Baseball fans will be familiar with a cliche that every day at the ballpark, something new happens. While I’m not entirely convinced the same is true with pickleball, I certainly have seen my fair share of courtside curiosities.
From dudes playing in Crocs to people switching hands at the strangest times to a guy who always shows a different serve (oh wait, that weirdo is me!), pickleball is dynamic.
That’s why I am always surprised when you see players hit the same shots over and over. If variety is the spice of life, then pickleball beginners should add in as many ingredients as they can muster.
Pickleball players will likely encounter two kinds of serves: the classic volley serve (striking the pickleball before it bounces) and the drop serve (meaning hitting the pickleball post-bounce on the court surface).
Can You Drop the Ball to Serve in Pickleball?
Initially, the drop serve was introduced to accommodate pickleball athletes with physical impairments, such as one-handed players. Currently, the official rules sanctioned this alternate serve for every player.
As per pickleball’s official rules, “The drop serve involves hitting the ball after it has bounced on the playing surface and can be executed with a forehand or backhand motion.”
The process of a pickleball drop serve involves dropping the pickleball from any natural height with one hand, often your non-dominant hand, or by rolling it off your paddle. Once the ball has bounced, you then strike it with your paddle.
“There’s no limit to the number of bounces or restrictions on where the ball can bounce on the playing surface.”
Intriguingly, the typical rules for a volley serve, specifically in relation to the point of contact (e.g., the paddle head should be beneath your wrist, and the contact point must be below your belly button), are not applicable to the drop serve.
Utilizing the drop serve can be a strategic move on the pickleball court.
When to Use a Drop Serve As Your Pickleball Strategy
As a Novice Player: For those new to pickleball, the drop serve can be a great starting point. It’s frequently easier for beginners to master because the act of dropping the pickleball allows them to establish better timing and rhythm, anticipating the ball’s trajectory more accurately compared to the volley serve.
To Generate Spin: The drop serve gives you the opportunity to produce a variety of spins, as the typical volley serve rules regarding the point of contact don’t apply here. Consequently, you can adjust your paddle angle and point of contact to alter the angle and direction of your serve. This allows you to incorporate backspin, topspin, or sidespin, making your serve less predictable for your opponents.
If You Have a Powerful Two-Handed Backhand: The drop serve not only allows for diverse spins but also lets players employ a two-handed backhand on the serve. For pickleball players with strong two-handed backhands, the drop serve can enhance their serving repertoire. Intermediate players will sometimes look to shift pickleball momentum by sneaking in a backhand drop serve when needed.
Looking to Mix Things Up: Utilizing a drop serve can add a surprising element to your game. Given that most serves in pickleball use the traditional volley serve, a well-executed drop serve can catch opponents off guard, increasing the difficulty of anticipating and returning the shot.
Battling Serving “Yips”: The drop serve can be advantageous for players struggling with the serving “yips” – a sudden loss of confidence or control during the serve. The drop serve can help reduce some of the pressure associated with serving by providing an additional opportunity to gain control, improve timing, and prepare for the shot. It also allows more focus on executing proper technique, helping to rebuild confidence in the serve.
Experimenting with the drop serve on the pickleball court can be beneficial. It’s worth noting that, like a traditional volley serve, the drop serve demands practice for precise and consistent execution, particularly if you aim to maximize its effectiveness.