Avoid This Common Mistake While Covering the Middle in Pickleball

Hand with pickleball paddle covering the middle of the court.

Covering the middle in doubles pickleball often leads to an unnecessary mistake that's completely avoidable.

Here's the scenario: we have a long, aggressive player on the left with their forehand (FH) in the middle, trying to make her presence felt. Opponents float a ball in the center for an easy smash, but FH and BH (backhand) collide.

I see this happen quite a bit on the amateur level and sometimes with pros as well. 

How do we solve this?

First: as you hear me call to Bonnie up front while her partner returns, I want her squeezing middle on her opponent’s 3rd, even with her BH.

Once they’re both at the kitchen and neutralized, she can slide back into “normal” position and let the long FH pinch middle.

The mistake was made prior to the beginning of the point. What do I mean?

We want to clearly communicate the intention of our roles at the kitchen.

Tracy is super long and aggressive, while Bonnie is shorter and has her BH in the middle (shorter reach, not as much power).

I want them to know exactly what they’re going to be looking for as the point progresses, which includes floaters over the middle.

Now, to the specifics DURING the point.

I loved that Bonnie squeezed her opponent’s 3rd, but after Tracy volleys her 4th... we want Bonnie to slide back right and a couple inches behind the line.

This will allow Tracy to roam aggressively towards middle and get her right foot across the center line for maximum FH pressure.

What’s subtle within this move, but extremely important, is the sliding of Tracy’s right hip.

The foot and hip need to aggressively move to middle, signaling to Bonnie that her FH volley is there.

If she doesn’t do this, Bonnie can’t know Tracy’s there, and will stab for the middle, as well.

Instead of reaching parallel, across the kitchen line, we need Tracy to set her paddle up and reach diagonally THROUGH the kitchen at the floater, cutting off the angle, not letting it drop, and also signaling to Bonnie that she’s there for the smash volley.

Read Next: A Hot Take Re: Pickleball Line Call Etiquette

Sometimes we can yell, “Mine,” etc., but often times, the point happens too fast, so non-verbal communication becomes crucial.

Get that hip and foot in there and make your partner feel your presence.

Embrace your role within the moment.

Dayne Gingrich is a Mental Performance Coach. Follow him here.

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