Pickleball Ready Position Tips for Different Court Scenarios

Est. Reading: 6 minutes

Like in our daily lives, you should be prepared enough before making your next move in pickleball. Otherwise, everything else you do next will likely fail. Sadly, many players, especially beginners, don't focus much on this aspect.

Pickleball courts have different areas where you can hit the ball. In addition to the rules, you must know the best ready position in each area to increase your chances of winning the rally. This is what you'll learn in today's tutorial.

Why is a Ready Position in Pickleball?

A ready position in pickleball is precisely what it sounds like. It's a position where you should prepare to take a shot, regardless of where you are. Getting ready to hit the ball allows you to react quickly and possibly win the rally. The worst thing that can happen If you're not prepared or in the wrong position is that the ball will hit you badly.

A great ready position can be both a defense and offensive tactic. It helps prevent your opponent from catching you off guard and enables you to make the best offensive shot. When playing in doubles, being prepared increases your partner's confidence that you can contribute much to winning the game. In short, a ready position is a must-to-do task.

Pickleball Players' Position Rules

Section 4.B.1 of the 2024 USA Pickleball Official Rulebook states, "The correct server and receiver and their positions are determined by the score and the players' starting positions in the game." The server should serve from the right side of the court if the server's score is even and must be on the left if the score is odd.

Since the serve should be done diagonally, the receiver must also be on the right side of the court. Only the server and the receiver have specific positions at the start of a rally. Other players can position themselves elsewhere on the court. In doubles,  they can be outside the court before the serve as part of stacking and switching tactics.

Ready Position Rules

The Readiness Rule (Section 4.C) states, “Any player may indicate “not ready” prior to the start of the score being called.” That player may use any of the following signals:

  • Raising the paddle above their head
  • Raising the non-paddle hand above their head
  • Completely turning their back to the net

Note, however, that “not ready” signals will no longer be entertained once the start of the score has been called unless there is a hindrance.

Factors to Consider Before Being in a Ready Position

Getting ready to make a shot in pickleball depends on several factors. You don't just stand behind the net and hold your paddle, hoping your opponent will make a mistake or the ball will not go out of bounds. So, before learning the correct ready position, consider these factors first:


Are you on the baseline, inside the non-volley zone, or near the NVZ line? Knowing the distance from your opponent gives you an idea of how to stand and hold your paddle. The closer you are to the net, the more prepared you should be.

Type of Shot

Will you take an offensive or defensive shot? Is it a volley or groundstroke? Forehands are usually more effective than backhands if you are in offensive mode. If you plan to let the ball bounce before hitting it, you should prepare to decide where to hit it.

Incoming Ball

Where is the ball coming from, and how fast is it? Faster balls will give you less time to react. In this scenario, your paddle should be up, and you must prepare your body to move in any direction. On the other hand, slower balls give you more time to prepare.


Where is your opponent positioned? Should you take a straight shot or crosscourt? Do you plan to land the ball in front or over your opponent? Answers to these questions will help you prepare for a shot. This is also why you must observe your opponent closely.

Components of a Good Pickleball Ready Position

There are five major components of an excellent ready position in pickleball: body, feet, paddle, grip, and mental alertness. All are equally important and contribute significantly to getting prepared to take a shot. Let's discuss them one by one.

Body Position

For any shot, compress your body and lean forward on the balls of your feet. Standing straight will bring you to an unengaged position, and you'll not be ready enough once you go for the ball. More importantly, you should feel relaxed to move in any direction. Note that a poor posture in your ready position can hurt your back in the long run. Here are some valuable tips to avoid back pain.

But while this rounded back posture is effective in getting ready to hit the ball, it can strain your body muscles and spine structure. If you have pre-existing back conditions, you must engage in a thorough warm-up routine and strength exercises before the game. Lastly, don't force yourself into your ready position if you really don't feel well.

Feet Position

To have a solid base, bend your knees a little and place your feet about shoulder-width apart or more. It will allow you to quickly shift your weight forward and move as fast as possible. Being in a semi-squat position too long may make you feel uncomfortable, though. To overcome this, make sure you're wearing the right pickleball shoes.

To help you move quickly, do the split step just before your opponent hits the ball. Simply jump 1-2 inches off the ground slightly and move your feet apart. Make sure to land on the balls of your feet. Otherwise, your opponent might aim at them. Getting low and bringing your center of gravity forward also allows you to maintain your balance.

Paddle Position

The position of your paddle depends much on the kind of shot you will make and where you're at. In most cases, your paddle should be in a neutral position or at 12 o'clock. This paddle position allows you to move your arm quickly for forehands and backhands. But occasionally, you may need to switch to 9, 10, or 11 o'clock positions.

Most pickleball coaches recommend placing your paddle up to your chest. However, some may say keeping your paddle in front of your belly button is a better option. The truth is that the right paddle height depends on several factors, including your height, where you are, and where the ball is coming from. We'll tackle this further below.

Paddle Grip

Paddle grip refers to holding your paddle from when you're ready until the rally ends. There are three types of pickleball paddle grips: Continental, Eastern, and Western. Also known as the hammer grip, Continental is the most common and ideal for different shots. For complete details, check out our Pickleball Grips Guide.

The grip size is also a considerable factor when holding your paddle in a ready position. You'll feel uncomfortable as the rally gets longer if it's too large. But if it's too small, you need extra force so your paddle won't slip off your hand. Knowing how to measure your paddle grip size is a big help when choosing the right paddle to buy.

Mental Readiness

Aside from being physically prepared, you should also be mentally alert in your ready position. This factor can help you decide when and how to move once the ball is coming closer to you. Being mentally ready before hitting the ball prepares you for whatever outcome of your shots. This way, you can easily accept your mistakes.

Doing mental exercises before the game is also beneficial. They can boost your confidence and help develop a winning mindset. Knowing that your opponent is stronger than you can be a hindrance. The crowd's reaction as you get into your ready position can also distract you. Mental readiness gives you the ability to focus on the game.

Paddle Position at the Kitchen Line

Using the Continental grip while at the NVZ line is ideal for preparing to block the ball. Have the paddle head above your wrist and the face flat like a wall at 10 or 11 o'clock. Place your dominant elbow down to cover a huge part of your torso. This paddle position is also an excellent defensive strategy against aggressive opponents.

Backhand shots are prevalent at the kitchen line, but doing forehands can also be an option. To prepare for both, place your paddle face perpendicular to your chest. But remember, it's challenging to volley at this point so you must be fast enough to do forehand. If you're still a beginner, you might want to practice the 'neutral' ready position first.

Paddle Position at the Baseline

Unlike at the kitchen line, you don't have to worry much about your paddle position if you're at the baseline. Thanks to the 22-foot distance from the net, you have more time to prepare for a forehand or a backhand. You also have minimal problems if your opponent makes overhead smashes since you don't have to go further back.

Therefore, the ideal position for your paddle at the baseline is at 12 o'clock. However, due to the longer distance the incoming ball will travel, you may also hold your paddle down by your thigh instead of up to your chest. It lowers your center of gravity to your base. Once you do this, you can move better and faster than when your paddle is up.

Final Thoughts

As I have said many times, pickleball is like chess. Getting ready before making a move is a winning strategy. It's like increasing your offense and defense positions. Having a good ready position tells your opponent that you did your homework. You can also combine the techniques above or try other strategies. By doing some experiments, you will know which ready position works best for you. 

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