Court Positioning Tips

I recently read an article written by Mark Price for the Dink Pickleball newsletter which reminded me of one of the first lessons I learned from Chris Heck. This lesson, when I had it years ago, was a total game-changer. Believe it or not, knowing where to stand at any given time during a rally makes a HUGE difference. This diagram that Mark Price has created is super helpful. I recommend printing it and committing it to memory, and practicing this court positioning at all times.

Here’s how to interpret this graphic: The white cones are the viable angles for an attack. The red portions represent low-percentage attack zones or angles where a slower dink would need to be played.

  • The white portions are the parts of the court that need to be protected.
  • The red areas are less of a concern because these are low percentage shots that smart players are less likely to play because of the margin for error.

Of course, you always have that player who goes all-in on 7-2 off-suit and gets lucky but in the grand scheme of things, these red shaded areas are the spots that you shouldn’t have to worry about as much. If they attack or speed-up in this direction, the shot is likely to go out and if they do manage to land it in, it’s sheer luck. And if they’re playing the entire game this way, they’re more likely to go bust sooner rather than later. In poker analogy terms, speeding up in the red areas is not final table strategy. You don’t have to worry about those players/teams.

Tips to remember:

  • When the ball is in zone one, Player 1 is responsible for protecting their sideline. Player 2 slides over to protect the middle of the court. Assuming both players are right-handed, they’ll want to be ready at the non-volley zone line with paddles up on the forehand side.
  • When the ball is in zone two, both players return to a more neutral position, evenly spaced to equally guard against attacks down the middle or dinks out wide. Paddles should always be up and ready for an attack down the middle. Still assuming both players are right-handed, Player 1 needs to have their paddle up on their backhand side and Player 2 needs to have their paddle up on their forehand side. You always want your paddle up so you’re ready for the speed up. If they choose to dink, you’ll have plenty of time to react but you never ever want to be late responding to an attack.
  • When the ball is in zone three, the proper configuration is opposite of the zone one configuration. With both players being right-handed, Player 1 is now responsible for protecting the middle with their paddle up and ready on their backhand side. Player 2 must cover their sideline with their paddle up also favoring the backhand side.

Give these tips a try next time you play and let me know what you think. Would love to hear your feedback.

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