Capital Area Pickleball Association
Serving Dane County Wisconsin

Communicating With Your Partner

21 Feb 2024 8:55 AM | Abigail Darwin

If you play doubles in pickleball, there are some things that you and your partner should consider communicating about before a game or tournament to maximize your effectiveness as a team. Here are some important topics that you and your partner may want to discuss before you ever set foot on the court:  

  • If there is a short shot, who will get it? This is a particularly important point to discuss if one player is a considerably faster runner than the other. On the other hand, if both partners are in equal physical conditioning, then they would probably agree to each run down their own balls! The exception to this would be if one of the players were out of position, in which case, it might be wise to yell “yours” and let the other player try to get the ball.
  • If there is a lob, who will get it? Do one or both partners intend to hit every lob as an overhead? Do one or both players intend to run down every ball that is launched over him? Or, would one or both players prefer that in a lob situation, the other player run down the ball behind their partner, yell “switch,” and then they would temporarily switch which sides of the court they are defending? This may be particularly helpful in a situation where one of the players has a neck or shoulder injury.
  • If both or neither player have forehands in the middle, who will cover the middle? Both players could have a forehand in the middle in a stacking situation, for example. So, in that case, the player with the stronger forehand would want to be the one to take most of the shots that land in the middle. However, if one of the players is a leftie but the team does not like to stack, for example, then there could be situations where neither player has a forehand in the middle. The players should discuss whose backhand is stronger to handle shots that land in the middle in those situations.
  • The players should decide ahead of time that they will call every ball that is even mildly ambiguous by yelling “got it” or “mine/yours.” That way, very few or (ideally) no balls will be missed, especially those that come down the middle.
  • The players should agree to call “watch it,” “bounce,” or something similar, to assist their partner if a ball looks like it is going to land outside the bounds of the court. Note that according to the 2024 Official Rulebook, Rule 6.C.10., a player CAN call a ball “out,” before it bounces, and it is only considered partner communication. Only after the ball bounces is saying “out” considered an actual line call! See Rule 6.C.11.
  • If one player accidentally hits a short lob, they should yell, “Heads up!” to alert their partner that she may wish to retreat to the baseline and/or just generally protect herself!
  • The partners should decide if they want to stack. Stacking can be done either because one player is left-handed and one player is right-handed, in order to ensure that one player always has a forehand in the middle, but it can also be done to ensure that one player with a stronger forehand or a weaker backhand is always on one side of the court.
  • Partners should always call each other’s lines in or out, so that their partner can focus on hitting the ball.
  • The players should discuss whether the other’s preference is to hit third shot drops or third shot drives.
  • Discuss whether the other one likes to lob a lot.
  • The players should also discuss whether their partner is a patient dinker or whether they are instead someone who likes to speed up the ball in a dinking match.
  • Discuss whether to do casual poaching, and retreat back to prior positions afterward, or whether to do more hard-core, switch-sides-of-the-court-style poaching.

Partner communication is critical to being a good partner in pickleball. But remember that everyone’s communication style is different, and no matter how much you and your partner prepare before the game, there will still be unexpected situations that crop up! As long as you and your partner are having fun, you know you have found a keeper.

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