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Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing racket sports in the US.
It’s become increasingly popular with elderly people and those who are out of shape, because the game has a slow enough pace to follow.
The rules of this game are relatively easy to follow.
It borrows rules from a variety of games, acting like a combination of tennis, badminton, and table tennis.
But when you’re just getting started, you might be confused by the pickleball positions.
Where do you need to be, and when do things change?
A quick overview of Pickleball positions
Before the game’s positions can be explained, it’s important to understand how the match is set up.
Pickleball can be played with singles or doubles. If you do play with a partner, there are specific rules regarding where you need to be during a serve and a rally.
When you’re playing as a single, you need to move to different court positions depending on the phase of the game, but you don’t have to pay attention to what a partner is doing.
Unlike some other racket sports, pickleball pairs don’t have any set positions.
There’s no obligation for one person to cover the front of the court and the other to cover the back, or for one person to cover the right half and the other to cover the left.
Most pickleball games are played toward the back of the court because of the kitchen.
This is the seven-foot space that extends from the net on either side of the court.
Both teams have a kitchen.
When you stand in this seven-foot surface area, you can’t volley a serve back.
You need the ball to bounce on the ground before you can hit it.
With other racket sports, the front of the court is often used for volleying and intense game play.
But pickleball expressly bans this.
In addition to helping preserve the slow and relaxed pace of the game, this forces the players to move back and focus on hitting long distances over the net.
You can enter the kitchen at any time without incurring a penalty, as long as you haven’t volleyed the ball while doing so.
There aren’t any rules about who can be in the kitchen or outside the kitchen at any given time.
While the ball is in play, you have full freedom within your boundaries of the court.
During the serve
Serving and receiving are the main points at which you’ll need to use specific positions on the court.
Once the rally is engaged, you can move wherever you want on the court as long as you don’t cross your side’s boundaries.
The most important part of serving is that you and your partner both need to stand behind the court baseline.
Technically speaking, the partner doesn’t have to stand behind the line with the server.
But this strategy is ideal for moments when the opponents send the ball back deep into the court.
Once the ball has been served, the server still needs to stand behind the line.
The ball will bounce and then be returned.
It must bounce on the side of the server, and volleying back will incur a fault.
There are rare occasions when the return will be short, so you’ll have to move forward to intercept it.
But most teams will send the ball back deep.
As soon as the opposing team has hit the ball back, you can move forward, but many experts recommend staying put behind the line.
After the ball goes through its second bounce, the rally can begin. You and your partner will move forward to the net.
If you play as a single, all of these rules remain the same.
As the server, you will be required to stay behind the baseline, and it’s a good idea to remain there since your opponent will probably return deeply into the court.
When the other team is serving, you are on the receiving team.
These are the best guidelines to follow as the receiver:
- Stand behind the baseline, just like you would if you were serving.
- If the serve is coming down the right side, stand in the middle of the court so you can move easily to your right.
- If the serve is coming down the left side, either stand near the middle or close to the relevant corner.
You are allowed to stand on the painted lines in the court. All you need to show is that you’re prepared to receive the serve.
The partner of the receiver, on the other hand, should stand just behind the kitchen boundary.
This puts them as close to the net as they can get while still being allowed to volley.
This person needs to watch as the serve passes over the net. If the ball goes out of bounds, they will need to call it.
Moving to the edge of the kitchen gives you the best vantage point for this.
You aren’t technically required to stand outside the kitchen, though. You’re allowed to retain your usual position until it’s time to move.
It doesn’t matter where you prefer to stand, as long as you watch the serve and pay attention the way you’re supposed to.
Whoever is in the receiving court is required to return the serve. If the other person returns it, you’ll be faulted.
Once you send the ball back over, it needs to bounce on the server side before it can be sent back.
Once the receiver hits the ball back over the net, it’s time for them to move up to join their partner at the net.
There shouldn’t be any hesitation. You hit the ball, and then you immediately move forward.
You don’t have to wait to see what your opponents do.
Important strategies for different positions in Pickleball
Pickleball isn’t a very fast-paced game. And the game isn’t generally about scoring on your opponent.
Instead, the goal is to keep the ball in play long enough for your opponent to make a mistake that results in a fault.
These are basic strategies that will work well for most pickleball games:
- Stick to a simple serve that does the job without a high chance of error.
- Start by serving to the back of the court, but practice aiming for other locations as you become more familiar with the game.
- If you’re playing outside, don’t forget to factor in the speed and direction of the wind.
- As you act as the receiver, get yourself in a position to hit the ball in a high and slow arc. This buys you time to get into position.
- Hard hits just reduce the time you have to prepare. Your opponents are likely to hit hard if you do, and you’ll lose the advantage of the relaxed pace.
- Don’t forget that the player who’s in the forehand position is required to cover the line at the center of the court. That remains true even if they’re serving. If you serve while in the forehand position, hustle back to the center line once the ball is returned.
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