We talk about court position when we teach beginner pickleball. Where you should be when your partner is serving. Where you should be when you or your partner is receiving the serve. Where we should be for the most offensive opportunity. But, what about court awareness, and for that matter, PARTNER AWARENESS?
Lets focus on this scenario. You are on the receiving team, and YOU are the non-receiver. If you’ve played pickleball more than once, you know that as the non-receiver, you will be at the non volley zone line when your partner is returning the ball.
BUT……what are your responsibilities, as you stand there waiting for your partner to return the serve?
1 – It’s YOUR responsibility to turn and watch the serve as it crosses the net towards your partner. It is YOUR responsibility to see where the ball lands, and to be sure that it’s a good serve. Your partner’s responsibility is to hit the ball back over the net. They should not have to worry about watching to see that the ball is in, especially on close calls. That’s YOUR job. You can’t do that with your back to your partner, in ready position, facing the net……waiting for your turn to hit the ball.
2 – Next, you should be watching your partner hit the ball, and know exactly where it is going so that you can adjust your court position accordingly. If your partner is in the left side court and returns the ball straight across the net, you will likely slide a little to the left to cover the middle as they are coming forward to the NVZ line. On the other hand, if they hit a cross court drop shot in front of you, it’s important that you know it’s coming long before it crosses the net in front of you, so that you are ready for whatever shot is returned.
So, the next time you find yourself in the non-receiver position, remember to turn your body so that you can watch the serve to your partner. Watch for where it lands in case it’s out, and then track the ball when your partner hits the return, and adjust your position. You’ll be ready a second or two earlier than if you just stand there facing the net and anticipating where your partners return will go. And, you’ll likely not get hit in the back of the head.