Lefties in Pickleball: Advantages, Disadvantages, and Strategy

They say that only 10-12% of the population are lefties. While it is uncommon, it means that you will come across a lefty opponent on the pickleball court at some point. Or are you that lefty in pickleball? If so, we’re so excited to play with you! (And perhaps a little jealous, too.)

Read on to learn more about being or playing against a lefty in pickleball:

And if you’re comfortable using both your left and right hands, you may want to try switching hands! Learn more about the Pros and Cons of Switching Hands in Pickleball.

Advantages of being a lefty in pickleball

There are so many advantages to being a lefty pickleball player. The biggest one is that you’ll have way more experience playing against righties than righties will have experience playing against lefties.

Most pickleball players are righties, and so players will almost always be playing against righty-righty doubles teams. You’ll be used to the pickleball strategies that work against righty-righty teams while your opponents will do a double take wondering why it’s not working for them.

As a lefty, you see the confusion on your opponent’s face when that spin you put on the ball does the opposite of what they expected on contact. Since you’re holding your paddle in the opposite hand, your ball spins in the reverse direction. And when your opponent instinctually hits a pickleball to your weaker “backhand” side, she’s hitting it to your stronger forehand side! Your opponents will need to pay much more attention, won’t they?

Finally, in our experience, we’ve found that lefties tend to be more ambidextrous than righties. Being an ambidextrous pickleball player means you can swap paddle hands when it benefits you to hit the best shot you can. The forehand side provides more reach, so if you have two forehand sides, you’ll be able to cover more court area than the typical player. Make sure you practice paddle swapping outside the game. This way, you’ll avoid accidentally dropping your paddle while making the swap!

Disadvantages of being a lefty in pickleball

There is one disadvantage of being a lefty pickleball player. However, it’s an “it’s not you, it’s me” type of situation. Some players are more hesitant to partner with a lefty because it can be a more confusing pairing for them. Fortunately, many players are up for playing with a lefty partner on the pickleball court. It’s more fun to surprise opponents on the court.

You might think that pickleball paddles don’t have handedness. But paddles are, in fact, usually designed for righties. You can see this in the spiral direction of the grip! Maybe you never noticed this. Or maybe it doesn’t bother you. But if you’re a lefty, try wrapping your grip in the opposite direction next time and see how it works for you. Slowly, there will be more lefty paddles on the market.

How to play pickleball as a right-left combo team

The first thing to realize when you’re playing in a righty-lefty pickleball team is that you will always have two forehands or two backhands in the middle. Most pickleball shots come down the middle because those shots are less likely to go out of bounds. In a two-righties team combination, it’s a standard operating procedure that the player with the forehand near the centerline is responsible for hitting that ball. This default strategy will not work when two forehands are in the center. Similarly, when two backhands are in the center, who will take that middle ball?

The answer is to communicate! 

Communication is super important on a mixed-handedness team. Both players should be comfortable shouting “YOU” or “YOURS” or “MINE” or “I GOT IT!!!!” Call the ball to avoid confusion and indecision, which (spoiler alert) is a strategy when playing against right-lefty teams. Additionally, the two of you could decide before the game and specify who will take responsibility for balls down the middle and when. The critical point is to communicate.

Additional tip for right-left combo teams

If the ball comes down the middle when both forehands are in the middle, make sure to return the ball cross-court. The reason is that you’re leaving your backhand side exposed as you rush into the center to get the ball. Your opponent could hit the ball down the open sideline if you hit the ball to the opponent directly across from you. If you hit the ball cross-court instead, presumably, your partner knows you’re taking the ball, so she won’t move so far towards the center court, keeping her backhand side protected.

Stacking: An advanced strategy for right-left combo teams

Lastly, an advanced doubles strategy for righty-lefty pickleball teams is stacking. Stacking is when you and your doubles teammate line up (stack!) on the same side of the court before a serve or return. Then you each shift to your preferred sides after the ball is hit. This strategy improves court positioning and mobility.

Some players even consider a mixed handed team the best combo because of stacking. Essentially, a mixed team can always have their forehands toward the center court by doing a full stack.

In other words, stacking helps teams avoid two backhands-in-the-center (and replaces it with two forehands-in-the-center). We call it an advanced strategy, though, because you’ll have to pay attention to the score and the correct position as the serving or receiving team to ensure you stay within the rules. Stacking also requires another level of communication to prevent on-court collisions.

 Learn more about stacking: pros, cons, and when to use this strategy: What is Stacking in Pickleball?

How to play against a right-left combo team

After reading through our tips for playing on a right-left combo team, you can think of several ways to defend against those tips. You can’t control what your opposing team will do, but you can control what your team will do!

First, identify that you’re playing a right-left combo team as soon as possible. You’ll be surprised how many players are so focused on themselves that they overlook a lefty on the opposing team until several points into the game. 

Remember, your typical targeting strategies won’t work on a lefty! Notice the lefty early so you can adapt.

As we mentioned before, one of the requirements for a successful righty-lefty team is impeccable teamwork and communication. In rec play, players often only pair up once they meet near the courts. You can take advantage of a new team by putting your shots down the middle between them. If the opposing team has yet to play together often, you’ll be able to capitalize on their indecision (especially with balls down the center). 

Additionally, it sounds non-intuitive but hitting the balls slower or even lobbing them over to the last third of the court can be very effective. Slower balls allow your opponents to think even longer about who will take responsibility. Their indecision and confusion can win you points!

Finally, if your opponents are not stacking, take note when they have both backhands in the center. In this scenario, double down on the slow balls going between them. When the two forehands are in the middle, target the outside where their backhands are.

Bonus: Some players like to serve backhand with a side spin when playing lefties. Try this if you can serve backhand. Learn about how some players like u/700akn do this by reading this fascinating Reddit thread:

Lastly, are you playing as or against a two-lefty team? What a unicorn. We won’t dive into strategies in this post, but would LOVE to hear from two-lefty teams about your best tactics and strategies.

Left and right? Being ambidextrous in pickleball

Did you know that only 1-5% of the population is truly ambidextrous?

If you are one of the few and proud, you could consider yourself lucky in pickleball. 

An ambidextrous player could switch hands mid-rally if the situation calls for it. Switching hands effectively could help with many offensive strategies, especially when playing against a right-handed opponent.

Read all about the pros and cons of switching hands in pickleball.

If you are ambidextrous, pickleball provides an excellent opportunity to hone your dominant hand as well as their less-dominant hand. 

Can you train yourself to become ambidextrous? It is certainly possible. It’s also possible to play pickleball with both hands. Being ambidextrous can help players become more flexible and increase their pickleball skill level. It can also make it harder for opponents to predict how you play or your next moves. Opponents may not know which hand you will use to hit the ball each time, which could throw off their offensive and defensive strategies. But it’s easier to become ambidextrous if you’re not using both hands in your daily activity.

Practice with both hands on and off the courts to improve your non-dominant hand. Try practicing drills and exercises both with their dominant hand and non-dominant hand.

Since practice makes perfect, try to put in the time outside the game or court. You can get reps in using a portable pickleball net. A portable net can be easily setup on your driveway or yard to get more practice in before whipping the lefty pickleball tactics or trying to switch hands in real games. (Here are our picks for the best portable nets.)


Lefties are here to stay in pickleball! We’ve provided some helpful tips for playing with a lefty or against a lefty. We love the fun, and challenge lefties bring to the game and hope to see more challenging us! Let us know in the comments if you’re a lefty in pickleball or how it’s been playing with or against lefties.

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