When You Must Communicate for Effective Pickleball Court Coverage

Nine critical rally situations demanding communication with your pickleball partner

Communicating for Better Court Coverage graphic

When You Must Communicate for Effective Pickleball Court Coverage

Ideally, you and your pickleball partner share the same general philosophies regarding court coverage.

But the reality is that when people are learning how to play pickleball, they sometimes only hear the "forehand has the middle" recommendation which is considered to be outdated and flawed...

In this article, we're exploring when to always communicate with your partner...whether you're on the same page re court positioning philosophies or not.

You Must Communicate with Your Partner During Rallies When:

  1. The opponents hit a middle ball that either of you could (easily or equally) return. Proactively say something like "mine," "yours" or "go."

  2. You're both at the non-volley zone line and the opponents execute a deep lob. Say something like "mine or yours" then maybe "switch."

  3. Your partner is tracking a high ball near the sideline while looking up into the sun and they aren't sure if they should hit it. Help them out and say something like "bounce it" if you think it'll be close or "no" if you're certain it's going out.

  4. You observe (but maybe your partner doesn't) that the opponents are setting up for an Erne. Might say, "watch it" or "Erne."

  5. A serve or return is deeper than expected (maybe due to the wind). Say something like, "back up" or "bounce it." Also, the non-receiver should watch the ball closely (to call the ball out, if necessary) as the receiver focuses on the return.

  6. On a high ball, the opposing team hits a short dink instead of a volley or overhead smash when you're both at the baseline or in the transition zone. Say something like, "go," "short," or "mine."

  7. One of you accidentally hits up a high ball at the net and you see the hitter's paddle hand going up. Attempt to defend or counter-attack while holding your ground or saying something like, "back" or "go back" to defend or attempt a reset.

  8. You plan to shift to cover the other side (stacking) after the return of serve. Indicate with hand signals behind your back or behind paddle face then get an acknowledgement from your partner.

  9. One of you is pulled off of the court and successfully gets the ball back over the net. If you're pulled off the court, say something like, "cover" or "move." If they're pulled off the court and you've moved to cover, say something like, "here" or "got it."

Most pickleball players won't take offense if you communicate as indicated above.

You Might Consider Communicating with Your Partner During Rallies When:

  • Topspin or backspin has been applied to the ball. Other than saying, "topspin" or "backspin," you might consider saying, "lift it" if you see that backspin has been applied to the ball.

  • Your partner is creeping up into the court when they should be behind the baseline to receive deep balls coming to them. You might consider saying, "stay back" or "wait."

  • Your partner is staying back at the baseline for multiple shots when you're up at the non-volley zone line (and leaving a large gap for angled shots). You could say, "come up" or "where are you?"

Some partners might not appreciate communication in these situations. In fact, they might take this communication as unwelcome advice or criticism so do proceed with caution.


In conclusion, eliminate as many assumptions from the rallies as possible to have a more favorable outcome. There are more upsides to communicating about court coverage than downsides.