Capital Area Pickleball Association
Serving Dane County Wisconsin

What are the Rules Regarding the Height of Release of the Ball on the Serve?

9 Jul 2024 10:22 AM | Abigail Darwin

Over the past few months, I have been either asked or told that on a serve, the ball must be released from the hand no higher than the server’s waist. Each time I have heard this, I have rushed to the USA Pickleball 2024 Official Rulebook and Google to see if there has been a rule change that I didn’t know about, and I can never find the rule to which the person is referring.

There is a rule in Section 4.A.8.a. (relating to the drop serve), which states that, “The server must release the ball from one hand only or drop it off the paddle face from any natural (un-aided) height." In plain English, this just means that you can drop the ball from as high as you can reach. Since most of us can reach higher than our waist, this could not be the rule to which people have been referring.

And, of course, the rule in Section 4.A.7.c. (relating to the volley serve) requires that, “Contact with the ball must not be made above the waist,” but it says nothing about the height at which the ball can be dropped before the server makes contact with it below the waist. So, this also could not be the rule to which people have been referring.

In fact, there is no rule about dropping the ball at or below the waist on either the drop serve or the volley serve in the Official Rulebook. See the serve rules at Section 4.A. of the Official Rulebook.

The last time this subject came up, I decided I would do some additional research to find out the origin of this misunderstanding that seems to be going around the pickleball courts.

It turns out that there was a pickleball tournament in January 2024, called the PPA Masters Tournament, and for that tournament, a rule change regarding the volley serve was implemented for the pros, which required that the ball had to be dropped from waist-level or below. Depending on how things went at the tournament, it was possible that this rule change was going to become permanent. Here is a video that explains the proposed rule change regarding the height of the drop for the volley serve, as it was implemented at the PPA Masters Tournament.

I now see on the USA Pickleball website that this is a proposed rule change for the volley serve (not the drop serve) for 2025. Here is a link to the proposed rule change language from USA Pickleball that would require that users of the volley serve be required to drop the ball from no higher than waist-high level and the rationale behind the rule change.

So, in short, there is currently no rule about having to drop the ball from waist-high level or below on any kind of serve. It may or may not become a rule in the future for the volley serve. Stay tuned!

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