Generally speaking, it is imperative that you stay linked with your partner and work together as a team on the pickleball courts. The general rule is that you should imagine that a six- to eight-foot rope holds you and your partner together at all times, so that you are at equal depths of the pickleball court at all times. If you move right a few steps, your partner should move right a few steps. If your partner moves left a few steps, you should move left a few steps. If you and your partner do not stay linked and do not move in tandem, you will find yourselves leaving large open spaces on the pickleball courts for your opponents to take advantage of.
However, there are exceptions to this general rule (like most rules). In other words, there are times when you will want to separate from your partner. And, when you and your partner break your link, you are what is called “disconnecting” from your partner.
Disconnecting from your pickleball partner typically refers to one player moving forward to the Non-Volley Zone, while the other player stays back at the baseline. This strategy of disconnecting can be effective in putting pressure on your opponents by creating more opportunities to hit aggressive shots. In other words, disconnecting from your partner on the pickleball court is a strong strategy when executing what is known as the “Shake and Bake.”
Consider disconnecting from your partner on the pickleball court when:
- The player at the baseline is able to hit strong groundstrokes (or aggressive drops) that are low above the pickleball net;
- The player crashing to the Kitchen line is able to move their feet quickly and is able to hit well-placed volleys (and, oftentimes, this is the partner that has his or her forehand in the middle, as the forehand typically provides for more reach to hit volleys);
- You can cause confusion for your opponents by moving on the pickleball court and changing your court positioning; and
- Your opponents either (a) have trouble with your groundstroke (or aggressive drop) and are likely to pop it up; or (b) are hitting your groundstroke (or aggressive drop) with predictability, so that have some certainty of where they will return your shot.
However, if not executed properly, this disconnecting strategy can also create vulnerabilities for your team, such as leaving the pickleball court open for opponents to hit winning shots. To prevent this, it is important to communicate with your partner and make sure you both have a clear understanding of your roles and responsibilities on the court. In other words, who is better to stay at the baseline and hit an aggressive shot and who is better to crash the Kitchen line and exert pressure? By communicating with your partner, you will likely avoid any confusion or hesitation on the pickleball court. Also, be sure to alert your pickleball partner of a poor third shot—even a small heads up could help your partner react to an aggressive counterattack from your opponents.
In summary, don’t be afraid to disconnect from your partner on the pickleball court in order to apply pressure on your opponents. However, remember that this is the exception to the rule. In most cases, you will want to stay in tandem with your partner on the court.
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