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Change the Way You Think About Doubles Pickleball

by Thomas Shields on

Many players believe the left side is reserved for the better player. Anna Leigh Waters disagrees:

Do we need to even say anything else?

As the game has progressed and as it continues to progress, we have started to see, and we will only see more, side specialization that defeats the notion that 'better' players should occupy the 'dominant' position.

And if you've been reading us for a while, then you know that we subscribe to the Collin Johns philosophy of: doubles pickleball is not meant to be played 50/50. Both fly in the face of traditional pickleball teachings.

We highly recommend listening to or watching our interview with Collin Johns. Many of our listeners have dubbed it the most strategically insightful pickleball interview they've ever listened to. Collin is truly a pickleball genius and he sees the game in a way that few do.

For those that don't have an hour to spare, here is a quick excerpt that is sure to change the way you view doubles pickleball.


You should not be covering 50% of the court. The game was not designed to be played 50/50. Let's take a righty-righty doubles pair (the most common) as an example.

  • The left-side player (righty with forehand in the middle, or Ben in this case) should cover more of the court.
  • It's not about who is the better player, it's about geometry and angles.
  • Scenario: cross-court dinks. The right-sider (forehand to the outside, Collin), should be shifted so that if the opponent chooses to speedup to him, he is waiting with his backhand cocked. Anything to his right side will go wide.
  • If the opponent goes middle, the left-sider is ready with their forehand. The system is designed to play into the left-sider's forehand.

"The whole idea is that it is designed to route to Ben's forehand, whether that's the first or second ball. In an ideal world, I hit a clean winner if they speedup at me, but a player with goodhands will likely get a paddle on the ball, but the reply will end up going directly into the jaws of Ben's forehand, which is where we want the ball to go, and then it's goodnight."

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Sure, in rec play, it's probably more cordial and fun for both players if they cover equal portions of the court. But as you advance to 4.0+ games, there's significant advantage to adopting a system like Ben and Collin's.

But to put a bow on this: it's case by case. There is no blueprint, so experiment and see what strategy works for you and your partner.

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Thomas Shields

Thomas Shields

Founder of The Dink & Upswing Sports. Host of PicklePod with Zane Navratil. Sometimes commentator and show host.