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Friday, November 18, 2016

Where Am I?

Of all the confusing aspects related to stacking, the single most problematic issue is whether players are in the proper position to start a rally. This is especially true after several points have been played and players have moved all over the court. About a year ago, I posted Doubles Scoring and Player Positioning in which I wrote a simple rule thumb to help determine proper positioning:
One simple rule of thumb to start in the proper position is to remember which team member started the game as the server and returner, respectively, for each team. That respective team member will always be in the starting (right) court on even points. Each started in the right court on zero and should be there when their team has 2, 4, 6, etc. points. Obviously, when their team score is an odd number (1, 3, 5, 7, etc.), that player should be in the left court. Rather than relying on memory (and to assist referees), many tournaments will give the first server and returner wrist bands to help identify their proper positioning.
The RV Picklers have tried to help ease the confusion with a similar description in an article called Pickleball Court Position: Am I in the Right Place?

Pickleball Court Position: Am I in the Right Place?

I love refereeing beginner pickleball tournaments. Players often have “a-ha” moments. Such was the case recently as it relates to pickleball court position.

I had refereed the same male team on three occasions that day. During the semi-final, I could see a light bulb go on behind the eyes of one of the players. He looked at the yellow armband he was wearing, to signify that he was the first or start server, and said, “Since I’m even I should be here.”

After the tournament, I asked him about what he said and he admitted that it was the first time that he understood it. Realizing that some of our readers are new to pickleball, I thought I would review exactly what he meant.

I’m Even, You’re Odd

When the game begins, the first server is standing on the right side of the court. Their score is 0-0-2. As such they are the even server. If they win the point, they are required to move to the left side of the court. Their score is 1-0-2. If they win another point, they again assume the position on the right and the score is 2-0-2. We see from this example, that anytime the first server is on the right side of the court….their score is even. Anytime the first server is on the left side of the court, their score is an odd number.

“But what if I start on the left side?” you say. Well, don’t take this the wrong way…but you’re odd. By this I mean, If you’re team’s score is an odd number, you must serve or return a serve from the right side of the court.

Why Do I Need to Know This?

You need to keep track of what side you are supposed to serve and receive from because under Section 5 of the official IFP Pickleball Rules, there is a defined sequence for serving. [If you play singles, you are a better man or woman than me, Section 5.A explains that you serve from the position corresponding to your score. If you are playing doubles, read Section 5.B (especially 5.B.6 and 5.B.8).] After a long rally, especially if there have are lob returns, it is possible you may end up positioned on the “wrong side” of the court. Knowing your score, and the position you started the game will immediately tell you where you are assigned.

Refereed Matches

If you are playing in a refereed match, you may ask the referee if you are in the correct position and/or if you are the correct server. While I understand in the heat of battle, we all get a bit confused, if you understand the above you should not need to ask about the side. When  I am asked as a referee, particularly with non-advanced players, I am happy to help.

However, we have all observed situations where a team received a fault under Section 5.B and somehow becomes a pain in the butt asking “Am I the correct server? Am I on the correct side?” before nearly every point. To my way of thinking, this is gamesmanship and does not demonstrate the highest levels of sportsmanship. If I were refereeing such a match, I would likely call the offending team aside and suggest that a technical warning or fault may be coming their way. I find it odd that intermediate players, that are simply playing for “pride” often display more gamesmanship than the young professionals that are trying to make a living playing and teach pickleball….but I digress.

Stacking or Playing Power

Understanding the odd and even pickleball court position is especially important when you are stacking, or as some call it…”playing power”. We will review Stacking 101 in next week’s post.

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