Four Tips on being a successful pickleball team.
Encouragement and positivity is the name of the game. Verbal and nonverbal communication is the key to moving forward. Calling the ball is a good way to keep communication in the center of your game. When the ball is coming across the net make sure you communicate, mine or yours. Calling the ball keeps you and your partner connected and energized while avoiding confusion. Your energy level and your partners plays a big role on the court. Recognize when you or your partner has low energy. Remind each other to move their feet and get to the non-volley line. When communication breaks down, it is vital that you get back on track. Walking away, rolling the eyes, reminding a partner of what they should have done; are signs that communication is breaking down. You need to course correct quickly. Laugh off mistakes, encourage your partner to shake it off. Always move away from blaming and default to encouragement. Rally around what we as a team can do next. If you find yourself upset in the moment, take a deep breath. Our communication in the moment can affect the next point or even the entire game. If your partner is struggling, your job is to lift them up. The best players do not necessarily make the best team. Good communication will resonate beyond individual wins or losses.
2. Strategic Shot Selection
Hit shots to engage and include your partner in the point. I have played matches where I was the one always getting the ball and times when I rarely got the ball. This is often related to shot selection. Utilizing basic shots strategically can engage your partner in points. Returning the ball deep down the line allows your partner to step over and poach that next shot. Cross court dinking is a great way to engage your partner in the point. However, make sure you change up your dinking (short, deep, middle, wide). This increases the odds that your opponent might pop up the ball a little or hit closer to your partner and create an opportunity to hit the ball in the air. If your opponents are locked in at the net on the non-volley zone line, throwing up a lob can open up the court and give you and your partner more opportunities. The art of doubles is similar to chess. One of my favorite parts of pickleball is not about hitting the winner, its hitting the shot before or even three shots before that creates the opportunity for the winner.
3. Effectively Utilizing Time Outs
It took me 2 years of playing this sport to truly understand the benefit of time outs. A pickleball game can go by fast. Calling a timeout is a great way to regroup, reconnect, and change the momentum. My timeout philosophy is do it. Trust your gut and call the timeout. I have learned from watching and playing against many great players that often after they lose 2-3 points in a row it is routine for them to take a time out. A timeout can allow you to reestablish good communication with your partner and decide on a strategy for moving forward. Timeouts are best used as an opportunity to leave the past points behind, clear your mind and focus on the next point.
4. Play to Your Strengths
Know your partner’s favorite shots and their strengths. What side of the court are they better on? Are they comfortable with stacking and playing different sides of the court? Do they prefer to dink cross-court or down the line? Do they have an amazing Ernie? Talk to your partner about your strengths and take the time to understand theirs. Considering each other’s strengths is valuable when deciding on your’ strategy for a specific match. Knowing your partner’s strengths allows you to remind them of their strengths when times get tough.
As in life, so it goes in pickleball. Good communication can often be the difference between winning and losing. My longtime pickleball partner Chris often says, “Remember, it’s just pickleball. Hit that ball and let’s have fun!” I could not agree more. Have fun on whatever court you may find yourself.