Playing doubles in other racquet sports, such as tennis or badminton, is similar to playing doubles in pickleball, with a few important differences. Doubles pickleball is more popular than singles pickleball. Because you can show up at a court and rotate in with strangers for doubles games, it's important you understand proper court positioning and doubles pickleball rules before you hit the court. To help you out, we've summarized some tips for playing doubles if you're just starting out.
Doubles Pickleball Positioning
How do you play doubles pickleball? The first step when playing doubles pickleball, is to position yourself properly on the court in order to maximize your chances of winning. Being in the correct spot can also minimize your chances of committing an error (like hitting the ball out of the air accidentally when it needs to bounce first.) Court positioning can be confusing at first, as players do not always stand in the same position. Position is dependent on if they are the server or receiver and what team they are on.
In general, each player should be responsible for covering roughly one-half of their team's side of the pickleball court. You are allowed to switch places on the court after the serve, but it's important to remember your original positions so you can return to them at the end of the point in sequence.
When the point begins, the receiving team should have one player (the receiver of the serve) stationed at the baseline and the other player (who not receiving the serve) at the kitchen line. On the serving team, the serve must be served from below the waist and with the server completely behind the baseline.
After the serve and return (remember, the ball must bounce on both the serve and the return) players should move quickly to the kitchen line to gain advantage. During regular play, seek to move as a team. If one player needs to slide to the extreme edge of the court to get a shot, the other player should adjust to compensate the gap left open. Good players will exploit poor communication or positioning to their advantage very quickly.
If the serving team gains the point, the server swaps to the other side and serves again. If the point is lost, the serve transfers to the second server. Players should again position themselves with one player (the receiver of the serve) stationed at the baseline and the other player (who not receiving the serve) at the kitchen line. The serving team's players should BOTH remain back, as the ball needs to be returned after it bounces before it is hit by either player. Hitting it out of the air at this point results in a fault If you need tips on how to call the score, read our pickleball scoring tips.
Like any relationship, the most important aspect of playing doubles pickleball is communication so you can work as a team. It is essential for the two players to communicate with one another in order to keep each other informed about their positions on the court and the trajectory of the ball. This applies even when the players teamed up are complete strangers. With proper communication happens, both players get the opportunity to perform at their highest level and reduce injuries and accidents.
Frequently, team that makes fewer unforced errors is more likely to win. Rallies are usually lost because of simple errors, rather than good shots or impressive slams from opponents.
Players should call "Mine!" or "I got it!" to tell their partner they are ready to control the hit. Alternatively, the other player can say "Yours!" or "You!" to tell another player they are backing off. Usually, the person who has the forehand will more aggressively control the middle of the court, but depending on skill and speed levels of the players, this may not always be the case.
If the ball is going to land out-of-bounds, you can call "Out" or "No" to alert your partner not to hit it. Sometimes it's hard to see the lines when a ball is flying fast and a player is running, so partners can be very beneficial as a second set of eyes!
Doubles pickleball is a game that requires strategy on everyone's part. A well-placed shot can throw your opponents out of ideal positioning and quickly give you the advantage.
It is essential to give some thought to where you want to position your shots and how you can best set up your partner for a successful shot. For instance, you might want to hit a soft shot to the backhand of your opponent, or you might want to hit a lob to push your opponent to travel around the court. Both of these strategies will drive your opponent to play more skillfully. On the contrary, popping a shot up too high can disadvantage your partner very quickly. As you get better, be aware of keeping your shots low and fast.
Teamwork is absolutely essential, seeing as how doubles pickleball is played as a team sport. On the court, it is essential for the two players to cooperate with one another and offer assistance to one another. This requires you to pay attention to the shots being taken by your partner and collaborate with them to improve your chances of success.
If you've never played doubles pickleball before, the following tips for scoring and some of the most fundamental regulations will help you get started:
- Before beginning, check to see that you have all of the necessary equipment. Everyone needs a paddle and you should check the ball is in good condition and not cracked.
- Get acquainted with the game's rules before you start playing. This can help avoid arguments and keep the play more pleasant. Before a team may score a point in doubles pickleball, each player must serve the ball underhand, and the ball must bounce on either side of the court.
- The ball is served into play by the team that is serving from behind the back line to start each game. Before the ball can be returned, the server is required to make an underhand serve, and the ball must bounce on the other side of the court. The team that is on the receiving end of the serve is the one that is responsible for returning it by hitting the ball back over the net and into the opposing court.
- The serving team is awarded points whenever they are victorious in a rally, whenever the receiving team fails to return the ball in the appropriate manner, or whenever the serving team makes a mistake (such as serving the ball out of bounds or hitting it into the net).
- In a game of doubles pickleball, the winner is determined by the first team to score 11 points while holding a lead of at least two points. In the event that the score reaches 10-10, play will usually continue until one team has a two-point advantage over the other.
- Avoid poaching if you don't know when this appropriate. Don't take away someone's forehead shot with your backhand unless they clearly cannot get to it. If you are playing with an older player or someone with mobility issues, you may play more aggressively or outside of your court half as needed.
- Make sure you say the score before serving!
- Don't apologize when you mess up. Just move on. Compliment or paddle tap your partner after the rally ends when you make a good move. Attitude is everything!
- If you are still confused about the rules or scoring of doubles pickleball, don't be afraid to seek advice from a more experienced player or an official at the competition.
You'll be able to enhance your doubles pickleball game and have more fun out on the court if you follow this advice. Happy playing!