Your Partner Refuses to Join You at the Non-Volley Line During Open Play. What do you Do?

For those of us who study basic pickleball strategy, or, have perhaps taken a lesson or clinic or two, we understand full well the importance of positioning ourselves at the non-volley line, inargueably the most strategic spot on the court.

Afterall, it’s at the non-volley line where we minimize our opponent’s angles, where we can protect our feet from incoming attack and where we can hit downward on an inopportune pop-up from our opponent.

It never seems to fail, however, that whenever we head over to our favorite venue, put our paddle in the rotating paddle rack system, that we get stuck with a player who just refuses to advance forward in the court to the non-volley line. Rather, they are intent on banging away from the transition area — never wanting to advance forward and leaving you to fend for yourself just seven feet from the net.

Reasons They May Not be Advancing

Although it’s frustrating, there are, no doubt, several reasons why your partner may not be advancing forward and continues to stay back. Here are a couple of possibilities:

  • They may not understand the benefits of playing from the non-volley line. For those who are relatively new to the game or haven’t been exposed to lessons, clinics or online videos, they may simply not understand the benefits of positioning themselves so close to the net.
  • They may be afraid of balls hit hard at them.
  • They may have slow reflexes or, perhaps, a vision impairment that makes them very uncomfortable positioned so close to the net.
  • They may, unfortunately, simply be stubborn and/or unwilling to grow their game.

So, What’s a Partner to Do?

Don’t be tempted to refuse to play with this person. There are several things you can do to make the game as enjoyable and beneficial to your own game as possible:

  • With a partner who is brand new to the sport, you may want to try very gentle coaching. Without overdoing it, let them know in a sentence or two the benefits of being positioned at the non-volley line. Please proceed with caution. Unsolicited advice does not go over well with everybody. If your gentle advice falls on deaf ears, don’t get overly frustrated. This is a great opportunity to work on your own game.
  • Stay with your partner and practice your transition zone defense and drop-shots. Although it will be extraordinarily more challenging to win exclusively from the transition zone, resetting balls and successfully executing drop shots from the transition area is a skill that will, no doubt, pay dividends later on and in higher-level games. Think of these as invaluable reps in real match-play situations.
  • While you are positioned at the non-volley line and with your opponents peppering your partner who is positioned in the transition area, work on your poaching and put-away game. Study your opponents and look for cues when they may drive it to your partner, or, when they may keep you honest and hit behind you. File this information and consider it good “intel” for future matches.
  • Work on the shake-and-bake. With a partner that prefers the transition area, the chances are pretty good that they are also a banger from that area. That represents the perfect time for you to disengage from them as they drive a third shot, for example, and crash to the middle looking for a put-away volley.

Final Thoughts with Respect to a Partner Not Coming Forward

It’s likely already happened to you if you have been playing open-play pickleball for any length of time. And it will, no doubt, happen again. Don’t focus on the frustration of the situation. There is very little you can do in the immediate term. Instead, continue working and improving your own game — everything from hitting drops and resets to poaching and shake-and-bakes. Perhaps there’s an opportunity to gently teach your partner. But do it gently and kindly.

See you on the courts.

Coach Todd
About Todd

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.

Pickleball Doubles Strategy Blueprint
  • Flowcharts & Decision-trees
  • Technique Checklists
  • Serve, Return, 3rd Shot & 4th Shot Strategies
  • 10-page downloadable PDF that outlines a systematic, practical and easy-to-follow approach that will help any level pickleball player WIN MORE GAMES!
pickleball doubles strategy blueprint
Fromuth Pickleball – Use Code “10MAX” for 10% Off!
Fromuth Pickleball
Jigsaw Health – Discount Code!
Use Code “PickleballMAX10” at Checkout for $10 off your Jigsaw Order.
Jigsaw Health
RIA Performance Eyewear
  • 100% UVA/UVB protection
  • Impact-resistant & shatterproof lenses
  • Lightweight, anti-fogging, and vision-enhancing (contrast of the ball to the court)
pickleball glasses
Pickleball Central: Paddles, Bags & More!
Pickleball Central

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *