Game-Based Drills

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Where Should I Hit the Ball?

The Wheels are in Motion

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There are the four stages of development in a serve. Top players—you’ll see most of them serve at stage 4 because they’ve had practice developing the first three stages. If you are currently at a stage 1, you’ll probably want to practice a stage 2. Keep in mind, it takes time and it can be very difficult to skip stages. You may also want to get with a qualified coach who understands the developmental stages and can work with you through the process.

Stage 1: 

•Toes of both feet point toward target 

• Hips and shoulders start square toward target area 

• Ball is dropped or hit almost directly out of the non-paddle hand 

• Palm of paddle hand starts facing target but may pronate 

or supinate during backswing or forward swing due to lack of control 

• Elbow tends to bend upward through swing motion 

• Wrist may “flip” or “scoop” upward through swing motion as well 

• Little, if any, knee bend is present 

Stage 2:

• Toes point toward target 

• Hips and shoulders square toward target 

• Ball is often tossed rather than dropped 

• Dominant arm drops back and swings forward in unison with hips 

and shoulders 

• Shoulder is more involved in the swing 

• Knee bend is often present 

• Backswing and follow-through are typically larger than stage 1 

• A simple “rocking” motion from back to front is often present 

• Palm may still pronate or supinate too much 

• Elbow may still be too involved in swing 

• Wrist may still “flip” or “scoop” too much 

Stage 3:

• Toes, hips, and shoulders point at approximately a 30- to 45-degree 

angle 

• Ball is tossed rather than dropped 

• Hips and shoulders rotate back slightly 

• Paddle hand drops down and back 

• Knee bend is present, weight shifts to rear leg 

• Hips and torso rotate open as paddle swings forward from the 

shoulder 

• Little elbow bend throughout swing 

• Weight transfers from rear leg to front leg 

• Follow-through may end with a catch of the paddle by the 

non-dominant hand 

Stage 4:

• Toes, hips and shoulders point at a 30- to 45-degree angle 

• Paddle starts high, ready to loop up and around 

• Ball is tossed and hips and shoulders rotate back 

• Paddle swings back and around with a “loop” then drops down low to 

prepare for forward swing motion 

• Knees are bent and weight transfers more fully onto rear leg, loading 

up energy and power 

• Paddle hand palm faces downward as the rear hip rotates forward 

• Rear hip drives forward as weight transfers into front leg 

• Shoulder swings forward as wrist now “snaps” forward in unison with 

hip and core rotation 

• Follow-through may be more complete as hips uncoil fully, typically 

parallel with the net 

I hope seeing these various stages of physical development helps improve your understanding, technique, and performance of your serve. Remember, it takes practice, so repetition is key! 

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The Four Stages