Most pickleball players are right-handed. However, just like the overall population, a percentage of the pickleball population is left-handed (or even ambidextrous). As a result, it is important to know how to play with and against different-handed pickleball players. With that said, left-handed pickleball players have an advantage when playing against right-handed pickleball players because they have more experience with it. On average, left-handed pickleball players play many more games against right-handed pickleball players, than right-handed pickleball players have against left-handed pickleball players.
For the right-handed pickleball players of the world, have you ever stepped on to the pickleball court to play a pickleball game, and about halfway through the pickleball game, you finally realize that you are playing against a lefty? Or, even with a lefty? Playing with and against left-handed pickleball players is different than playing with and against right-handed pickleball players. For instance, there are different concepts and strategies to be aware of and to implement when playing with left-handed pickleball players, as compared to right-handed pickleball players.
Whether you are a right-handed, left-handed, or both-handed pickleball player, this pickleball blog by Pickler will help you improve your game when playing with and against left-handed pickleball players. In particular, this pickleball blog will break down 6 tips for playing with and against a lefty on the pickleball court.
1. Identify the Handedness of Your Partner and Your Opponents
All too often, I, or I see other players, identify the handedness of players too late—after a few points, and the momentum of the game, has already been lost. So, as soon as you step onto the pickleball court, identify whether your partner is a right-handed pickleball player or left-handed pickleball player. Then, identify whether one or both of your opponents are right-handed or left-handed. Once you identify who is right-handed and who is left-handed, be sure to be aware of where they are on the pickleball court before every rally. In other words, are your opponents’ forehands in the middle, or are their backhands in the middle? What about you and your partner—are your forehands or backhands in the middle? Share this information with your partner and communicate with each other if and when it changes.
2. Be Aware of the Spin on the Pickleball
Left-handed pickleball players typically put different spin on the pickleball, as compared to right-handed pickleball players. This is because lefties hit the pickleball from a different angle because… well… they are opposite-handed. As a result, you must pay particular attention and focus on the spin of the pickleball. This is true of when you are both playing with and playing against a left-handed pickleball player—but especially true when playing against a left-handed pickleball player. To counteract the spin, try the following tips:
- Focus and identify the spin, so that you can anticipate the trajectory of the pickleball and the direction of any bounce of the pickleball (including any “funny” pickleball bounces);
- Be on your toes—rather than flat-footed—and move your feet to react to the spin;
- Take short backswings, so you are able to react quicker to the sudden movement of the pickleball;
- Watch the pickleball all of the way to your pickleball paddle; and
- If you are struggling with the spin of your opponent, try to avoid hitting spin with spin – in other words, hit the pickleball squarely and drive flat through the pickleball.
3. Target Your Opponents’ Backhands
Many times, your opponent’s backhand is weaker than his or her forehand. By identifying and targeting your opponent’s backhand, you will probably have greater success in challenging your opponent and winning points. As a result, make a conscious effort to try to hit to your opponent’s backhand side (it goes without saying that the backhand side of a lefty pickleball player is the forehand side of a righty pickleball player, and vice versa), which will likely be his or her weaker side. This is especially true if you are playing against a left-handed player that is matched with a right-handed partner, and both players have their backhands in the middle of the pickleball court. In that case, you should target the middle of the pickleball court (whether with a dink, volley, drive, drop, lob, etc.), which will target both of your opponents’ backhands.
However, be wary when your lefty/righty opponents have both forehands down the middle. In this scenario, it will be key to target one or both outside lines of the pickleball court.
4. Try an Advanced Pickleball Strategy Called Stacking
For advanced players, you may see what is called “stacking,” which is a strategy (and at times a somewhat confusing strategy) for lefty/righty duos to position themselves with their forehands down the middle of the pickleball court at all times (in other words, a strategy to avoid the tough situation of where both backhands are in the middle of the pickleball court). Stacking is used to keep each partner of a doubles team on the same side of the pickleball court throughout the entire pickleball game. The partners on a doubles team avoid switching sides of the pickleball court. In other words, stacking will allow you and your partner to keep both of your forehands in the middle of the pickleball court.
