A “Bert” is a somewhat rare—and advanced—shot on the pickleball court. To understand what a Bert is in pickleball, you need to know two things:
- What an “Erne” is in pickleball; and
- Who Bert and Ernie are from the long-running PBS/HBO children’s television show, Sesame Street.
What Is an “Erne” in Pickleball?
First, for those that may not know what an Erne is on the pickleball court, an Erne is an advanced shot that is named after Erne Perry, who elevated the shot and first brought the shot into mainstream competitive play. The Erne is a shot where you hit the pickleball either (1) in the air as you are jumping around the Non-Volley Zone (also known as the Kitchen); or (2) after you run around or through the Kitchen and re-establish your feet out of bounds, just to the side of the Kitchen, in either case, on your side of the pickleball court.
What Is a “Bert” in Pickleball?
In the show Sesame Street, Bert and Ernie were Muppet characters that usually performed skits together. Just like the Muppet characters from Sesame Street, Bert and Erne (*spelled differently than the Muppet character) go together on the pickleball court, too.
A Bert is the same shot as an Erne, but on your partner’s half of the pickleball court. In other words, it is an Erne, but jumping or running around the Kitchen on your partner’s side of the pickleball court (usually in front of your partner), rather than on your own side.
Why Use a Bert Shot in Pickleball
The Erne puts pressure on your opponents to make a quality shot and may cause your opponents to make unforced errors if they lift their heads to look at you running or jumping around the pickleball court, rather than focusing on the pickleball. The same is true for the Bert.
Further, advanced players will most commonly use the Bert shot:
- If one partner is being targeted, which will help them insert themselves into a point; and/or
- When a team is stacking and the left-sided player will jump over the right-hand side of the pickleball court when his/her forehand is in the middle.
How to Hit a Bert on the Pickleball Court
Hitting a Bert is much like hitting an Erne, except that you will have extra court to cover in order to execute your shot without landing or touching the Kitchen. Plus, you may want to give your partner a heads up that a Bert is possible, so they are not surprised with you flying in front of them.
To hit a Bert:
- Think and plan ahead, as the goal is to entice your opponents to hit the pickleball toward the sideline that you want to Bert on. This is most likely to happen when your opponents let the pickleball get behind them at the Kitchen Line near the desired sideline;
- Wait to move to the area outside of the Kitchen on the sideline until your opponent hits or is just about to hit the pickleball (which will help you disguise your advanced move); and
- Run or jump to the area outside of the Kitchen on the sideline to hit the pickleball. Remember you must establish, or re-establish, your feet outside of the Kitchen, which could be accomplished by dragging your back foot if you run through the Kitchen or jumping over the Kitchen entirely.
Again, the Bert is an advanced shot on the pickleball court, so it would be prudent to master the Erne before you start sailing in front of your partner.
Further, remember that the rules of pickleball provide that any contact with the Non-Volley Zone while hitting a volley (in other words, hitting the pickleball out of the air, without bouncing) is a fault - and this includes the swing, follow-through, and the momentum from the swing. All volleys - which includes all Berts and Ernes - must be executed outside of the Non-Volley Zone. So, you may jump over the Non-Volley Zone, as long as you do not touch the Non-Volley Zone line or the Non-Volley Zone surface area, or, if you touch the Non-Volley Zone, then you must re-establish your feet outside of the Non-Volley Zone before hitting your Bert or Erne.