Pickleball, often described as one of the fastest growing sports in America, is a fun paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It can be played as singles or doubles. But what exactly is doubles in pickleball and how does it work? This comprehensive guide will explain everything you need to know about this exciting team format.
- An Introduction to Doubles Pickleball
- How is Serving Handled in Doubles Pickleball?
- Understanding the Double Bounce Rule in Doubles
- Key Strategies and Tips for Doubles Pickleball
- Ideal Partner Characteristics and Communication
- Doubles Formations, Positions and Movement
- Equipment Needed for Doubles Pickleball
- Rules and Scoring for Doubles Pickleball
- Why Play Doubles Over Singles?
- Finding a Doubles Partner
- Committing to Your Partner
An Introduction to Doubles Pickleball
In doubles pickleball, there are two players on each side of the net who work together as a team to win points against their opponents. It brings an extra layer of strategy and coordination compared to singles play.
Doubles introduces some special rules and gameplay dynamics:
- Each team has two designated servers who take turns serving after each side out.
- The double bounce rule is in effect – the ball must bounce twice before either team can volley it.
- Players can employ various team strategies to boost their chances of winning.
- Positioning, communication and coordiation between partners is crucial.
Overall, doubles pickleball allows for energetic rallies, tactical play, and great bonding between teammates. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy this fast-paced sport!
How is Serving Handled in Doubles Pickleball?
Serving is one of the main differences between singles and doubles pickleball. Here’s how it works:
- At the start of each side’s service turn, the serve is initiated from the right/even side of the court.
- The team’s first server gets to serve until their team commits a fault.
- After the first fault, the second server on that team gets a turn to serve from the left/odd side of the court.
- The serving order alternates like this until the team loses the serve after committing 2 faults.
- This means both players on a doubles team get the chance to serve and score points during each service turn.
So doubles introduces a systematic server rotation within teams. The key is knowing whose turn it is to serve after each fault to avoid confusion.
Understanding the Double Bounce Rule in Doubles
One of the defining features of doubles pickleball is the double bounce rule. Here is how it works:
- After the serve, the receiving team must let the ball bounce once before returning it.
- The serving team must also allow the ball to bounce once before hitting a volley shot in return.
- So during a rally, the ball must bounce on both sides of the court before either team can legally volley it.
This double bounce rule adds an interesting dynamic and challenge to doubles play. It prevents teams from aggressively slamming volleys from the get go. Players must be patient and tactical with their shot returns.
The double bounce rule ensures longer rallies and encourages teams to set up offensive or defensive formations. It is a core part of doubles pickleball strategy.
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Key Strategies and Tips for Doubles Pickleball
Success in doubles pickleball relies heavily on communication, coordination, and smart tactics between partners. Here are some key strategies to boost your team’s performance:
Rush the Kitchen
- Try to get both players up to the non-volley zone as quickly as possible after the serve returns.
- This allows both partners to aggressively attack weak returns with hard volleys.
Master the Drop Shot
- The drop shot is very effective in doubles. It can catch opponents off guard.
- Drop shots down the middle can isolate one opponent in the backcourt.
- Practice drop shots frequently to exploit weaknesses in the opposing team.
- In doubles, hitting low shots at your opponent’s feet or body can create weak returns.
- Keeping the ball low limits opponents’ options and may lead to a fault.
- Don’t allow high returns that can be easily smashed.
- When receiving serve, try to return it deep into the opponents’ court.
- This allows your team time to get into better court positions and formations.
- Avoid short returns that lead to quick put-away shots.
- Similarly, serve the ball deep into the backcourt when possible.
- Keeping the serve deep provides an offensive advantage and can limit strong returns.
- Vary placement – down the middle, to the sidelines, etc.
Ideal Partner Characteristics and Communication
To maximize success in doubles pickleball, you need to develop effective teamwork with your partner. Here are some ideal partner traits and communication tips:
- Choose a partner who complements your playing style – don’t cover the same court spaces.
- For example, if you like playing the net, pair up with a strong baseliner.
- Positive encouragement and energy between partners is invaluable.
- Find someone whose on-court demeanor meshes well with yours.
- Avoid partners who are overly critical or negative.
- Verbalize your intentions – let your partner know if you are taking the next shot, poaching, etc.
- Warn your partner of any obstructed views and poor lobs.
- Discuss and agree on hand signals to quietly coordinate tactics.
Play as a Unit
- Doubles partners must function as a cohesive unit. Discuss your formations and strategies.
- Reassure each other after mistakes – don’t assign blame. Stay positive.
- Focus on supporting each other and playing as a team.
