That was my ball!
That was MY shot!
Had a question posed recently that reminded me I had not covered this important, albeit sensitive, subject:
“Whose ball is it?” or “Did [insert partner name here] take my shot?”
The scenario repeats itself over and over both in tournament as well as rec play. A ball comes across from the other side and you or your partner hit it (or do not) and other thinks it should have been (or not been) hit. There are numerous scenarios that can present themselves. I am going to provide you with some general thoughts and then a few hypothetical situations and how I would approach them.
General thoughts about team play
Pickleball doubles is a team sport. If you miss a return of serve, your partner also missed the return of serve. You are both in the same boat for the duration of the game or match. Whatever happens to you happens to your partner. And vice versa.
Players often say (or at least think) “that was my ball.” It may very well be that the shot should have been yours there, but it is important to understand when and why that is. Too many times the sentiment “that was my ball” arises out of a faulty premise: that the centerline on the court is a sort of ball frontier.
Why is there a centerline on the court? It is to delineate the serve box. Your serve must land inside that box to be legal. You also have to be standing on the same side of the centerline as the returner (diagonal) when you serve.
That is it.
Once the serve is hit and lands inside the serve box the centerline becomes irrelevant to the point and how it should be played. Except that players continue to give it an import it does not have. They do so because every ball on this side of the line is mine and every ball on the other side of the line is yours.
This thought process allows for several errors to creep in:
- A player may not cover the middle thinking that the ball “belongs” to their partner.
- A player may not poach an attackable ball despite having a better shot at it because it is not on their “side.”
- Respecting the “X” becomes more complicated because balls that are one player’s based on the “X” are not hit because they do not cross the line.
Is there a better way to think about who should take the shot?
Yes. And it is this:
Each shot is ours (as a team – a cohesive pickleball unit). The part of the whole that takes the shot is the part of the whole that has the best shot there.
That might sometimes be my forehand. Or it might be your backhand. Or it might mean you coming into “my side” to poach a ball. The only real question is: was that the best shot for our team?
Thinking about the optimal shot as what is best for the team is the most constructive way to approach shot decisionmaking. Rather than was that ball “yours” or “mine” think of it as “was that the best shot for us?” If it was (regardless of outcome – a topic for another missive), then you are good. If it was not, then a constructive conversation can ensue.
Keep working at it.
Hola. Hello. Konichiwa. After 40 years playing tennis, I am now a full-time pickleball player and professional. As a 5.0 rated Senior Pro Pickleball Player and an IPTPA-certified Master Teaching Professional, my focus is on helping players like you learn to play their best pickleball. In 2016, shortly after starting to play pickleball, my friend Tom and I jumped into the highest division at the first US Open in Naples, Florida. That morning it became clear just how much there is to learn in this seemingly simple sport – a lifetime of learning if you so choose. Since 2018, I have been on a mission to share my knowledge of pickleball so other players can enjoy the game at a higher level and attain their pickleball objectives. When not studying or playing pickleball, I like to travel with my other half, Jill.
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