We’ve all been there. You’ve got a much-anticipated pickleball doubles match scheduled for the afternoon and when you get to the courts, there are only three players — one person in the foursome had to unexpectedly bail. What do you do with only 3 pickleball players?
Instead of going back to the house — where your wife’s honey-do list is undoubtedly waiting — how ’bout trying a couple of these three-person drills? The drills — adapted from when I played tennis — will help to keep your game sharp, will get your competitive juices flowing and, perhaps, will help you avoid — or at least postpone — spending the rest-of-the-afternoon working on something that’s not nearly as fun as pickleball.
King of the Court — 3 Person Pickleball Drill
The game begins with a “King” of the court (Player B) returning serve from Player A. Player C is sitting out the point(s) while Player A and Player B play singles points. Player A serves to Player B and the point is played out. The server must win 2 points in a row to replace the King. If the server commits a fault he will rotate out with Player C and Player C will start the point on his serve, attempting to win 2 points in a row to replace the King. The King remains King of the Court until the server (Player A or C) can win two points in a row. See who can be King most often and for the longest period of time.
Pin ’em to the Baseline — 3 Person Pickleball Drill
It’s no secret that the team controlling the net in pickleball typically controls the point. Therefore, when you are hitting a volley while your opponents are back at their baseline, one of the most effective pickleball strategies is to keep them pinned to the baseline so that you continue to control the point — and put away the volley when the opportunity arises. The team at the baseline, however, desires to hit a drop shot (landing it in the NVZ) so that they have time to get to the net and negate the advantage you once had.
(1) Player A serves to player C.
(2) Player C hits a deep return of serve up the line to Player B and follows this return of serve to the net.
(3) Player B then executes the 3rd shot drop shot into the NVZ or at the feet of Player C.
(4) Player C hits volleys or half-volleys back to Player B — attempting to keep the ball deep in the opponent’s court (or “pinning” the opponent (Player B) to the baseline).
The drill continues as Player B continues to attempt drop shots in the NVZ in front of player C, while Player C responds with deep volleys or half-volleys back to Player B. For this drill (so that player B can work on drop shots and Player C can work on pinning the opponents to the baseline with deep volleys) Player B will stay back at the baseline after all shots and continue to practice the drop shot. Player C works on hitting the volleys / half-volleys deep and pinning Player C to the baseline.
Keep rallying until someone misses. This will help with control and patience on the part of the volleyer. It will also help perfect the drop shot for the player at the baseline. Do this ten times and then rotate — the server (Player A) will become the returner (Player C) and the returner will become the server’s partner (Player B).
Looking for more drills? Check out our pickleball wall drills.
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See you on the courts!
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Todd is the talent behind PickleballMAX. He knows pickleball and demonstrates it on the court as a 4.5 – 5.0 player. In addition to creating content and running the PickleballMAX business, Todd is IPTPA Level II certified. As an instructor at the Ohio Pickleball Academy, he instructs students and runs adult and youth clinics. He also manages tournament desks throughout the tri state for tournaments ranging from 100-500 participants.