Pickleball Stacking: The Ultimate Guide
As you improve at pickleball, you should look to implement some more advanced techniques into your game. One such method is stacking. You’ve probably seen players use it before, even if you’ve never heard the term.
Pickleball stacking is a technique that involves players taking up positions on the same side of the court when serving or receiving. This allows them to use more favorable shots to gain a competitive advantage. It’s the opposite of standard placement, where each player is in their own half.
Yet that’s just a brief overview. In this guide, you will learn what stacking is, its pros and cons, how to stack effectively, and much more! So don’t miss out!
Table of Contents
What Is Stacking in Pickleball?
Stacking is a strategy whereby both team players are situated on the same side of the court (left or right). This contrasts traditional positioning, where both players stand on either side of the court.
While this strategy may seem flawed due to the massive space it opens up, it offers much utility. The opposing team cannot exploit this large space as a player moves to cover it when play commences. Yet, simultaneously, it allows the stacking team to take advantage of superior placement, usually by offering more forehand hitting potential.
Pickleball Stacking Rules
Establishing the rules is first important before we explain stacking in pickleball and cover the pros and cons. You can’t do whatever you want. That would be anarchy!
When stacking, you need to consider the following rules:
- The correct player needs to serve the ball crosscourt to the correct side
- The correct player needs to receive the ball from a serve
- The server may not step on or inside the baseline when serving
- The ball must bounce while the double bounce rule is in effect.
The main takeaways are that you must remember the service order and not stand on or inside the baseline when serving. Both of which are fairly easy to follow.
Pickleball rules only restrict who can hit the ball and where they can hit it from the serve and return. This means you are free to move as you choose after these shots. As such, stacking is completely legal in pickleball, so you may want to take advantage of it.
Pros and Cons of Stacking in Pickleball
- It enables teams to take advantage of stronger shots. Usually, this means that a player with a strong forehand stack has a greater chance of playing a forehand shot.
- Reduces the amount of weaker shots. As mentioned above, while stacking increases the number of forehand strokes, it simultaneously reduces the number of backhand strokes. Perfect for players with weak backhands.
- Increases forehand strokes when partners consist of a left and righty. This is because many shots are placed centrally.
- It makes use of superior agility. Stacking is a strategy not all teams can use. It demands that players be quick to get into position.
- It is easy to lose track of who is serving or receiving. This is because both players are stacked beside each other. Traditional partner placement has no such issue.
- It introduces additional movement, which will tire you out faster. By stacking you leave a large area open that needs covering. This forces you to move to cover this position which will cumulatively tire you throughout a match.
- Slow players may struggle to stack effectively. Your opponents will surely exploit this flaw if you or your partner are not fast enough to cover the open after serving or receiving.
- Stacking can make it obvious where you want the ball. This encourages your opponents to place the ball elsewhere.
How to Stack in Pickleball
To stack in pickleball, you or your partner move to the same side of the court so that the pair of you are stacked next to one another.
You can do this for serving and/or receiving. Remember, only the serving team changes positions when they win a point in doubles. The receiving team does not switch with one another. More specifically, the receiving team can stand where they like, but the player receiving the serve switches after each point they lose.
Stacking on Serve
When players stack on a serve, both will typically stand on the same side of the court. They will stand on the right, the deuce side, if the score is even. And if the score is odd, they’ll instead stand on the left, called the ad side.
In the example above, Player 1 is serving, and Player 2 is to the right in what we would otherwise consider a very out-of-position spot. However, upon serving, Player 1 moves to the ad side to cover the open space. Player 2 then slides into the empty area Player 1 leaves behind.
There are a few reasons a team may stack this way. Firstly, if Player 1 is a righty and Player 2 is a lefty. This ensures both players’ forehand strokes are down the middle. Another reason could be that Player 2 has a very weak backhand. Player 2 won’t have to use it as much by starting where they are.
It’s also worth mentioning that Player 1 can delay their run to the ad side. This option is good if Player 1 has a much bigger hit than Player 2.
Stacking When the Serve Is Odd
As you can see, the position and movements of Players 1 and 2 are mirrored when the serve is odd compared to even. The only other aspect you should note is that the traditional footwork switches every time you win a serve.
This means that there is no requirement to stack if you did so when the score is even. Let’s continue our example from the even score where Player 1 is a righty and Player 2 is a lefty. By stacking the left-handed Player 2 to the left of Player 1, both players will use their backhands for central balls, which is not usually optimal.
