Pickleball Stacking: Strategies, Rules, and Competitive Advantages

Two pickleball players, one at the net and one at the baseline, illustrate the pickleball stacking concept.
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In pickleball, the stacking approach for doubles involves players aligning on the same side of the court before serving or returning the ball. Once the game is underway, each player adjusts to their preferred position, which enhances their court presence and control.

Stacking may appear intricate initially, but by the conclusion of this article, you’ll grasp how, through some practice, you can introduce an entirely fresh aspect to your upcoming pickleball match.

Understanding Stacking in Pickleball: A Winning Doubles Strategy

If you’re a doubles pickleball enthusiast, mastering the art of stacking is essential for enhancing your gameplay. Stacking is a strategic positioning technique that empowers you and your partner to maximize your strengths and increase your chances of winning on the court.

The Fundamentals of Stacking

It’s crucial to grasp the fundamentals of doubles pickleball setup. In this format, one team serves, and the other receives. The serving team takes its position behind the baseline while the receiving team strategically splits. One player positions themselves at the baseline to receive serves, while the other strategically sits near the non-volley zone (NVZ) line.

Before the game commences, an assigned individual designates each player to either the “even side” or the “odd side” of the court. Remarkably, it doesn’t matter whether you serve or receive first; the side you initiate the game on becomes your designated “even side.”

Remember that playing pickleball hinges on adhering to the guidelines for serving and receiving. By keeping these rules in mind, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the intricacies of stacking. Stacking in pickleball constitutes a unique positioning strategy for doubles teams, enabling players to maintain their positions on the same side of the court throughout the game, effectively leveraging their strengths. Always ensure strict compliance with the rules governing serving and receiving.

Team members typically take positions on either side of the centerline in the standard configuration of doubles pickleball. The serving team commonly lines up behind the baseline.

In contrast, the receiving team divides, with one player stationed at the baseline to handle serves and the other strategically placed near the non-volley zone (NVZ) line.

An appointed individual allocates each player to either the ‘even side’ or the ‘odd side’ of the court. Regardless of whether you initiate the game as the serving or receiving team, your initial site is deemed your ‘even side.’

By mastering this tactical approach principles, you can elevate your game to new heights and increase your chances of victory on the court.

Rules for Stacking in Pickleball

It might be surprising, but no regulations currently prohibit players from positioning themselves on any side they choose. However, it’s worth noting that various other rules usually determine player positioning.

When contemplating the concept of stacking, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the following guidelines.

  • A particular player must execute the serve.
  • The player designated to receive the serve must make the return.
  • The server must ensure that no part of their foot touches or crosses the line when they serve the ball.
  • The ball must bounce both after the serve and on the third shot before someone returns it.

Following that, there are no restrictions on players’ positions, allowing them to choose where they want to play.

How to Arrange in a Stack

To understand stacking in doubles, pickleball, and tennis, we need to know how it works. In traditional doubles, each team has one player on either side of the centerline, with the deuce side on the right and the ad side on the left.

Most players maintain their positions on their respective sides during a point. Stacking requires both players to align on either the ad side or the deuce side, at least until the serve and return occur. This change in positioning is easy to achieve, and we’ll explain how to do it.

The Proper Technique for Stacking During a Serve

Both players typically position themselves on the serving side during the serve. The serving player usually stands on the deuce side for even points, while the non-serving player takes the ad side for odd points. 

Typically, the non-serving player positions just outside the court boundaries near the baseline, not in the same square. After the players execute the serve, they begin to shift into their agreed-upon positions in preparation for the third shot.

Sometimes, teams may designate the serving player as responsible for the third shot. This can result in a slight delay in their rotation to their designated positions.

The Strategy For Stacking During the Return of Serve

The concept of stacking in response to a serve is quite analogous. In this scenario, the player who isn’t tasked with returning the serve stands outside the bounds, near the kitchen line. Once their teammate completes the serve return, both players proceed to adjust to their intended positions.

The Best Times to Implement Stacking in Pickleball

Determining when to employ stacking primarily relies on capitalizing on players’ individual strengths. Strategically placing them in a position where their forehand is consistently oriented toward the centerline can enable them to exploit forehand poaching opportunities. 

When there’s a left-handed player on the team, employing a stacking strategy can help ensure that both players keep their forehands on the centerline.

Conversely, if a team has one left-handed player and one right-handed player but positions themselves in a way where neither player’s forehand is in the middle (with the righty on the right side and the lefty on the left side), this could provide a notable advantage to their opponents during that round of play.

Stacking can also serve as a strategy to mitigate player weaknesses, such as compensating for a player’s weak backhand. Strategically position agile players on the stacking side to improve team mobility and better defend against overhead shots.

Why Use a Stack? What are its Benefits?

The stacking strategy offers numerous compelling reasons for teams to consider its implementation.

  • Stacking enables a team to leverage their strong points fully. If a player possesses a powerful forehand, stacking can be employed to ensure that their forehand remains centralized. This creates additional chances for forehand poaching.
  • You can employ stacking to maintain both forehands in the center when one of the players is left-handed.
  • Stacking can strategically enhance team mobility. A right-handed player may opt for the ad side to cover overhead shots, accommodating their less agile partner’s needs. 

The stacking team can optimize its performance by adapting to both its strengths and weaknesses, allowing for strategic flexibility. Teams can strategically adjust positioning after each rally to exploit opponents’ vulnerabilities by stacking accordingly. Stacking can adapt to a team’s strengths or exploit the opposing team’s weaknesses as a tactical approach.


Stacking in pickleball, an advanced tactic, enables players to initially position themselves on one side of the court and adjust their positions once the game begins. This strategy is highly effective for maintaining an advantage and capitalizing on your strengths.

People Also Ask

1. What are the consequences if I lose track of my position while stacking?

Remember that you can approach the referee for clarification if you ever need to remember your position during stacking in an officiated match. You have the right to ask the referee about the score, the correct server or receiver, or whether any player is in an improper position.

2. Is there a maximum limit to the number of times we can stack?

There is no restriction on how frequently you can stack in doubles pickleball.

3. Is it permissible to shout at your teammate while stacking in pickleball?

Indeed, you can communicate with your teammate during a pickleball game. However, it’s essential to be discreet when stacking to avoid alerting your opponents.

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