Tired of being stuck in the same positions? Want to exploit your team strengths or cover a weakness? Your solution is stacking!
What is stacking?
Stacking is a strategy used in pickleball when players on a team are not in traditional positioning and are instead rearranged in order to keep one player on a particular side of the court. Unlike traditional play, the stacking team will start on the same side and then once the serve or return is hit, they shift into the desired positioning.
There are a few reasons a team should utilize the stacking strategy:
- Stacking can allow a team to maximize their strengths. For example, if a player has a strong forehand, stacking can be used to keep that player’s forehand in the middle. This allows for more forehand poaching opportunities.
- If one of the players is left-handed, stacking can be used to keep both forehands in the middle.
- Stacking can be used to hide a player weakness (backhand weakness example).
- Stacking can be used to maximize team mobility. For example, with a right-handed player, the more agile person could be on the ad side in order cover overheads for the less agile player.
How to Stack?
First, it is important to understand traditional positioning. Traditional player positions are when the players on each team start with a player on the ad side and a player on the deuce side. The serving team rotates back and forth when they score. The returning team players stay on their respective ad and deuce sides.
Diagram 1: Traditional positioning. Players A and B are the serving team and C and D are returning. In this example, Player A is the first server and is serving to player D. All players are in traditional positioning. On both teams, there is a player starting on the ad side and a player on the deuce side. As long as Players A and B are the serving team, they will rotate sides after each point they score. On the returning side, Players C and D will not rotate while they continue to be the returning team and their score stays the same.
Stacking On Serve
When stacking on serve, you usually see both players start on the same side (ad or deuce) and then one player will slide over to the open side.
Diagram 2: Stacking on Serve. Players A and B are the stacked serving team and Players C and D are returning in traditional positioning.
In this example, the serving team or Player A and B are stacked and are trying to move Player A to the ad side. Unlike traditional positioning, both Players A and B are starting the point on the deuce side. After serving, Player A will shift to the right side or ad side. Since Player A is the first server, the team will be stacked when their score is odd but will be in traditional positioning when their score is even. This will allow Player A to always be on the ad side after the serve and Player B to always be on the deuce side.
Stacking on return
When stacking on return, both players will again start on the same side with the returning player at the baseline and the non-returning player next to the kitchen line. The returning player will cross-over to the opposite side while the non-returning slides into the volley position near the kitchen. In order to keep a player on a certain side, the returning team will have to stack when both players are receiving. Diagrams 3 and 4 will show stacking using both returning players. In these examples, the returning team is trying to keep Player A on the ad side and Player B on the deuce side.
Diagram 3: Stacking on return. Players A and B are the receiving team and are in a stacked position. Player D is the server and is serving to Player A. In this example, Player A will cross-over to the ad side after he returns the ball. Player B will slide into the deuce side. This allows Player A to remain on the ad side while returning.
Diagram 4: Stacking on return. Player C is the server on the ad side and is serving to Player B. In this example, Player B will cross-over to the deuce side after he returns the ball. Player A will slide into the ad side.
Stacking on return can be trickier. It is important to note the score and if it is odd or even. If it is even, the person on the team who started the game must return the serve from the deuce side. If the score is odd, the person on the team who started the game must return from the ad side.
Things to take into account:
- Always check to make sure your team is on the correct side and are the correct server/returner. Nothing is worst than losing a point or serve for mixing this up!
- Stacking on return requires a lot more running to get the returning player crossed-over. Therefore, if someone is not as agile, it may not make sense to have him stack when returning.
- If one player is less agile, you can do a ¾ stack. This means stacking on serve and only half the time on return. When the less agile player is returning, you will stay in traditional positioning so that he will not have to run across the court.