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Pickleball Stacking and Switching: A Beginner’s Guide

by Trey Sizemore | Last Updated:   September 13, 2020

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As pickleball continues it’s meteoric growth from its neighborhood roots to a worldwide phenomenon, you can be sure that strategies and techniques will change just as quickly. In this article, we’ll explore one of the ‘tried & true’ strategies, pickleball stacking, as well as it’s close relative switching. 

These strategies center around getting you and your partner positioned on your strongest side (as the serving team during serve and the subsequent third shot or as the returning team for the return and fourth shot). At first glance, the move may seem confusing to you or maybe even illegal. With a little bit of practice and background knowledge, however, you can be on your way to becoming a stacking/switching pro. 

Stacking Explained

Pickleball stacking refers to the formation in doubles where both players line up on one side of the court during the serve (or return of serve). Once the server hits the ball, each teammate can slide to their preferred side of the court.

If you’re a beginner player or someone who has just learned the basic pickleball strategies, you may wonder what the point of such a move would be. 

The Benefits

The primary reason players will use stacking as a strategy is to take advantage of their team strengths. Of course, these advantages look different for each team and its participants. A few common combinations include: 

As you’re playing, you should be aware of how you’re doing as a team when you and your partner are on each side of the court. You may find when you’re on the even side and/or your partner is directly across from one opponent you win more points.  Use stacking to keep this alignment as much as possible.

The Rules

Stacking can make for an extremely powerful play. It is crucial, however, that you continue to follow the rules even while participating in this strategy. Here are the most common rules that are broken during stacking attempts:

Therefore, as long as the server is following the original guidelines, it is completely legal for your team to stack however it benefits you the most. Just remember not to cross the plane of the net!

Switching Explained

Switching is a variation of stacking. Instead of both players starting on one side of the court, each player will start on their ‘traditional’ side and then switch after a serve.

Unlike stacking, switching has the element of surprise. Rather than ‘show your hand’ to your opponents, you’re in the traditional positions to start and then quickly move after the serve.  You have a quick signal with your partner before the point so that you both know if you’re staying or switching.  

Another advantage with switching is utilizing a ‘fake.’  Even if you and your partner decide not to switch, you can keep your opponents guessing by quickly feinting a switch and then moving back to your original positions.

Preparing for Your Game

There you have it, a quick introduction to pickleball stacking and pickleball switching for your next pickleball match. All you need now is a partner, opponents, a court, and the proper equipment–but that’s the fun stuff. Remember, pickleball is all about having fun and getting active in your community!

If you have any further questions or need help getting started on your pickleball journey, check out our complete beginner’s guide. Here, all your questions about pickleball rules, training, and equipment will be answered.

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Trey Sizemore is the founder of pickleballhut.com, and the host of the 'Dinking Out Loud' podcast. Trey has been playing pickleball for several years and loves helping others discover this great game and improve their skills. Trey has launched several online resources with the goal of helping players of all levels improve their game through multi-format instruction.