The difference between singles and doubles pickleball is so great that they might as well be two entirely different sports. Whereas when you play singles, the responsibility is all on you to do your best, and you only really have to think about yourself, doubles pickleball is basically a team sport (with a very small team).
Suddenly, yours isn’t the only opinion that matters, and you will have to alter your playing style to take advantage of the fact that there are two players on your side of the court. Some pickleball players, from kids to pros, are terrible at singles but can soar to victory when they are matched up with another player. Others, however, don’t seem to know how to modify their solo game in order to effectively play as a pair. Since so much of your success or failure on the court hinges on your chemistry with your doubles partner, here are a few tips for how to be a good member of your duo.
Just as it is the golden rule in almost all sports, the concept of treating others the way you want to be treated is key in how you interact with your doubles partner. Remember to give your teammate credit when he or she has performed well, and don’t be hard on them if they happen to miss a shot. Whether your pair wins or loses, both of you are responsible for your individual performances as well as how you work together. Blaming your partner is only going to cause unnecessary tension.
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After you have played together with your partner for a while, you will start to be able to read them pretty well. You will know, therefore, if they are having a tough day out on the court and be able to step up your game to compensate. Similarly, you will start to understand your partner’s personality both on an athletic level and on a personal level. Certain doubles partners are going to be more receptive to joking around and barbing one another while you play, but others will want to be very serious. Try to adapt to your partner’s style when you are playing together, and you will be much more successful at performing as a unit rather than as two separate people.
No matter who you are paired up with, your partner is bound to be better at certain things than you are. You might be better at hitting the ball from the backcourt, for instance, while your partner is great at volleying. Rather than trying to compete with his volleying skills, acknowledge the points of the game that aren’t your strong suit and let your partner thrive doing what he excels at.
Even if you think that you are better at some parts of the game than your partner, you should never try to coach them during a practice or a match. When you attempt to establish yourself as the superior member of the group, your partner will naturally start to get defensive and begin shutting down the lines of communication between the two of you. If you really are the better player, swallow your pride and try to make your partner feel like she is doing a great job. Occasionally take the blame for missed shots even if they weren’t necessarily your fault. You should also never refrain from playing at the best of your abilities even if your partner is struggling. By doing your best, you will inspire your partner to challenge herself to play at the same level as you.
Nothing is more awkward for a doubles partner than when the other person on your team behaves in a way that you don’t respect. You want to put up a front of solidarity between you and your partner that makes your opponents consider you to be a formidable foe, but this can be difficult to maintain if your partner is getting on your nerves (or vice versa). Don’t try to be too flashy with your moves, and react gracefully whether you win or lose. If you overreact to a bad shot (or a good one), it can throw your partner off his game and cause him to mess up the next point. Instead, remember to always practice good sportsmanship, and your doubles pairing will have the best possible chance at achieving victory.