Communication: The Key to Playing Doubles

If you walk by any Pickleball court, most often you will see people playing doubles.  In fact, it is rare to see many singles games going on during recreational play.  Even at the professional level of Pickleball, most players prefer doubles and many don’t even play singles.  While doubles is the most popular form of Pickleball, it can definitely present some challenges when playing with a partner.  In talking with Pickleball coach Jason Grigg, he spoke about the key to doubles. “I think number one it is communication, right?  So it’s working on having some of that communication or even talking before you go out and play like who’s going to take more of the middle.”  

And communicating with your partner should occur not only before a game, but also in between rallies and even during a point.  Like Jason said, it’s always good to talk about who is going to take balls down the middle before a game.  In competitive matches a team may decide the stronger player will take this shot.  In other cases it could be the person who is on a diagonal from their opponent hitting the ball.  And often in recreational games, the strategy is for the player hitting the forehand to take the ball hit down the middle.  As you can see, there are many scenarios and these can all be discussed before your start the game.

Even if you have talked strategy before a game, you may find it is not working.  So, communicating in between rallies is also important.  As an example, you may have decided your partner, who is the stronger player, will take balls down the middle.  However, your partner may be having an off day so take the time to discuss this between points and perhaps change your strategy.  

As you watch higher level players, they also have non-verbal communication occurring just before the start of the point.  In fact, they use hand signals behind their back to let their partner know whether they will be staying on their side or switching.  Jason said, “So for example, my partner will be on the left side of me and I’ll be returning on the right.  And then my partner gives me the open hand that he’s going to switch over to the right side of the court, and then I’m going to move in behind him.”  If a player has a closed hand or is making a fist, then they are communicating to their partner not to switch.

At higher levels of play in Pickleball, you will even see players talking to each other during a rally.  A common scenario is when the serving team is hitting a third shot drop.  If the player making the shot feels it is going too high or long when it comes off their paddle, they will say something to their partner.  This then allows the team to be patient moving forward since their opponent may be able to attack.

As you can see, playing doubles has some challenges but having an open line of communication with your partner is critical.  Even when playing in recreational games, you should at least discuss some basic strategy before the game.

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