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How to Be a Good Partner in Pickleball: A Key Element of Doubles

Two male pickleball players celebrating and sharing a high-five after winning a point in a game of doubles.

Learn how to be a good partner in pickleball doubles. Discover tips that will help you improve your partnership skills so that everyone will want to play with you.

In pickleball doubles, partnership is critical. If you have good communication, coordination, and strategy with your doubles partner, you can challenge even the toughest of opponents.

Being a good partner in pickleball means working as a team. It’s not the same as working on your serve, drops, and dinks. It’s about finding ways to maximize each other’s skill set and abilities.

In this post, I’ll dive into the intricacies of being a great partner in pickleball. I’ll share some important skills to develop so everyone will want to play with you, as well as tips for finding a good partner for your game.

Understanding the role of a partner in pickleball

Partnership is a critical element of this game. You must be on the same page to form an effective game plan and achieve victory.

Generally, a great partner helps you cover the court and execute your game plan. In advanced gameplay, doubles pairs frequently execute coordinated shot sequences or “patterns” to set up offensive opportunities. But this only works if both players are aligned.

Ultimately, the role of a partner is one of coordination and support of your fellow player. A good partner is also positive and uplifting. In this game, you win as a team and lose as a team.

Communication and coordination on the court

First and foremost, you must communicate with your partner on a regular basis. This means talking to each other in between points to make sure you’re on the same page for your game plan on the next point.

This also means talking during the point to let each other know where you’re positioned on the pickleball court and who should hit the ball. Nothing is worse than losing a rally because you both thought the other player would return the ball.

Effective partnership also means moving in a coordinated and strategic manner. It’s important to move as a team so you don’t expose areas of the court for your opponent to attack.

A common example of this concept is with dink rallies at the Kitchen. If your partner has to move laterally left or right to return a dink, you should move in the same direction as them to cover the gap in the court. Otherwise, you’ll leave a big hole for your opponent to exploit.

Female pickleball player wearing a pink top hitting a hard forehand volley in a game of doubles. Her female partner stands to her left, with both players positioned behind the kitchen line.

Qualities of a good pickleball partner

Being a good pickleball partner isn’t rocket science. If you’re consistent in your shot-making and supportive of your partner, most people would be delighted to play with you.

Qualities and skills of a great pickleball partner include:

  • Communication
  • Consistency
  • Dependability
  • Adaptability
  • Court Awareness
  • Strategy
  • Coordination
  • Sportsmanship
  • Positive Attitude
  • Trust

Tips for improving your partnership skills

Improving your partnership skills can help you achieve more success on the pickleball court. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Communicate consistently. Even if you’re not a vocal person, consistent communication during a rally can mean the difference between winning and losing the point. You should also talk in between points to align your strategy and game plan.
  • Move with your partner. During a rally, you and your partner should move together. Doing so applies more pressure to your opponents and limits easy opening for your opponent to attack.
  • Aim for consistency. Being reliable and consistent with your shot selections is crucial. Focus on hitting high-percentage shots and don’t give away free points to your opponents with risky errors (e.g., speeding the ball up off a low bounce).
  • Develop a strategy. Don’t just randomly hit the ball and hope for the best. Develop a strategy that you both agree on. In the modern game, many teams hit a third shot drive, followed by a fifth shot drop, then engage in a dink rally at the Kitchen.
  • Stay positive. Unforced errors and lost points happen in doubles. It doesn’t help either of you to get frustrated and upset. In this game, you win as a team and lose as a team. Stay positive and lift each other up.

Strategies for successful doubles play

In doubles, strategy and execution are vital. Because there are two players covering the pickleball court, it’s not enough to try and overpower your opponent.

Part of being a good partner in pickleball means understanding effective strategies and tactics:

  • Get to the Kitchen: Your chances of winning a rally are much better when you get to the Kitchen. At the Non-Volley Zone, you can dictate the point, keep your opponents back, or attempt speed-ups.
  • Drive toward the returning player: A common tactic is hitting a powerful forehand or backhand drive toward the returning player as they rush to the net. The player who hits the drive depends on the location and depth of the return.
  • Dink with a purpose: Extended dink rallies are common in doubles. But dinking does not have to be passive. Angle your dinks and move your opponents around the Kitchen to create offensive opportunities.
  • Attack high balls: When all players are at the Kitchen, high balls are a prime opportunity for offense. Attack high balls out of the air and, if possible, hit the ball down toward your opponent’s feet.
  • Get back on defense: If you or your partner pop the ball up into the air, getting back on defense is critical. If you know a strong shot is coming, let your partner know, back up to the mid-court, and try to reset.
Female pickleball player hitting a high forehand volley in a game of doubles as her partner stands next to her at the kitchen line.

Maintaining a positive attitude and encouraging each other

It’s completely normal to occasionally get frustrated while playing pickleball. Nobody enjoys missing shots or committing unforced errors.

The challenge is to not outwardly express frustration and maintain a positive attitude. This is especially important if your partner misses a shot.