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Doubles Formations, Positions and Movement
One key to effective doubles play is utilizing ideal on-court formations and positions. Here are some top tips for doubles placements and movement:
Up and Back Formation
- One partner plays the net position (the “Up” player) while the other assumes the baseline position (the “Back” player).
- Allows both offensive (net) and defensive (baseline) capabilities.
- Partners switch roles if the ball gets past the net player.
Two Back Formation
- Both players start each point positioned along the baseline.
- Allows both partners to mount offense using groundstrokes.
- Good for defensive or slower players unused to quick volleys.
Side by Side Formation
- Partners stand beside each other at mid-court or at the baseline.
- They divide coverage of the court laterally (cross-court).
- Allows them to defend a broader area as a team.
- The net player can poach (intercept shots aimed at their partner).
- Poaching aggressively when you see opportunities often catches opponents off guard.
- Communicate poaching plans with your partner.
Equipment Needed for Doubles Pickleball
One of the great things about pickleball is that very little equipment is required. Here is the basic gear needed to play doubles:
- Paddles – Each player needs an approved pickleball paddle. Wider paddle faces work well for doubles.
- Balls – Standard outdoor pickleballs are ideal for most conditions. Indoor balls are also available.
- Net System – A portable pickleball net with a full 36-inch wide net at 34 inches in height.
- Court – A doubles pickleball court measures 44×20 feet, but any flat surface can be used. Court lines can be painted or marked with tape.
- Comfortable Clothing & Athletic Shoes – Quick-drying activewear and sturdy court shoes are recommended.
And that’s it! The minimal equipment requirements make doubles pickleball an accessible activity for players at all skill levels.
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Rules and Scoring for Doubles Pickleball
Apart from unique doubles rules like serving order and the double bounce, the basic rules and scoring for doubles matches are the same as in singles pickleball. Here’s a quick summary:
- Matches are played to 11 points, win by 2.
- The serving team only scores points; the receiving team cannot score on a serve.
- Players switch sides after each game.
- Faults occur when serves or returns land outside designated playing areas.
- The non-volley zone (the “kitchen”) spans 7 feet from the net on each side.
- Volleying is prohibited within the non-volley zone.
The first team to reach the winning point total is declared the winner. Make sure to agree on the match scoring format before starting a doubles game.
Why Play Doubles Over Singles?
Doubles pickleball offers some unique benefits beyond just singles play:
- Social Experience – You get to play and bond with a partner. Doubles is great for meeting new people.
- Strategic Play – More complex strategy with coordinated formations and plays.
- Expanded Court Coverage – Your team can cover a larger overall court area.
- Longer Rallies – The double bounce rule leads to extended volley exchanges.
- Less Physically Demanding – Each player runs less distance since coverage is split between partners.
Both doubles and singles pickleball are fun, competitive formats. But doubles Pickleball provides that extra social and strategic team element that many players enjoy.
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Finding a Doubles Partner
As a beginner, how can you find that ideal doubles partner? Here are some tips:
- Ask fellow players you meet at pickleball courts or clubs. Get their contact info.
- Check community bulletin boards for people seeking partners.
- Join pickleball Facebook Groups or Meetups and post partner requests.
- Register for doubles tournaments – they will match you with a partner.
- Enroll in group lessons designated for doubles play.
Don’t be shy to ask fellow players about partnering up! Sharing a love of pickleball is a great foundation for teaming up.
Committing to Your Partner
Once you’ve found a compatible doubles partner, make a commitment to each other:
- Set Up Regular Games – Block out time each week to play together. This builds chemistry.
- Learn Your Partner’s Style – Pay attention to their tendencies on the court. Learn how to complement each other’s play.
- Improve Together – Help each other polish skills and technique. Take lessons together.
- Communicate Openly – Discuss matches thoroughly afterwards to improve. But stay positive!
- Compete Together – When ready, start joining doubles tournaments. Prepare diligently together.
- Have Fun! – First and foremost, playing pickleball should be enjoyable. Stay positive on the court.
Finding a steady partner and committing to doubles play together lets your skills, chemistry and strategies evolve. Soon you’ll be a doubles powerhouse!
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In this complete guide, we have covered all the key aspects of doubles play in pickleball:
- Serving Order – Partners alternate serves after faults.
- Double Bounce Rule – Receiving team and serving team must let the ball bounce once before volleying.
- Positioning & Formations – Up and back, two back, side by side, poaching.
- Communication & Teamwork – Verbalize intentions, provide feedback, coordinate attacks.
- Strategies & Tactics – Rushing the kitchen, drop shots, keeping the ball low, hitting deep returns.
- Equipment Needed – Paddles, ball, net system, court, athletic gear.
Doubles pickleball requires strategic gameplay, positional skills, and solid communication between partners. With the right partner and some dedicated practice together, you can really excel at this exciting format!