toward my opponent.
Practice New Things and Stay Focused

Regardless of your skill level, you can still add variety to your pickleball serves. Perhaps you want to try one that is soft and shorter.  Perhaps you want to create a lob serve. These may not be your routine serve, but adding this sort of variety will keep your opponent from getting in a groove.

But remember, to practice effectively you need to be mindful and purposeful.
Take a breath. Let your shoulders relax to maximize your range of motion. Pick a target and practice hitting that target. Take time to evaluate what you did after each shot. 5-10 minutes of focused practice is more beneficial than hitting mindless serves for 30 minutes. Focus on adding variety to your pickleball serves.

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