Atherton: A pickleball partner with nothing to do? Listen up

Column: Paddle Up

In doubles pickleball, the server in the game must serve the ball over the net crosscourt to the receiver and not the person’s partner or it is a fault by the rules. It looks a lot like tennis.

The strange thing to those who do not know the game is that in pickleball, the receiver’s partner stands about 7 feet back of the net near the kitchen line. The eventual reason is because all 4 of the players goal is to get up to the kitchen line or force the opposite side back. The idea is that 80 percent of the time those who control the kitchen line win a point or force a change of server or a side out.

The receiver’s partner really has nothing to do, or so it seems, until the receiver lets the ball bounce on their side of the court and successfully hits it back over the net. I said, so it seems.

The receiver’s partner should be focused on the server and the server’s partner. Does the severing team have their knees bent, and moving side to side a little? Do they have their paddle up and are staying in back of the baseline of the court? If they are flat footed, knees locked and paddle down they are not ready. If they step forward on the court they are in big trouble because the ball by rule has to come back and bounce on their side before they can hit the ball.

I bet you can’t run backwards as fast as forwards. So while the receiver is primarily focusing on the ball and the server the partner really has a lot to do!

Now I have a personal thing about the game I teach. If you are the receiver’s partner stay the heck out of the way of the ball when it is served you’re not in the game yet anyway. I teach a partner to stand on the sideline for several reasons. By rule if the ball goes over the net and hits the receiver’s partner it is a fault on the defense and a point for the offense.

Plus a new rule in the game in 2018 states if the ball hits the top of the net and hits the receiver’s partner that is a fault also and a point for the serving team. So stay out of the way. Literally the rules are there to keep the receiver’s partner from doing annoying things like standing at mid court and waving their paddle to throw off the servers serve.

Yet another reason to stand on the sideline is for the partner to have a clear vision of the whole court. Not only of the serve but the receivers return of serve. If the return is down the right side of the court, the receiver’s partner comes to the center, if down the left on the partner’s side of the court that person just step in and turns to the serving team.

When the receiver’s partner sees the whole court he instantly can tell what to do by how hard or soft the receiver is hitting the ball back and so much more. It gives the receiver’s partner more time to react.

Bob Atherton is the Northern Arizona District Ambassador for the USAPA, a credentialed teacher and coach. He can be reached at 928-499-2498 or bobca39@gmail.com.