CJ Johnson Headshot
CJ Johnson
Tony Roig
Tony Roig

Cha Cha with Your Partner to Move Around the Pickleball Court

When you watch a professional pickleball match, what differences do you notice in a team’s ability to move around the pickleball court? Do you see that they’re able to cut off even the sharpest of angles and make it look easy? It’s because they’ve learned how to Cha-Cha with their partner.

I’m often asked, “CJ, what’s the most effective way for me to move with my partner to the net?” It’s a pretty easy answer. If you want to move around the pickleball court with your partner, effortlessly, focus on your “dance space.”

When I’m teaching players court movement, I think of it like a Cha-Cha. Which always reminds me of the 1980’s hit Dirty Dancing.


Move around the pickleball court

So, what’s your dance space in pickleball?

Someone may have told you to take a bungee cord or a rope and tie it around your partner and that whenever you move, your partner moves along with you. While I think that’s an excellent visual, based on what I see happening on the pickleball court, it doesn’t always help the team transition to the net. Let’s break down a team’s movement around the court a little further.

A pickleball court measures 20 feet from sideline to sideline.

As an example, I’m five feet seven inches tall, and when I stretch out my paddle and my hand, my wingspan is 72 inches.

If my partner is about my size and we account for a step in either direction, we’re able to cover approximately 12 to 14 feet of the court.

That means; ideally, we want to keep a consistent spacing of six to eight feet between us. If we get closer together, we expose the sides of the court. If we get further apart, we expose the middle.

Think of “your dance space” on the pickleball court, as six(ish) feet.

When you’re at the baseline, it’s pretty easy to imagine a six-foot bungee cord between you and your partner. Unfortunately, as people begin to move around the pickleball court toward the non-volley zone, the spacing changes. Which, in turn, exposes more of the court.

The easiest way for a team to maintain the spacing as the move toward the NVZ is to follow the direction of the shot.

It’s essential to be clear when we are talking about movement; we’re not focusing on the shot trajectory, only the path. If you want to learn more more about the types of shots and their trajectory, click here.

Luckily there are just three directions, down the line, to the center, or cross-court.

Option One-Down the Line

If my partner and I are the serving team and I’m positioned on the even side of the court and hit the third shot down the line, we should both move straight forward to the NVZ.

That would put me in a position to cover the sideline. My partner is responsible for the center and one step out wide. Those are the highest percentage portions of the court.

We’ve intentionally chosen not to cover the weak side or the court to my partners left. We know that we can’t cover the whole court, but we’ve decided to leave that open because that is the most challenging shot for our opponents to hit. It’s better to focus on covering the higher percentage portions of the court.

Option Two-Down the Middle

I’m still on the even side of the court, and this time the shot lands slightly to the even side of the centerline.

As we move forward, I angle a little toward the centerline and my partner a bit to the left of the odd side. Again, we are covering the portions of the court that are easiest for our opponents to hit.

Option Three, Cross-Court

I’m going to hit this from the even side over to my opponents even side, angling toward the sideline.

If we follow the direction of the ball, I’m moving closer to the middle of the court, and my partner is moving toward the sideline of the odd court.

They are responsible for the sideline, and it’s my turn to cover the middle and one step toward the weak side. Again, we’ve left the weak side open, but that’s the lowest percentage, most challenging shot for my opponents to make.


By following the ball to the net based on the direction it was hit, we move effectively around the pickleball court. That’s how we Cha Cha. Once you learn how to stop invading your partner’s “dance space,” things are going to get a whole lot easier. Before you know it, you’ll be effortlessly moving around the pickleball court.

If you want some more tips on how to get to the non-volley zone, click here.

CJ Johnson

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)


  1. Avatar photo Heather Macdonald on February 29, 2020 at 8:25 pm

    Thanks, very clear.

    What’s the strategy when playing with and/or against lefties?

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on March 1, 2020 at 7:52 am

      Hi Heather
      If both of you have stronger forehands, then I would recommend using the stack and following the same principles. If you need more info on stacking here’s a video for you. https://youtu.be/IQ2SS3bDa8E

  2. Avatar photo Heather Macdonald on March 3, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    Many thanks.
    Rather obviously been having a long ‘think’ about this.
    None of us is above a 3. We don’t see any players above this so far, in this area.
    Our group of people don’t seem to realise that play should change when playing a left handed person.
    Hmm, perhaps stacking isn’t a good option for us at the moment?
    Also – I love ‘poaching’!

    Have you thought about encouraging folk to enter the Seniors Tournament in Scotland?
    It’s in May.

    Thanks again,

    • Avatar photo Cathy Jo Johnson on March 29, 2020 at 6:34 am

      Hello again Heather
      You’re right it’s best to learn the basics first and stacking is a more advanced strategy. At a 3.0 level, most rallies don’t go too far beyond 5 shots. Focus on consistency and keeping the ball in play. Once the rallies are getting longer, try stacking. My experience has been that most lefties will quickly see the advantage and learn to stack well before their right-handed counterparts. It’s not uncommon for the left handed player to teach the stack. Hope that answers the question.

  3. Avatar photo Dale Voigt on March 27, 2020 at 8:43 pm

    Heather, there is a saying one says to exploit the disadvantage of a righty, lefties team that do not stack, That is back hands middle. Once the left handed person is on the odd side his back hand along with the righties backhand is in the middle. To exploit this tell your partner back hands middle and both of you attack the middle of the court with most of your shots.

  4. Avatar photo Joel leong on December 14, 2021 at 3:39 am

    In Phil dunmyer’s 5.0 pickleball book,he says you are always on a line from the ball to your a point on the baseline 2 feet in from your sideline. This even handles the ernie and, as you guys put it, your always chasing the ball I stead of just coving your half. I believe he calls it “the pat Carrol triangle”

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