There’s probably not a time that you step on the courts when you haven’t heard someone say forehand takes the middle. But is that always the right strategy?
Sad to say, but no, forehand takes the middle is NOT always the right strategy.
A few weeks ago, I asked all of you what was the worst advice you’ve gotten on the pickleball court. Something that you were told by your fellow players that sounded like gospel. Only you found out later that it wasn’t always true.
And without a doubt, forehand takes the middle was a popular response.
And that’s because there are very few absolutes in pickleball.
An example of an absolute is when you’re on the return side and again, keyword being return side, you want to run to the Non-Volley Zone no matter what. That’s an absolute in pickleball. But forehand takes the middle; that’s not an absolute.
Why the Myth of forehand takes the middle?
Chances are it’s because most pickleball players’ have stronger forehands than their backhands. So it’s easy to understand how this principle gets traction. But that’s not always the best shot for your team.
If my partner and I are both right-handed players, and she is on the even side of the court (right), and I’m on the left side of the court. That means my forehand is in the middle, and her backhand is in the middle.
But let’s say my doubles partner is Anna Bright, who has a deadly backhand, and it’s much stronger than my forehand. What’s the best shot for my team?
Yes, she should take that middle ball!
What other times shouldn’t the forehand take the middle shot?
Let’s talk about a concept called Respect the X.
Here, we’ve overlaid the court with an X. This connects the player on each end of the green line and then the players on each end of the blue line of the X.
When we break the X, three problems occur.
#1 -When I reach across the center line to take the forehand from the middle of the court. It puts me in an awkward position and makes it a more difficult shot to execute consistently because my arm is being pulled away from my body. This makes it more likely that I’ll make a mechanical error.
#2 – My partner and I are now on one side of the court, leaving us vulnerable to attack in the open court. If I allow him to use his backhand, we now have proper court positioning.
#3 – Since we are both on the same side of the court, it makes it more difficult for my partner to move forward. I’ve got him pinned behind the shot. It’s likely we’ll both be caught in the transition zone, no matter how good a 3rd shot I hit.
So now you’ve seen four instances when shouldn’t the forehand hit the middle shot?
That begs the question, are there times when the forehand does take the middle?
The answer is yes if you’d like to learn more about Respect the X and other times when the forehand should take the middle, click on this link.
Hey there — I’m a professional three-sport athlete and coach who has spent my entire adult life earning a living from playing and coaching sports. Since I started coaching more than three decades ago, one thing has remained the same: My commitment to see students not as they are but as what they can become and to move heaven and earth to help them realize their untapped potential. You should know that when it comes to helping pickleball players over 50 live their best lives on and off the courts, I'm an expert. Good pickleball is not just technique; it's the mind and body working holistically. That's why I'm also a personal trainer and weight management specialist. When I’m chillin', you'll find me watching Star Trek with my husband John and our two fur babies, Shirley and Ralph. (Yes, Happy Days)