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Stacking up with Lefty!

(EDITOR’S PICK…the best-ever article on stacking! Also links to several videos and other resources!)

STACKING UP WITH LEFTY

By: Lee Moore

Photos by: Bob and Tess Meggs

Models: Lee Moore, Verna Moore, Terry Brown, Sandi Brown

I started playing Pickleball 7 years ago, and from the start found that being a Lefty wasn’t perfect, especially for tournament play. Several issues, including who should take certain shots, especially when both backhands were in the middle, kept coming up.

Increasing my partner communication on the court to improve who took each shot helped. But not enough. But after numerous partners and not many medals on my wall, I realized I needed more than  “just” improved communication, important as that is.  I observed at Nationals how the top players were “stacking” and decided that might be my solution to be up on the podium more often.

Stacking is arranging yourself so that the same person is in the Ad or Deuce Court(s) for each point. When you stack you do not rotate back and forth when scoring points as “normal” in pickleball. We’ll describe how you can eliminate rotation “legally”, using pictures to illustrate.

Please note that the player with the red shirt on is Lefty – me, aka Lee. Red is often the color used for First Server bands in tournaments so in this article this helps us remember that Lefty is always first server at the beginning of the game. ALSO note that while stacking is probably MOST often done when a Lefty/Righty are playing together to keep forehands in the middle, as illustrated by this article, this is not the only time it’s used. Anytime you want to insure that the same people are playing the same side of the court each point it’s equally effective.

Stacking, by the way, looks different when you are serving vs. when you are receiving. We will cover the two subjects separately.

Stacking on the Serve

Stacking can work very well but  you must have a partner that will work with you on it.  Let’s start out agreeing with your partner that you, being the Lefty, will be the first server at the beginning of each game. This will insure that the Lefty’s and the Righty’s forehands are both always in the middle, as you will quickly see.

In the first photo I’m serving in my normal position as First Server. 0-0-2…game on!

Editors’ Note: if you wish to see a photo enlarged, right-click on it and open it in another tab. In some cases enlarging the photo will make the intent of that particular photo easier to “see”. Plus some of the action is more cool….below you can see Lee’s follow-through and ball-path much clearer in the larger version of it, which isn’t entirely necessary to make the point but is fun to look at. Plus you can see what a nice outfit Verna is wearing!)

Stacking up with Lefty, Stacking up with Lefty!, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz

The name “Stacking” comes from the times when two people wind up on the same side of the court, and this always (and only) happens when the score for your team is an odd number.  Let’s assume that we scored a point with my first serve. The score is now 1-0-2 (“2” ‘cuz we’re at the start of game) and I move to the left side for my second serve. Notice where Verna is now standing – off the court to my left so she can slide into her spot once I’ve hit my serve.

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As Verna moves, so do I – back to my position in the right court.  We’re now both ready to receive the return of serve.

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We eventually lose our serve at 3-0-2.  The game continues.  We win back the serve and now the score is, say, 3-2 with us (naturally) still ahead.  Our score is an odd number, so my partner, (the Righty) will be the first server. We “stack up” on the right side (Deuce side) of the court.  I’m also there on the right, but I move far to her right, outside of the serving box if necessary to stay out of her way.

Stacking up with Lefty, Stacking up with Lefty!, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz

Hint: when teaching people to Stack, I always tell them to “call the score out and serve and slide to your left”.  This reminds Righty that she needs to be in the correct position when the ball is returned to us.

Stacking up with Lefty, Stacking up with Lefty!, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz

If Righty scores another point, she stays in her left court (Ad court) and serves from there as “normal.”

Eventually we lose our first serve and, since Righty served first at the side-out, Lefty (in this case) is now serving. Depending on the score, Lefty of course is either serving from his “home” court (the right side or Deuce court) on even numbers…..

Stacking up with Lefty, Stacking up with Lefty!, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz

….or is moving left (into the left side court or Ad court) to serve on odd numbers and my attractive Righty partner moves outside the serving box in the Ad court.

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Stacking when you Receive

The second part of stacking, stacking while receiving, is a little more difficult for some people initially.  Each partner must be in the correct court (depending on even or odd score) to receive the serve. This rule allows the non-receiving partner to be up by the kitchen on his/her correct side when you are receiving serve. Again,  the stacking portion (on the receive) only comes into play when the score is odd on our side.

The first illustration is Verna returning serve on our odd score with our opponent serving from his Deuce (right) court, and me getting ready to move into the court.  Note how close to the net I’m standing…way inside the kitchen right by the net and slightly outside the sideline.

When you receive the serve, the receiver needs to do two things:  (1). Always return the ball to the opponent that is in front of you and (2) Always return it with a slow lob to that opponent to give both you and your partner time to get into your playing positions. This way Verna can quickly run to the kitchen line, and I do mean run, as she is moving cross-court to her appropriate box. She is  “pinching down” a bit on the opponent in the opposing Ad (left) court where she has returned the ball, so is a tad closer to the center line than to the middle of her box. At the same time I am next to the kitchen and step into the court behind the kitchen line.

Stacking up with Lefty, Stacking up with Lefty!, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz

Stacking up with Lefty, Stacking up with Lefty!, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz

The obvious next step is to show what happens when Lefty receives and returns serve when the score is odd. These illustrations show me returning serve on odd point with my opponent serving from his Ad (left) court. Note how close (tight) to the net Verna is, and how far and fast I have to move to get into position. Remember I have returned serve soft and deep on Verna’s side. She moves in as soon as the ball is by her.

Stacking up with Lefty, Stacking up with Lefty!, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz

Stacking up with Lefty, Stacking up with Lefty!, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz

Stacking up with Lefty, Stacking up with Lefty!, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz

Your opponents watching you stack may at first be confused by what you are doing. Then they will come up with a plan to make it a disadvantage for you to stack.  They may try to serve at a sharp diagonal right past the kitchen next to where your partner is standing to cause both of you to off the court at the same time. This approach can work for your opponents some of the time (if they do not serve out!).

If this is working for them, probably your partner is standing too deep in the court. I have learned from bitter experience that the partner that is waiting to move to the kitchen line needs to stand all the way up by the net and then step through the kitchen and behind the line once the point is in play. The illustration below does not capture a truly “short and wide” serve, but imagine if Verna had to come way down the line and outside the court to get to the serve and I was standing there. I would be fixing my own lunch for sure that day!

Stacking up with Lefty, Stacking up with Lefty!, Pickleball.biz, Pickleball.biz

In other words, my being up tight to the net helps Verna, who is receiving the serve, have a clear shot at making her return. I’m not in her way at at the kitchen when an opponent serves the ball towards that area of the court. She still will do better returning the ball soft and deep to the opponent nearest her (and me), but alternatively she can hit a wide angle for a winner cross-court (an all-or-nothing shot given where she is) or hit a safe lob into the middle so that she has time to get back into her position.

My final comment on stacking is that if you are experiencing winds that make it difficult to return the serve with a soft lob to the opponent directly in front of you (essential to creating enough time for both partners to get to their respective positions), then I believe the team should only half-stack. Half-stacking means only stacking when you are serving.  When receiving, both partners take their “normal” (non-stacking) positions before your opponent’s serve. Then, you resume stacking only while you’re serving.

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Photos by: Bob and Tess Meggs:

Shot on location at: Happy Trails Resort, Surprise, AZ:

Models: “Stackers” are Lee Moore (red shirt) and Verna Moore. Opponents are Terry and Sandi Brown.

ED NOTE:  for more information on stacking from other points of view, go here and read the bottom half of the post.