Serve to Win

Like many people, my first exposure to pickleball was by seeing it and having someone hand me a paddle. I hadn't read any books on the game or watched any videos about 'how you are 'supposed' to play. I just showed up at the gym one day, someone handed me an old wooden paddle and i played. 

While there are limitations to being so un-schooled in a particular sport, there is also a distinct advantage: you aren't beholden to the customs and conventions that develop over time. You aren't (yet) shaped to play a certain way and that freedom provides an opportunity for experimentation.

After a few minutes I got the feel for things. Having had 25 years in high-calibre tennis meant the learning curve was pretty steep. And it didn't take me more than about 10 minutes before I abandoned the slow, high serve people were showing me, and replaced it with one that was faster and lower.

To me, it seemed silly to hit lethargic, towering serves intended just to start the point. Why would I deliberately give my opponents so much time to get ready for the ball? In tennis, I would make my serve challenging (with speed, spin and placement). As a baseball pitcher, I wouldn't through gently down the middle of the plate, I'd make the batter work to hit the ball well. It seemed obvious that the same kind of tactics could be applied to serving in pickleball. 

To their credit, the more experienced players in the group (shoutout to the Collingwood YMCA PBallers) weren't particularly dogmatic in their response. While I did have some comments that you 'should never miss your serve' or the occasional "seeeeeeee?" when I would hit a serve long, more than anything they were open to the rationale that, yes, a serve could be used as an offensive shot. Perhaps even that it shouldbe. When asked why they didn't hit their serves with a clearer intention, they would generally say something along the lines of "I don't know. I was just always told you should hit it slow". 

The video below is a reflection of the more offensive-minded attitude that the serve can be used to cause trouble. I am not suggesting that you try to hit un-returnable serves or 'aces'. And if your consistency drops significantly, you might need to hold back a little. What I am advocating (with evidence!) is that people look to use their serve to tip the scales in their direction. You have an advantage, why not use it?

Mark RennesonComment