As such, it makes sense not to stack and stand traditionally, with Player 1 on the left and Player 2 on the right.
Read More: Pickleball Terms to Elevate Your Game
Stacking on Receive
The same strategy applies for receiving as it does for serving; you want to use your strong shots while limiting your weak ones.
For this example, Player 3 is serving, and Player 2 is receiving. Upon receiving the serve, Player 2 rushes to the ad side of the court, and Player 1 comes from an out-of-bounds position to the deuce side. It makes sense for Player 1 to stand just outside the kitchen as the ball will have bounced twice by the time they can strike it, allowing them to volley if needed.
You should stack in this way if Player 1 is a lefty and Player 2 is a righty. If this is not the case, you may not need to stack. Remember, as with serving, it’s usually all about having both players’ forehands be at the crossover (for lefty and righty pairs). If stacking prevents this, stand traditionally instead.
When You Should and Shouldn’t Stack
To stack or not to stack, that’s the question! Stacking isn’t something you should just blindly do. There needs to be reasoning behind it—a competitive edge. If there isn’t, you should just stick to standard positioning.
- Do stack if it increases the use of a powerful forehand hit
- Do stack if it decreases the use of a weaker backhand shot
- Do stack if it keeps both player’s forehands central
- Do stack if your opponents are in a rhythm and have your movement locked down
- Don’t stack if it promotes the use of a weaker backhand shot
- Don’t stack if it reduces the use of a powerful forehand shot
- Don’t stack if places both player’s backhands centrally
- Don’t stack if you lack the mobility to cover the open area of the court
- Don’t stack if you keep making errors from stacking
Full-Stacking vs. Half-Stacking
It can sometimes be hard to keep up with stacking every point, especially if you’re just becoming familiar with the strategy. Therefore, a happy medium is half-stacking rather than full-stacking.
For this, you simply stack for serving rather than serving and receiving. This gives you the benefit of optimal positions whenever you serve while keeping things simple.
Stacking when receiving serves is a little more challenging. It is easier to make mistakes with respect to hitting the ball out of sequence, and it is tougher to make the run to the open area after receiving the serve.
Check out the stacking pickleball tutorial above to learn more about the two types.
Read More: Pickleball Scoring: A Clear Guide
What Is Switching?
Unlike stacking, switching sees players take up traditional spots on either side of the court. They then switch positions either after they serve or receive the ball. Now, why not just stack instead, I hear you ask?
It’s simple, really. Your opponents are unprepared. They’re not expecting you to switch positions abruptly. Stacking already tells your opponents where you want to go. Switching on the other hand keeps your opponents guessing. You can even fake out a switch to confuse your opponents.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Stacking Mean in Pickleball?
Stacking is a tactic where both team members stand on the same side of the court when serving or receiving a serve. This enables them to switch which half of the court they cover, allowing them to use more forehand shots than they would otherwise be able to use.
What Is Pickleball Stacking Good For?
Pickleball stacking allows players to lean on their strengths while mitigating their weaknesses. This is usually through increasing the use of the more powerful forehand side. When a righty stacks on the ad side, their forehand will cover the center of the court rather than close to the right sideline.
Is There a Limit to How Many Times We Can Stack?
You can stack as much as you want in pickleball. Just remember that it is not always advantageous. Only stack if it gives you an edge, such as increasing the use of your forehand.
Can You Yell Out to Your Partner When Stacking in Pickleball?
Communicating with your partner is completely legal in pickleball. We recommend you do so to coordinate who goes for which balls are close to your pair. Quick language such as “mine” and “yours” is great for this.
What Happens If I Forget My Position While Stacking?
You lose the point if you forget your position and hit the ball out of sequence for the receive of serve. This is why it is important to remember the order before the point commences. In reality, it is not usually much of an issue. You can always ask your partner or the referee if you forget.
Pickleball stacking may be considered more of an advanced technique, but I feel it’s something players should look to implement as soon as they get the fundamentals down—especially fit players who cover the court well.
There’s no doubt stacking provides a solid advantage when serving and receiving, yet it doesn’t demand a high level of skill. So learning it really is a no-brainer. It will also make you a much better doubles partner as you can more effectively play to your partner’s strengths while covering their weaknesses.
Once you get stacking down, I also recommend dipping your toes into switching too. While not quite as effective, switching is much easier to catch your opponents off guard. And by implementing both stacking and switching your opponents will never know what to expect next.