To review the pickleball rules that permit stacking, check out Pickler’s pickleball blog titled, “Pickleball Scoring Rules – Learn How to Keep Score in Pickleball.”
For a brief example of stacking by a serving team, see the pictures below. The goal of the stacking strategy is to keep Stacie on the right-hand/even side of the pickleball court (which is on the left side when looking at the pictures below) and to keep Coach Steve on the left-hand/odd side of the pickleball court (which is on the right side when looking at the pictures below).
Use caution when stacking! If you are caught hitting the pickleball in the wrong position (which is easy to do if you have not mastered this strategy), you will lose the rally. Also, when stacking, you are having to take extra steps and move around the pickleball court. Oftentimes, this extra movement can lead to unforced errors. Lastly, stacking is not the best solution in every circumstance. Although stacking generally is the best strategy in order to keep both forehands in the middle of the pickleball court, sometimes, the better match-up for you and your partner against your opponents is actually to have your backhands in the middle. Analyze the situation and determine whether stacking is the right strategy!
To learn how to master pickleball stacking for doubles pickleball, check out Pickler’s online pickleball video lesson collection called My Pro Pickleball Coach. My Pro Pickleball Coach features over 140 video lessons (over 7 hours of instruction!), as well as a corresponding e-book. These online video lessons are available on demand 24/7 and breakdown every aspect of the sport of pickleball, including advanced shots, strategies, and other concepts like stacking. Unlike other videos on the web, My Pro Pickleball Coach’s video and e-book collection is organized for you in one place, has one consistent message from start to finish, touches on every aspect of the game, and is taught by the best coach in the pickleball coaching business!
5. Target the Middle of the Pickleball Court
The general rule on the pickleball court is to target your opponents’ weaknesses, which is oftentimes their backhand sides. However, there are reasons to stray from this general rule (other than to mix it up and be unpredictable). For instance, when you are playing against a lefty/righty pickleball team—especially a team that does not have much experience playing with each other—hit the pickleball down the middle of the pickleball court. This is especially true when your lefty/right opponents have their backhands down the middle of the pickleball court. However, this is also true when your opponents' forehands are in the middle of the pickleball court.
Since both of your opponents’ forehands in the middle of the pickleball court, your opponents will oftentimes (a) be confused over who should hit the middle balls and be hesitant to go for it, or (b) fight with each other and clash their pickleball paddles in the middle of the court. Use this confusion and hesitation to your advantage and make your opponents fight over the middle. Try adding further confusion to your opponents by also mixing up the pace of the balls that you hit to the middle (e.g., fast paced, slow paced, and medium paced).
6. Constantly Communicate with Your Opposite-Handed Partner
When you are on the pickleball court, you should always be communicating with your partner. For instance, “YOURS,” “MINE,” “OUT,” “NO,” “GO,” etc. This is especially true when you have an opposite-handed teammate on the pickleball court (e.g., you are a righty and your partner is a lefty, or vice-versa). Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more! Call for the ball and, to avoid the issue of confusion, hesitation, and fighting discussed in tip #5, decide who is responsible for the shots down the middle of the pickleball court before you start the pickleball game. This pre-match decision and constant communication will help you overcome any difficulties with the middle shots.
Use these 6 pickleball tips next time you find yourself on the pickleball court with or against an opposite-handed partner or opponent!
WANT MORE PICKLEBALL TIPS AND STRATEGIES?
If you want more pickleball tips and strategies on every aspect of your pickleball game, check out Pickler’s online video lesson collection called My Pro Pickleball Coach. My Pro Pickleball Coach is a fraction of the price of one clinic or even one lesson, and features over 140 video lessons (over 7 hours of instruction!), as well as a corresponding e-book. These online video lessons are available on demand 24/7 and breakdown every aspect of the sport of pickleball, including pickleball drills, strategy, and advanced concepts, so you will play your best pickleball.