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Do You Have to Let the Ball Bounce in Pickleball?

Female pickleball player about to hit a sever to start the game.

I’m just learning pickleball along with you. I found out when the ball should and shouldn’t bounce. It may seem complicated at first, but you’ll get it right soon enough.

When the Ball Should Bounce?

The ball should bounce after the serve and when it has hit the opponent’s court. After that, the receiving team hits it back to the serving team, who has to let the ball bounce before they hit it. Once the two-bounce rule has been fulfilled (ball has bounced once on one side and once on the other side), you can hit the ball in the air.

This is called volleying in pickleball, similar to the way you would strike a ball in volleyball but with a paddle. Before you’re allowed to “volley” you would instead make a “groundstroke.” A groundstroke is when you strike the ball after it bounces up from the court.

When in Non-Volley Zone

a tournament pickleball players hits a shot.

There’s a special part of the pickleball net called the “non-volley zone.” It’s especially crucial to let the ball bounce anytime it enters this zone before you hit it. From what I understand, that includes when the ball bounces on the line back into the air.

(Check official rules to be sure.) After the ball bounces in the non-volley zone, you can hit it over the net. Don’t ever volley the ball in the non-volley zone no matter what, unless it has bounced.

When the Ball Should Not Bounce?

A senior hits a shot, competing in a pickleball tournament.

The pickleball server should volley the ball over the net with an underhand serve. It must not bounce until it reaches the receiving team’s side. If the server’s ball doesn’t make it over the net, it’s the other team’s turn to serve in a single’s match.

In a double’s match, the second person on the team has one chance to serve too. No bouncing after a serve includes when the ball doesn’t make it over the net. When this happens, the person who just served has to forfeit the ball to a partner or an opponent.

Where the Ball Should Not Bounce?

Male pickelball player reaches for the ball during a tournament.

When serving, the ball should always make it diagonally to the opposite side of the court past the non-volley zone. The served ball also should not bounce directly across from where the server stands until opposing teams have hit the ball back and forth at least once. This probably goes without saying, but the ball cannot bounce outside the court boundary lines.

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As far as I know, you also can’t hit an out-of-bounds ball in the air after it bounces, even if that ball moves back onto the court. I don’t know and understand all the rules yet though. You may have to consult advanced players concerning some bouncing issues.

For most answers, you’re probably better off contacting the USA Pickleball association directly. Otherwise, consult experience players teaching the sport.

When Receiving and Not Serving

Two seniors play a game of pickleball.

The ball can bounce anywhere if you’re returning a serve on the receiving end. You also can volley it in the air. It’s up to the other team to not fault if that ball lands in the non-volley zone, which means the ball must bounce before the receiving team hits it with the paddle.


What if a Ball Bounces on a Non-Volley Zone Line?

That’s a tough call and one typically decided by a pickleball referee. I would assume that if the ball bounces up from the non-volley zone line you can still hit it. Don’t allow any part of your body, the paddle or your clothing to enter past the non-volley line though until after the bounce.

Concerning serves, pay attention to this USA Pickleball rule concerning line calls: “A serve contacting the non-volley zone line is short and a fault.”

Who decides when the pickleball should bounce?

That depends on your league. Most pickleball games follow the official rules set by the USA Pickleball Association. The referee typically makes judgment calls when the ball bounces up and down on the line in the volley and non-volley zones.

What is the two-bounce rule?

After a serve, the receiving team can return the ball to the serving team after it bounces once on the receiving team court. Then, the serving team does the same – returning it to the receiving team. No volleying would occur until after the second bounce, which is why it’s called the “two-bounce rule.”

Why does the ball have to bounce twice in pickleball?

If you’re referring to the “two-bounce rule” set by USA Pickleball, it’s to make sure both teams have a fair chance to make contact with the ball. It also makes each match last longer than one or two hits before the ball is smashed to the ground.