In April — after seemingly several years of “resistance” — my mom and dad started playing pickleball. They joined their local senior center and now play a couple of times a week. As is the case with many beginners, “mastering” the pickleball serve has been a challenge. What makes in even more challenging, however, is the fact that several of the people at the senior center are telling my dad that he has an illegal serve — and he needs to change his serving motion. Shown immediately below is a video of the serve. Is it a legal serve? Or is it an illegal serve?
Let’s Review the International Federation of Pickleball Official Tournament Rulebook
Last week I visited my parents and played with them for the first time since they picked up the sport. Like any good son, I videotaped my Dad’s serve to better determine its legality — or illegality as some have said. Before analyzing the motion from the videotape, here’s what the official pickleball rulebook says about the serve:
International Federation of Pickleball — Official Tournament Rulebook
Serve Motion. The serve must be made with an underhand stroke so that contact with the ball is made below waist level (waist is defined as the navel level).
Underhand Defined. The arm must be moving in an upward arc and the paddle head shall be below the wrist when it strikes the ball (paddle head is that part of the paddle excluding handle. The highest point of the paddle head cannot be above any part of line formed where the wrist joint bends).
Based on these official rules, there’s 3 criteria to having a legal serve: (1) arm must be moving in an upward arc — or, in other words, the paddle needs to be going in an upward motion, (2) contact with the ball must be made below the waist (belly button) and (3) the highest part of the paddle cannot be above the wrist.
The Verdict — Legal Serve!
As you can see when pausing the videotape, all three criteria are met — the arm is moving in an upward arc, contact is made below the waist and the highest part of the paddle is not above the wrist. Therefore, this is a legal serve — and it’s a pretty darn good one at that! Nice serve, Dad! See you on the courts!