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.
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 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:
- Teams with a righty-lefty combination: These teams typically stack so there are not two backhands in the middle or when one player has a much stronger forehand.
- Advanced teams: Use this strategy so one player has a better reach and can poach the ball when possible.
- Non-athletic teams/partner: For teams with a member who is less athletically inclined (or injured), stacking permits them to have to move around the court less.
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.
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:
- The player must serve the ball from the same side as stated in the rules
- The player must serve the ball to the same side as stated in the rules
- The non-serving player must hit the return of the serve, as stated in the rules
- The correct serving player must hit the ball
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 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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