Good teams will adjust their pickleball strategy if it isn’t working. Being able to recognize a situation is not working is a huge part of your journey to pickleball mastery. It is also important that you recognize when your opponents have decided to try something different.
Adjusting Your Pickleball Strategy and Stacking
I have been in matches where we were winning from our preferred positions. For example, we may have decided at the beginning of the match that I should try to be positioned cross court from a particular player. When our opponent figured out that our strategy was working they started stacking or otherwise switched things up so they could go down the line on me.
Suddenly, our comfortable lead is not as comfortable as before. When this happens, it is important to assess the situation and perhaps adjust your pickleball strategy.
Assess the Situation
If you need to adjust your strategy you must discuss it with your partner. When I watch newer players in tournaments, I find that many don’t utilize the time-outs available to them. In a sanctioned tournament, each team has the ability to call two time-outs during a game to 11. If your score was 8-3; and it is now 8-7….call a time out! Take time to assess the situation. Talk about what you are seeing. What has changed? What is working for them now? Discuss your observations and the options that may exist.
I have written before about the importance of having a pickleball strategy when you enter a match. When a change is required, you need to consider all the options. It may be that your strategy to isolate a particular player is still the correct strategy. However, you may have to adjust your target.
Consider this situation…I am trying to work cross-court to my female opponent in a mixed doubles match. Her team has now stacked, putting her directly opposite me. This makes the court much smaller for me. She may still be the correct person to hit to, but I need to adjust my target and give myself the ability to keep the ball in play.
Our other option would be to hit to the (male) cross-court player; trying to go behind him. It may depend on how I feel that day…how well I am controlling my cross-court dinks. Regardless, this needs to be considered and discussed so that my partner and I are in synch.
Small Court, Many Options
If you match the pros play, you know that people seem to be repositioning themselves on the court on nearly every serve. There are so many options, even though the court is quite small. The most important thing to remember is what you and your partner are trying to accomplish:
- Are you focused on a particular player?
- Are you trying to slow the game down by focusing on the dink game?
- Do you want to be the first team to attack?
The big trouble comes when you don’t have that answer, or you and your partner don’t agree on the predetermined strategy. Often teams have a strategy and halfway through a game they abandon it … often without thinking about it or discussing it.
Slow Down, Think and Talk
We have all played in a match when suddenly the score is 8-11; and we can’t remember how we got there. Take your time. Slow it down. As the ball is retrieved and tossed to the server, consider what is happening. You may have had the right strategy, but suddenly (inexplicably) abandoned it. Perhaps you need to adjust. Call a time out and rather than walking separately to get a drink, talk to your partner. Often times, simple reassurance that we have the correct plan and are on the same page will turn things around.
The best doubles teams talk after nearly every point. Get into the habit of slowing yourself down and talking to your partner about what is going on. What are we doing at that moment? Is it working? Is there a better strategy for dealing with the current situation? Are you comfortable? Do you need a time-out?
Create a checklist that works for you. Then listen to yourself and your partner. Together you can determine the best pickleball strategy for any situation.