When do you switch sides in pickleball? Switching sides in pickleball is confusing for new players. And rightfully so.
Some tournaments don’t even completely follow the official pickleball book from the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). This is mainly because pickleball is a relatively new and evolving racquet sport. And they’re still testing out which rules either promote or hinder the spirit of the sport.
Don’t fret because we’re here to help you understand what the rules are about switching sides in pickleball and what happens in the gray area of these rules.
What Does Switching in Pickleball Mean?
Let’s first clarify what “switching sides” means. Switching sides is when teams physically change places on the court. So both teams transfer from their side of the net to the other side.
Another time “switching” is used is when players move to the left or right side of the court during serving or receiving. This happens during the game and follows the pickleball rulebook.
The third kind of switching is more active. This is when teammates switch sides during rallies while the ball is in play.
We’ll go through all of these in the article and I’ll make sure to clarify which kind of switching I mean as you read on.
When Do You Switch Sides in Pickleball?
So, switching sides is actually a very integral part of the game. It promotes fairness and keeps the game balanced, with the goal of giving everyone an equal chance to serve, return, and play the game.
At the Start of A Game
Matches are typically played at a best of 3, with some tournament finals going all the way to a best of 5. This means that teams must win 2 out of 3, or 3 out of 5 games in a whole match.
At the start of every game, teams must switch sides to give each other an equal chance at the game. This removes any disadvantages like imperfect courts and smoothes out the playing field since both teams have to play on both sides of the court at least once.
This is the only rule that applies to both singles and doubles pickleball simultaneously.
There are other times when you should switch sides in pickleball, but the rules are different for singles and doubles.
Switching in Singles Pickleball
When it comes to singles pickleball, there’s only one situation when players need to switch to the left and right sides of the court.
When Serving in Pickleball Singles
In singles, the server’s location depends on what his or her score is. If he has an even number of points (0, 2, 4, 6, and so on). Then he has to serve from the right side of the court. And if he has an odd number of points (1, 3, 5, 7, and so on), he must serve from the left side instead.
The receiver will adjust its position diagonally depending on where the server stands.
Switching in Doubles Pickleball
There’s a lot more switching that happens in doubles pickleball. Some of these are because of the rules and others are part of a doubles strategy.
Serving in Pickleball Doubles
The service in pickleball doubles can be confusing for new players, so here’s how to do it in detail:
For the Serving Team
At the beginning of each new game, only one player on the serving team is allowed a service turn before giving the ball to the opposing team. The first serve of each side is made from the right-hand side of the court.
If a point is scored, the serving player switches sides and the server initiates the next serve from the left-hand court. This alternating of sides continues as subsequent points are scored. With the server switches back and forth between the right- and left-hand courts until the first server loses the rally.
Once the first server loses the rally, their partner then serves from their side of the court. Which is the opposite side of where the first server is standing. The second server continues serving until their team loses the serve to the opposing team.
When the service goes to the opposition (at side out). The first serve is made from the right-hand court, and both players on that team have the opportunity to serve and score points until their team commits two faults. This means that after the opposing team gains the serve. Both of their players will have a chance to serve until they make two faults.
If the rotation and switching are done right, the serving team will always serve from the right if their score is even, or serve from the left if their score is odd. Just like singles pickleball.
For the Receiving Team
The receiving team never switches places. They don’t switch between left and right like the service team does.
Switching when You’re Stacking
Stacking is a popular pickleball doubles strategy that lets you take advantage of your “good side” when returning the ball after a service. It works by having both players on the serving team “stack” on the same side as the server.
Let’s say both players are on the right side of the court. If they both hold their paddles on their left side, they can return the shot using a forehand swing instead of a backhand. While the effect is minimal, it’s a crucial strategy for players who have weak backhands and need every edge they can get.
Switching During the Game
You can switch between the left and right sides of the court during the game, as long as it’s after the service. Players don’t have to stick to the zone where they serve from. They can move left or right depending on where they prefer.
Differences in Tournament Rules
Pickleball tournaments can be confusing for a lot of newer players because the format such as the scoring and even the rules can slightly deviate from the official rulebook.
Consolation events, for example, are often played until 21 points instead of 11. With teams switching court sides after the 15th point. Other tournaments, especially ones that are beginner-friendly or are hosted by a small, local group. Also, use modified rules for doubles. The simple use of a different scoring system can change how the service goes and if players even need to switch between sides of the court at all.