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How to Stop Popping the Ball Up in Pickleball

Closeup of a pickleball and paddles on an empty court under sunny skies.

When you are playing pickleball the goal of the game is to get the ball to bounce on each side of the net before you can play a serve. After you serve the ball, you also want to avoid the dreaded popping up situation. If the ball pops up too high to hit it or before it’s supposed to, you’re not going to be able to play the serve.

This is a common problem that people have when they are playing pickleball, especially newcomers to the sport. You are able to resolve a pop up ball quite easily with a few tricks of the trade. Learn more about how to play pickleball and stop the ball from popping up in this article.

Why Am I Popping Up in Pickleball?

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If you are struggling with a pop up when playing the game of pickleball, start switching up the way that you swing at the serve. If you are serving the pickleball and it has taken in too much kinetic energy from your motions, then the pickleball will pop up. As a result, you will have a fly away pickleball that will most likely end up in the no-volley zone (NVZ).

The NVZ is also called the Kitchen, which is often what you will hear called out if this happens to you.

This is also the last thing that you want to happen. If your ball ends up in the no-volley zone, it is dead in play and the serve is not good. It is in the Kitchen and you lose your serving opportunity in that round, which could give the opponent or opponents the serve they need to score and win.

Focus on Grip Strength

Pickleball cartoon character in forehand position.

Another major reason why players of pickleball get a pop up is because they are gripping the paddle too hard. Grip strength is directly correlated with getting a pop up ball. In order to dink the pop up, stop gripping the paddle to death. Instead, hold the handle with a delicate touch and let your wrist joint do all of the movements.

If you are power driving the pickleball, you are always going to get a pop up and lose the play. The game of pickleball is one of gentle, slower movements than are necessary in a more hard hitting game of tennis or volleyball. As the game itself was derived from tennis and badminton, you want to hit the pickleball like you would a badminton birdie.

Think light touch, and then hit it even lighter and you will stop getting the all-too-serve-ruining pop ups. Pickleball Central explains more thoroughly: “Instead of grasping the handle so firmly, try to focus on holding the paddle only between your index finger and thumb. The remaining three fingers on the grip (middle, ring and pinkie) should only loosely be touching it.

The side of the grip should be between the “v” of your index finger and thumb’s webbing.”

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How to Stop a Pickleball Ball From Popping Up

Man holds pickleball paddle and ball in one hand.

To stop your pickleball from popping up when you are serving the ball or when you have received the ball after a serve, you have to take a look at the reason why it’s happening. The primary reason why the pickleball is bouncing wildly is because there is too much energy in the ball. This can happen anytime following a serve.

To avoid this, you have to slow down the pickleball and reduce its energy.

Players who want to avoid the dreaded pop up pickleball have another way to manage this feat. When serving a pickleball, allow the ball to come to a complete bounce before you hit it again. That will let the ball lose some of its momentum.

You can stop a pickleball from popping up by allowing it to release its energy by moving away from it, and then take another, more gentler swing at it.

The only issue here is if the ball bounces into the no-volley zone at this time, which is the worst place for your pickleball. A further explanation of the no-volley zone, according to Michigan State University’s Recreational Sports and Fitness Services, is that this is “the court area within 7 feet on both sides of the net. Volleying is prohibited within the non-volley zone.

What are the 3 key things you should focus on to prevent popping the ball?

Female pickleball player hitting the ball with her paddle.

When you’re playing pickleball and struggling with a pop up here are three things that you can focus on. These actions will help if this issue is keeping you from scoring and winning at pickleball matches.

  • Number one: work on your low serve so that you have a better swing and serve that can reduce the energy of the pickleball.
  • Number two: work on identifying how to bounce the pickleball. Practice bouncing a pickleball on your own with a paddle, similar to the way you would practice playing dribbling a basketball. The more you become familiar with the weight of the pickleball and how it works bounce-wise, the easier it’s going to be for you to serve and get a great serve in…and not get a pop up ball.
  • Number three: practice, practice, practice. The only way you’re going to get anywhere is if you practice and play against other people. The better that you become at pickleball, the less likely you will have pop-ups. This is because you gain more control over the paddle and the ball. You also get a better feel for the height of the net and for the bounce of the court.

Pickleball paddle and ball inside the court.

Consider using technology. “One of the best ways to make sure you’re not doing that without taking a lesson is to see yourself on video and compare yourself to someone you know is doing it correctly,” says Prime Time Pickleball. By video taping yourself playing, either using a partner for the camera person or a tripod for solo play time, you can see what you are doing in real time.

Identify what the issue is causing you to have pop up balls in pickleball. Then, from seeing yourself making mistakes, you are better suited to correct those issues.

With these three tips under your pickleball “belt,” you’ll have a better feel for the way the court feels with the balance of the ball. Try to go to a pickleball court at least once a week if you are a dedicated player. This will give you the time to practice your performance and skills and paddling with the pickleball.

How do you serve the ball low in pickleball?

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

To serve the ball low in pickleball will help you avoid the pop-up scenario. Take the ball if you are serving it. Drop the ball and allow it to bounce up from the court.

Then take an underhanded swing at the pickleball. If you have ever played tennis, this is the same technique. If you’ve ever served a volleyball it is sort of the same technique there, as well, except instead of using your hand you’re using a paddle.

Take the paddle and, underhandedly with your wrist, lightly flick the paddle, barely moving your wrist and hand. A way to do this is to hold your wrist steady and move your hand at the wrist joint. Do not use your entire upper body.

If you use your entire upper body for strength when hitting the pickleball, it’s going to fly into the no-volley zone. As a result, you will most likely have a pop up again, the issue being with the paddle and the pickleball.

The reason is the pickleball is so lightweight as it is hollow and plastic. The ball is also full of holes so that air can get into it and move it around quite easily. It is not hard like a tennis ball or heavy like a volleyball.

That means you have to use a different lighter touch when playing pickleball.