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Should You Switch Hands on the Pickleball Court?

News Stacie Townsend 08-21-2023

The rules of pickleball permit you to switch the pickleball paddle to either hand while playing. With that said, we typically do not recommend switching hands, as it is difficult to do, takes time (which you have very limited time to react between shots, since most shots are played just 14 feet apart at the Kitchen line), and generally leads to errors on the pickleball court.

However, as highlighted by the permanent switch in hands that Dotty Zerbst had to do along her journey, there are times when you may want to or may be forced to switch hands in pickleball. These circumstances where you may want to switch hands on the pickleball court include:

Sometimes have to – whether on a point or for other reasons like Dotty

1. Injury – Sometimes, an injury can limit your ability to get out on the pickleball court. For those that are passionate about the game, and cannot go without it, have taken to using their other arm, so that they can still partake in pickleball. For most pickleball players, their injuries—and switch to their non-dominant hand—are temporary. However, for some (like Dotty), it may be a permanent change in order to stay on the court.
2. Extreme Defensive Reach – If the pickleball is far out of reach on your dominant side and you are unable to return it with your dominant hand, you might attempt to switch hands for a desperate defensive shot. This is a last-resort option on the pickleball court and should only be used when no other alternative is viable.
3. Shock Opponent – Switching hands “looks different” to your opponents on the pickleball court. This “different look” can be distracting to your opponents, as many pickleball players will watch the paddle or patterns, rather than focusing on the pickleball and its path. As a result, switching hands can sometimes lead to surprising your opponents, causing errors, and winning points.

 Should You Switch Hands on the Pickleball Court?

4. Learn a Two-Handed Backhand – When learning a two-handed backhand, it can help to take practice swings with your non-dominant hand, as your non-dominant hand does most of the work on a two-handed backhand (and your dominant hand is really there for support). As a result, switching hands can help improve the muscle memory needed to execute a strong two-handed backhand.

It is important to note that switching hands is a complex and risky maneuver that requires exceptional coordination and skill. Attempting to switch hands in the heat of the moment can lead to errors or missed shots, potentially giving your opponents an advantage. So, this concept of switching hands is generally not advised. Instead of switching hands, focus on developing strong footwork, positioning, and paddle control to improve your ability to handle various shots effectively. But, if you are going to switch hands, use the switch sparingly and practice, practice, practice, so you can limit your errors to the greatest extent possible.

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