I bounce the ball as I walk to the service line.
I hold the ball up to my opponents, a universal indicator that we’re all ready.
I set my feet, bounce the pickleball ball twice more and call out the score.
While doing all of this, I note the receiver’s position and make a quick decision on where I will place the ball.
And then I serve.
You might have observed pre-serve routines in sports like pickleball, tennis, or even volleyball and wondered about their significance. Why are these routines so prevalent across various sports?
I’m unsure if my serve routine is completely optimized for the game, but it works for me.
The Essence of a Pre-Serve Routine and Its Significance
While physical abilities are crucial for advancing your pickleball game, mental preparedness plays a significant role too. Being mentally prepared for each rally, point, or serve is enjoyable and essential.
A pre-serve routine consists of a player’s actions and behaviors immediately before serving, designed to help them concentrate and successfully “repeat” success. The primary goal of a pre-serve routine is to prepare your body and mind for executing a serve, and to establish a rhythm.
Every proficient player has a pre-serve routine, which may not always be apparent – it could be as simple as looking at their intended serve target or bouncing the ball a few times.
Typical physical components of the routine may include:
- Bouncing or tapping the ball
- Rocking back and forth
- Looking at the target
These physical aspects contribute to the mental benefits of the routine, such as:
- Improved decision-making regarding serve target and type
- Visualization of the upcoming serve
- Confidence in oneself
Developing a Pickleball Pre-Serve Ritual That Suits You
Your pre-serve routine should be customized to match your pickleball playing style and personality. For example, if you prefer a slower-paced game, your serve routine should reflect that, and vice versa. Discover the routine that works best for you and feels comfortable.
Developing your routine may take some time, but you can start by experimenting with different rituals to find one that helps you focus and puts you in the right frame of mind. It could be as straightforward as bouncing the ball once before serving, or perhaps a few times. You can even add a touch of flair by spinning the ball on your paddle.
Choose a routine that feels natural, doesn’t take too long, and prepares you for an impeccable serve.
Speaking of time, pickleball does have a rule regarding the time allowed between receiving the ball and serving. According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) Official Rulebook, Rule 4.A.6 states that the server has a maximum of 10 seconds to serve the ball after the referee (or the server, in non-officiated matches) has called the score. Failure to serve within the 10-second time limit results in a fault, and the serving opportunity is lost.
Players need to be aware of this rule and ensure their pre-serve routine is efficient and is within the allowed time.
More Reasons to Employ a Pickleball Serve Ritual
- Consistency: Emphasize the importance of maintaining consistency in your pre-serve routine, as it helps build muscle memory and reduces variability in your serve.
- Breathing techniques: Incorporating deep, controlled breathing into your pre-serve routine can help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improve focus.
- Personal cues or triggers: Some players may find it helpful to use personal cues or triggers, such as a specific word or phrase, to mentally prepare themselves for serving.
- Learning from others: Observing and learning from other players’ pre-serve routines can provide insights and ideas for developing your own unique ritual.
- Adapting and evolving: As you grow as a player, your pre-serve routine may need to adapt and evolve to accommodate changes in your playing style, physical abilities, or mental strategies.
- Practicing the routine: Regular practice of your pre-serve routine, even outside of actual games, will help solidify the ritual and make it feel more natural during matches.
At first, having a pre-serve routine may seem trivial, but it is a vital aspect of your overall game. Rooted in sports psychology, a pre-serve ritual can prime your body and mind for serving and the subsequent point. Above all, remember to enjoy the process. 🙂