Your partner will commit errors; everyone does. Getting mad or frustrated at them when they know they lost the rally helps neither of you.

Instead, try to be encouraging and supportive. If your partner misses a shot, let them know that it’s OK and that you have their back. Words of encouragement can be a powerful thing in this game.

Many players show teamwork and positivity with each other by tapping paddles in between points. It’s a small gesture, but it’s one that lets you know you’re not alone on the court.

Building strong partnerships in pickleball communities

One of the best ways to locate and develop potential partnerships is by being active in pickleball communities. There are plenty of places to look.

Join your local club or facility. Check out the courts at nearby public parks. Keep an eye out for online communities of players in your area on Facebook and other websites.

By integrating yourself into these space, you’ll be able to meet fellow enthusiasts, schedule recreational games, and even try out potential pairings. Plus, meeting new people can be fun!

Finding compatible partners and growing together

When searching for potential doubles partners, it’s important to seek someone whose skillset and play style complements your own. This can take shape in a few different ways.

Perhaps you want to play with someone who has a similar style as you so your game plan is simple and straightforward (e.g., driving the ball on third and fifth shots). Alternatively, you can find someone who fills the gap(s) in your skillset (e.g., someone who is great at dropping and dinking) so you can expand your strategic opportunities.

Each of these options are 100% viable, and they’re not the only routes you can take. Ultimately, a successful partnership forms when your on the same page and can form effective strategies that combine your individual abilities.

Additionally, pairings are usually more effective when you play with the same person for a long time. Over time, you better understand each other’s play styles and tendencies. This can help you win more matches against talented teams.

Frequently asked questions

How to practice pickleball with a partner

Practicing with a partner can help you improve your pickleball skills by leaps and bounds. With a few easy drills, you can work on essential shots and see quick results. Here are some two-person practice drills to consider:

  1. Start with dinking: Dinks are a huge part of doubles. You need to master this technique if you hope to win many matches as a team. Stand across the net from each other at your respective Kitchen lines. Start with some straight-forward dinks, followed by sharply-angled crosscourt dinks. Do multiple repetitions to build confidence and muscle memory.
  2. Third shot drop drill: The drop is another essential skill in doubles. More advanced teams won’t give you easy openings on the third shot. In most cases, the most effective play is dropping the ball and getting to the Kitchen. Serve the ball, then have your partner return and run to the net. On your third shot, focus on hitting a drop into your partner’s Non-Volley Zone. Practice both forehand and backhand drops.
  3. Attacks and resets: This is a variation of the dinking drill. Every couple of dinks, hit the ball high on your purpose for your partner to attack. While the ball is in the air, back up to the mid-court to defend and reset the ball. After successfully resetting, get back to the Kitchen. Have your partner then hit a high ball for you to practice similar shots.

Always think about elements of your game that you can improve. This will help you better craft drilling sessions and enhance your skill set. Your partner can also provide thoughts and feedback on shots to improve that they’ve observed while playing with you.

How to choose a pickleball partner

If you’re participating in official gameplay, such as a tournament, choosing a doubles partner is a critical first step. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Integrate yourself into local communities to meet fellow enthusiasts and discover potential partners.
  • Ask around to see if there’s anyone who needs a doubles partner (i.e., get a referral from a friend).
  • Play recreational doubles games with multiple people (with different play styles) to see who you have good chemistry with.
  • Try out different strategies and tactics during doubles games to determine their effectiveness (e.g., Stacking or Shake and Bake).

You need to find someone whose play style and skill set complements your own. It’s also helpful if you get along with your doubles partner. Camaraderie and friendliness usually make for good pairings.

Two female pickleball players, both wearing dark tops, posing and smiling after a game of doubles.

Can you talk to your partner in pickleball?

Yes! Not only can you talk to your partner in pickleball, it’s recommended that you do so. You should communicate with your doubles partner during and in between points. Otherwise, your coordination will suffer and you’ll make more mistakes and unforced errors.

Key takeaways

  • Effective partnership, including communication and coordination, is crucial for challenging strong opponents in pickleball doubles.
  • A good partner helps cover the court, supports executing game plans, and stays positive, ensuring teamwork is maintained throughout the game.
  • Regular communication between partners is essential for alignment on game strategies and real-time positioning during matches.
  • Partners should move in sync to avoid exposing weak spots on the court, especially during dink rallies at the Kitchen.
  • Ideal traits of a pickleball partner include dependability, consistency, adaptability, court awareness, and a positive attitude.
  • Developing and agreeing on a game strategy, such as utilizing third shot drives and fifth shot drops, enhances team performance.
  • Maintaining a supportive and encouraging attitude during the game helps partners overcome challenges and errors together.
  • Active participation in pickleball communities helps in finding and building partnerships and enhancing one’s game through social interactions.
  • Finding a partner whose skills and play style complement your own can lead to more effective and enjoyable gameplay.
  • Engaging in partner-specific drills like dinking, third shot drops, and reset practices improves coordination and skill proficiency.
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