By Sarah Ansboury, Education Consultant and Lead Clinician for PPR, Head Pro Player
As more and more people play pickleball, the game and strategies are changing. A great example of this is the use of the swinging volley over the old-school punch volley.
A punch volley is created using leverage mostly from the elbow, by maneuvering the paddle to go over the ball with the butt of the paddle finishing down and often below the net. This type of swing causes tension in the body at the wrist, elbow and shoulder. Since a punch volley is hit closer to the body, issues like getting jammed and the inability to control the contact point are inevitable. Players will often move the grip around to suit the angle of the paddle to counteract errors. However, the angle of the paddle on contact and follow-through yields little control of the ball, resulting in unforced errors.
Power on the punch volley is generated from the dominant side of the body with the non-dominant hand next to the hip, causing the paddle to finish down near the hip below the net. This is the reason most punch volleys go into the net, especially if hit from the transition area, and forces players struggling in the transition zone to step back to let a ball bounce. Also, if the ball does go over, players are not ready for the next shot.
Simply put, for the majority of pickleballers, the odds of winning a point on a successful punch volley are low and will put players in a defensive position, and can cause injury to elbow, shoulders and wrist.
A swinging volley, on the other hand, is an attacking shot that can be utilized in both the transition area and at the non-volley zone. A swinging volley allows the player to take control of the contact point, swinging out through the ball using the torso and the natural kinetic energy of the body, and if hit in the transition area will utilize the natural momentum of the player to move forward to the line, therefore reducing the chance of injury.
When hitting a swinging volley, the paddle usually comes around the ball from the outside using power generated from the kinetic chain of the hinge of the shoulder and rotation of the shoulders and hips. Most commonly the elbow is extended, which allows the tip of the paddle to come around the ball and lead it toward the target. Leading with the tip of the paddle creates more angles of contact and a wider variety of shots. The ball tends to stay on the paddle longer, and swinging through the ball instead of down will result in fewer balls hit into the net as well as better preparation for the next shot.
The swinging volley can be hit from both the transition and the non-volley zone, allowing the paddle to get under the ball from most angles and carry it over the net. Many players fear hitting balls in the transition zone, but a swinging volley would allow a much greater consistency and offensiveness behind the transition to the net.
Considering the simplicity of a swinging volley and the benefits that come with it, more and more players will end up adding this shot to their game if they haven’t already. From a coaching standpoint, less likelihood of injuries comes with the swinging volley over the punch volley. For players, it is a vital shot to continue to elevate their game.