Stacking in pickleball is the act of having both players on a doubles team on the same side of the court when the serve is made. Then, rather than sticking to traditional positioning, both players can take their preferred positions on the court. This allows teams to ensure a player with a strong forehand can utilize it throughout the match. It can also allow a right hand/left hand partnership to always have their stronger forehands playing from the middle of the court.
What is Stacking in Pickleball?
Stacking is an advanced pickleball strategy that affects which player is on which side of the court at any time. Pickleball stacking is designed to ensure each pickleball player on a pickleball doubles team can play to their strengths.
To understand stacking, you need to understand traditional positioning in a pickleball game.
For the serving team, traditional positioning works like this:
- The first server serves from the right side of the court, with their partner to the left of the center line.
- Both players then retain these positions until the point is over, before switching as the serving player switches.
When utilizing pickleball stacking:
- Rather than having players on either side of the court at the baseline, both the serving player and their partner stand on the same side of the center line.
- Then, once the third shot has been hit by the correct player, each member of the stacking team takes their positions on their preferred side of the court.
Pickleball stacking can also be used by the receiving team. In this version, both players will stand on whichever side of the pickleball court is needed for return of serve. Once the serve has been returned, the stacking team take their positions on their preferred court side.
What’s the Advantage of Stacking?
Stacking is an advanced strategy for pickleball players looking to take their game to the next level. New players should focus on developing their dinking and control of the non-volley zone rather than looking to develop stacking strategy.
However, for advanced and intermediate players, working out how to utilize the stacked position can be a real advantage for your doubles team.
Stacking can be used for a number of reasons. The three most common are:
- When one member of the team has a very strong forehand
- To protect a weak backhand
- To utilize a left-handed player
If one of your team has a strong forehand, you want them to be able to use it as much as possible. For a right-handed player, this means positioning them on the left side of the court. This means any balls in the middle of the court are in the ideal position to be returned by the selected player’s forehand.
This same tactic works in reverse to protect a weak backhand. If you are a righty with a weak backhand, you want to spend as little time on the right side of the court as possible, to minimize the number of backhand shots you are forced to take.
If you have a lefty on your team, you can use pickleball stacking to ensure that both the right-handed player and left-handed player are hitting forehands from the middle of the court. As most pickleball players are stronger on their forehands, this can greatly increase the quality of your play.
How Stacking Works in Pickleball (Step-by-Step)
Here’s a step-by-step guide to pickleball stacking:
- Step One: The serving team serves from the right side of the court. Player A (right-handed) serves, making sure they remain behind the baseline, while Player B (left-handed) stands beside them on the right side of the court.
- Step Two: The serve is made and returned by the receiving team. Player B returns the third shot.
- Step Three: Players A and B now take up their preferred positions on the court: Player A on the left side of the court, player B on the right side of the court. This allows both team members to hit forehands from the middle of the court.
Tips for Stacking in Pickleball
If you’re new to stacking, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Work out your strengths. Which of your team has the better forehand and backhand?
- Practice. Try it out with your team mate before taking it to a tournament.
- Communicate. Stacking can lead to confusion with players swapping positions on the court. Make sure both players know exactly what the plan is before a point begins.
- Experiment. You might not realize that you have a preferred side of the court. Try out different positions and see which leads to the best team cohesion.
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