Pickleball player positions: Where you should be on the pickleball court

Pickleball player positions: Where you should be on the pickleball court


By Jaclyn Brandt

On: 02/14/2024

Learning your player positions in pickleball will be a good start to understanding all the rules of the game. Player positions are directly correlated to all the rules of pickleball, as well as scoring and serving.

Server and receiver

Pickleball serving and receiving are directly related to player positions, in a number of ways:

  • At the very beginning of each game, the starting server will serve from the right side of their court.

  • Each server has a chance to continue serving until they lose a rally or a fault is declared against their team.

  • If the serving team wins a point, the same server will continue serving — but will switch sides each serve (from left to right, determined by score).

  • The server and receiver for each serve are determined by the current score and player positions at the beginning of the game.

Learn more about serving rules.

Singles

  • If the server’s score is even (0, 2, 4, etc.) then the serve will be made from the right serving area and received in the right serving court of their opponent.

  • If the server’s score is odd (1, 3, 5, etc.) then the serve must be made from the left serving area and received in the left serving area of their opponent.

  • A side-out is called when a server loses the rally or causes a fault, and the serve will be given to their opponent.

Doubles

  • Both players on each team will be given a chance to serve.

    • The first server on a team is known as Player 1, and the second server is known as Server 2.

      • The server number (1 or 2) of a score applies to that service term only.

    • During the very first serve of each game, only one server is given the chance to serve.

      • The starting server will be considered Server 2 during the first serve of each game.

  • At the beginning of each side out, the first serve will be in the right serving area.

  • A team’s starting server will serve from the right serving area when the team’s score is even (0, 2, 4, etc.).

  • A team’s starting server will serve from the left serving area when the team’s score is odd (1, 3, 5, etc.).

  • The first server will serve, and then alternate service sides after each point won. They will continue serving and alternating sides until their team commits a fault or the rally is otherwise lost.

  • After the first server loses a point, the serve will then go to the second server, who will serve and alternate positions after each won point.

Doubles Partner Positions

When you are playing doubles pickleball, there are specific positions each player should be in depending on whether they are the serving team and/or the current serving or receiving player.

  • There is no restriction on where players can stand, except the serving and receiving players.

    • Once the serve is complete, the only restriction is that each player must stay on their own side of the net.

    • Players may be positioned on or off the court.

  • The server must serve from the correct service court.

    • The server’s feet may not touch the court or baseline (with at least one foot on the playing surface behind the baseline), and in between the imaginary extensions of the center line and sideline.

  • The receiving player must receive from the correct service court.

    • The receiving player must be standing in between the center line and sideline (or the imaginary extensions of these lines).

    • The serve return can land anywhere on the serving team’s playing surface (including the kitchen zone).

Team 1 - Serving position (Player 1) 

For this example, we will assume Player 1 is the server and they are serving from the right side of the court.

During the serve:

  • Neither feet will touch the court or on the baseline.

  • At least one foot is on the playing surface behind the baseline.

  • The player is positioned in between the imaginary extensions of the centerline and sideline.

After the serve:

  • After serving, Player 1 will remain back near the baseline in expectation of the service return.

  • After the serve return, Player 1 will move up to the kitchen line, when they are able to.

  • There is no restriction that players stay on their side of the centerline after the serve.

Team 1 - Non-server position (Player 2)

For this example, we will assume Player 2 is the non-server on the serving team and they are standing on the left side of the court during the serve.

  • Player 2 will begin the game at the baseline on the left side of the court.

  • There is no restriction that players stay on their side of the centerline after the serve.

  • Player 2 will move up to the kitchen line after the serve return, when they are able to.

Team 2 - Receiving position (Player 3)

For this example, we will assume Player 3 is the serve returner on the non-serving team and they are standing on the right side of their court during the serve.

  • Player 3 will stay near their baseline in anticipation of the serve.

  • After the serve return, Player 3 will move up to the kitchen line, when they are able to.

  • There is no restriction that players stay on their side of the centerline after the serve.

Team 2 - Non-receiving position (Player 4)

For this example, we will assume Player 4 is the non-serve returner on the non-serving team and they are standing on the left side of their court during the serve.

  • Player 4 will begin the game at the kitchen line on the left side of their court.

  • There is no restriction that players stay on their side of the centerline after the serve.

Learning your pickleball player positions

Like most things in pickleball, the more you play the more the rules will become second nature. A combination of reading about the rules and playing as much as you can will help you understand the “how” and “why” of pickleball rules. Your player position is incredibly important to the game of pickleball, so next time you’re out on the court, hopefully these rules will guide you on where you should be standing.

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