Pickleball can be played as singles, but it’s predominantly played as doubles.
In doubles, the quality of your partnership is a critical aspect of the game.
Some “okay” singles players are amazing doubles players because they have all the qualities of a perfect pickleball partner.
But those aren’t born; they’re made.
Here are 6 qualities that make for a perfect pickleball partner!
Knows Their Role
A good pickleball partner knows their role on their side of the court.
This includes coverages – one partner gets one side of the court, and the other covers the opposite.
But there’s more to consider.
A common strategy at the highest levels of pickleball is to have one player field the majority of shots; the better player.
Most matches take some shape of the better player on one side, handling 70% of the shots (the majority sent towards the weaker player on the opposing side).
But, apart from the game’s highest levels, partners shouldn’t be doing this.
If you’re the better player – especially if you’re the best out of all three on the court – then you have a responsibility not to overplay your fair share of shots just because you can.
There’s nothing better than when a “real” player plays with novices without needing to take over the game.
Controls Body Language
It’s tough not to have a physical reaction to things.
When your partner makes a mistake, it’s important to keep your body language.
Think about when you make a mistake. There’s that one little second after it happens where we feel raw, exposed for ridicule.
If your partner says something encouraging and taps your paddle with a smile, that exposed moment won’t last very long.
But if your partner slumps their shoulders and rolls their eyes, then that moment will stretch and stretch.
And, wouldn’t you know it, that’s going to put us in a worse mood which will probably lead to more mistakes.
Us vs. Them
The perfect pickleball partner will have a “us vs. them” mentality.
On the court, it’s not four people playing pickleball. It’s one team vs. another team. It’s us vs. them.
Just having this mindset can do wonders on the court.
Say your partner has a tough game in a fairly competitive match (you’re all trying to win, but no one will have a bad day if they lose).
The other team – them – knows it, so they keep piling onto the struggling player.
With an Us vs. Them mindset, your initial response will be huge.
If your partner turns to you with a look of exasperation and you reply with, “we all have games like this; what do you think we should change up?” it will turn the problem away from your partner and into something you two can solve together.
The last tip leads us directly here.
The perfect pickleball partner will have specific solutions to the team’s problems.
Maybe it’s just switching sides. Perhaps it’s a new strategy or style.
Maybe the solution to the problem is just acceptance of the situation.
What do I mean?
Let’s make an example.
Say you get paired with a person you don’t know for a few matches or a little tournament.
And you two are getting smoked.
Your partner is exhausted as you are – you two are just overmatched.
Then, when you or your partner scores a point or makes a play, you celebrate it openly.
You can even have fun with it, saying something like, “the comeback begins!” while giving everyone a smirk.
Finding fun in the face of a problem can be the solution your team needs!
Communicates On and Off the Court
Communication is a big part of doubles pickleball.
A good partner will communicate both on and off the court.
If your partner is someone new to you, spend some time talking before the game. Get to know them as a person and their experience and style with pickleball.
This doesn’t take long and can pave the way for healthy communication for the rest of the match.
On the court, communication takes a different shape.
Giving little nuggets of support (not advice!) can make a huge difference in your team’s quality of play.
Even calling out “you” or “me” on shots can keep you both engaged and feel connected.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Every player has different strengths and weaknesses. And when they come together to form a team, that team will also have its own strengths and weaknesses.
To be the best pickleball partner possible, players need a solid understanding of tactics and strategies at their disposal and the skill of accessing other players (and how they match up) quickly.
Yeah, that’s a lot!
Especially if you’re playing with new people, you’ve never met before.
The more you play and study the game, the better you’ll be at this.
But you can hone this skill faster by intentionally practicing it as much as possible.
The next time you see someone playing, try to break down their game.
What are they best at?
What do they need to work on?
How does that compare to you?
Perfect pickleball partners aren’t born; they’re made! And you’ve already taken a step to become a better partner.
If you’re also looking to get your body sharp for pickleball and your mind, we have the perfect thing for you.
Check out our neuromuscular balancing course that’s uniquely made for us that spend way too much time (and somehow, not enough time!) on the court.
Kalindi Dinoffer is trained in multiple aspects of mindfulness in life and in sports, sharing on her blog MindfulKalindi.com. She is also certified to teach yoga, fitness, reiki, and MFR. Kalindi also serves as VP marketing at OnCourtOffCourt.com, a leading supplier of tennis, pickleball, fitness and yoga training aids and equipment and has been published in Tennis industry Magazine and Pickleball Magazine, and has conducted workshops at conferences around the world. In her spare time, Kalindi plays tennis, pickleball and table tennis and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and biking and cross country skiing in the winter.