The vast majority of pickleball is played as a team effort. That effort is made up of two basic components, communication and strategy. Those of you play tennis and racquetball will recognize both components right away.
Communication is vital to successful doubles. Years ago the favorite expression in pickleball was, “I got it,” meaning I’m going to hit the ball. But as the sport got faster that term started getting confused with “you got it” so the simple statement now of “mine” is easier and clearer to both teammates and faster to understand and react to almost immediately.
The most important idea in strategy is to get up to the line seven feet in back of the net for both partners at the same time. That is the objective of both teams. It is a common idea in the game that whichever team controls that “kitchen” line over their opponents will win 80 percent of the points. The reason for that is that those who control the kitchen line will have the advantage of hitting a lot their shots at more angles with greater speed and control at opponents who are either forced back from their line or just not able to get up to the line in the first place.
It also becomes important for partners to move uniformly forwards. In other words, to stay parallel to each other as they move forward or move back. This prevents or reduces seams to open between partners where opponents can place the ball.
For the same reason it is also important for partners to move together from left to right or vice versa on the court. The court is one third the size for tennis court and partners who can stay together moving forward and back as well left to right on the court create a shield wall and make it difficult for opponents to get the ball past that wall. Partners who can execute these moves in concert will have almost 90 percent coverage because when they reach out left and right with their paddles that is how much of the court they can cover at any given time.
Now of course, that is no easy task to accomplish. That is why we like to say the game is easy to learn but hard to get good at. How in the world are you supposed to keep your eye on the ball and your opponents and your partner all at the same time? Part of the answer is just knowing where to be when certain things happen. Some of that is just experience and taking clinics that support the strategy. Also, happy is the day when you find a partner who knows the same strategies you do. Trying to stay with a partner that doesn’t know what you know or are doing makes the game a real challenge for you.
Another thing is what I call the “third eye” in the sport. You have heard the expression of catching a glimpse of something out of the corner of you eye. It is something like that but also sensing mentally where your partner is at any given moment. Sometimes this just happens naturally with partners sometimes it takes a lot of work and practice and timeouts to talk things over.
Bob Atherton is a columnist for The Daily Courier. He is a Tier 2 pickleball coach and the Northern Arizona District Ambassador for the United States Pickleball Association. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.