Pros and Cons of Switching Hands in Pickleball

TL;DR Summary

Is it okay to switch hands in pickleball? Many pickleball players wonder this question about switching or changing hands. The short answer is “yes,” but the long answer has a bit of nuance. It’s legal to switch or change hands in pickleball, even during play, but many players (recreational and pros) don’t attempt to do this.

Read on to learn about the benefits and disadvantages of switching hands, including when to use this technique. (And see how one of the best pros, Wes Gabrielsen, does it well.)

It’s legal to switch hands in pickleball

Switching hands is legal in pickleball. There are no rules forbidding it. However, you’ll notice that switching hands is not prevalent in the pro circuit, which gives us a clue about how the pros think about changing hands in high-level play. While it can help increase reach, throw off opponents, and give you a killer forehand (as a backhand), it can also be hard to master.

Nevertheless, it does happen even in pro games, and Wes Gabrielsen is a master at it.

Should you switch hands in pickleball?

So, should you switch hands during your game?

In our experience, switching hands in pickleball comes more easily and successfully to players who are ambidextrous in their daily lives. Only an estimated 1-10% of the population is ambidextrous.

To be truly successful at switching hands requires the non-dominant side to be as strong and coordinated as the dominant side. While it’s not common to be ambidextrous, some people come close!

Since lots of lefties are more ambidextrous than righties, switching hands can be a fun and exciting strategy for lefties.

If you came to pickleball from other sports where you switched hands often or where both hands were equally utilized, you could successfully switch hands in pickleball. For example, if you played a lot of softball. You probably trained one hand to throw and the other to catch. So you’re already used to working with your non-dominant hand.

Lastly, switching hands could be a good idea if you have low mobility and difficulty moving quickly on the court. Similarly, if you have a shoulder injury or some other injury that blocks you from doing the full range of shots with one hand, changing hands might keep you playing pickleball and off the bench. (Check with your doctor!)

Advantages to switching hands

We can think of four significant advantages of switching hands during pickleball play:

  1. Allows more reach. When you do a backhand, your arm must cross over your body to the opposite side. As a result, your paddle can’t reach that far away from your body. However, if you switched your paddle to your other hand, you would have increased your reach significantly. Having increased reach can be hugely beneficial when playing singles.
  2. Covers a weak backhand. For many beginners, a forehand is always more potent and controlled than a backhand. Especially at the beginner level, minimizing unforced errors is key to winning games, so switching hands to execute a more powerful and steady shot can be better than doing the backhand you’re “supposed to” do.
  3. Requires less mobility. This advantage is a corollary to the first advantage. Because switching hands will allow you more reach, you’ll be able to cover more of the court with less movement. As we mentioned, this is beneficial, especially if you have low mobility or an injury. However, moving less can also help you conserve your energy during a game and let you stay focused longer.
  4. Confuses the opponent. It’s rare to see players switch hands during play. So if you manage to do it in a pickleball game, you can confuse your opponent. Suddenly, your opponent may receive shots with the opposite spin, and when they aim for your backhand side, it becomes your forehand side.
Weak backhand? Don't worry, we all have areas to improve! If you're having trouble with your backhand, try a two-handed backhand. Here's our guide to Mastering the Two-Handed Backhand in Pickleball)

Disadvantages to switching hands

Unfortunately, for each advantage we’ve noted, there’s a complementary disadvantage:

  1. Allows dropped paddles. Much of the pickleball game is played in the area near the non-volley zone, with dink rallies interspersed with rapid-fire volley attacks. While increased reach may be a good reason to switch hands, often, when you’re this close to the net, there isn’t time to change hands! You might miss a ball mid-switch or drop your paddle because you’re rushing your switch. (Instead, improve your game and use our guide to master your dinks or try adding an erne to your game rather than trying to switch hands close to the net).
  2. Covers a weak backhand. If you have a weak backhand and switch hands to avoid using it, you’ll never develop that backhand! In higher-level play, having a solid backhand is critical because using a backhand will allow you to respond a lot more quickly than passing your paddle. If you’re switching hands as a crutch to cover a weak backhand, it’s a sign that you should spend some time working on your backhand outside the game.
  3. Covers lazy footwork. Assuming that you could be more mobile, the increased reach you perceive when switching hands will make you do more standing still on the court. Unfortunately, in many situations, you’ll find that because you had yet to move to a better position, you had no choice but to switch hands and, even then, still contact the ball behind your body instead of out in front. Being forced to change hands because you didn’t move your feet is not a “win” for switching hands.
  4. Missing the ball. If you anticipated where the ball was going by moving your body, you could have contacted the ball in a more controlled way in front of you.
  5. Confuses your partner. The sound of crashing paddles might be one of the worst sounds in the world. While it’s excellent to confuse your opponent, it could be better to confuse your doubles partner. Switching hands can confuse who is responsible for the ball going down the middle. Usually, it’s the responsibility of the forehand player (assuming you’re both righties) but if someone is swapping their paddle all the time, who is going for the ball becomes unclear.

The best times to switch hands in pickleball

Ultimately, all the disadvantages of switching hands have ways of being addressed. For example, to avoid dropped paddles, don’t switch hands indiscriminately. Only change hands deliberately when you know you have enough time to do so. Or change hands after a serve or a return of a serve.

Depending on how long your paddle handle is, you may need to find an efficient way to pass the paddle from one hand to the other. If your paddle handle is long, try holding the paddle closer to the top of the handle when passing the paddle over to your non-dominant hand. You’ll get less leverage in this “choked up” position but more control if your non-dominant hand is weaker.

Finally, practice makes perfect. Make sure you put in the time outside the game. If you haven’t already, get yourself a portable pickleball net that you can easily setup on your driveway or yard to get more practice in before whipping out the hand switch in real games. (Here are our picks for the best portable nets.)

If you can eliminate all the disadvantages of switching, you’ll have a unique strength in your pickleball arsenal. You will be a formidable opponent!

Wes Gabrielsen, the master of changing his hands in pickleball

Wesley (Wes) Gabrielsen is an 11-time USAPA National Champion. He’s also a:

  • 6-time Canadian National Champion
  • 2-time Tournament of Champions Gold Medalist
  • 2-time U.S. Open Champion
  • With a 5.940 doubles DUPR rating
  • Who was inducted into the Pickleball Hall of Fame in 2022

And he’s ambidextrous and the pickleball court.

He’s known for switching hands during games on the fly! Check out this video and see how Wes switches hands to hit ambidextrous forehands with both hands.

Wes hitting awesome forehands ambidextrously by switching hands in pickleball.

Or see this video of how Wes effortlessly switches hands on this point and how hard it is to tell which hand he will use next as he plays out the point.

You can learn from Wes’ technique. Studying how he moved to anticipate the ball. Wes’ movement and footwork can be an invaluable lesson, even if you’re still getting ready to switch hands in your own game.


Switching hands in pickleball can provide advantages like increased reach, less mobility needed, and even confusing the opponent. However, there are also many potential disadvantages, like dropping your paddle, covering a weak backhand, or confusing your doubles partner. Ultimately, learning to switch hands in your pickleball game is a skill you can use to your advantage with the right amount of practice and caution.

15 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Switching Hands in Pickleball”

  1. This is amazing!! I’m a beginner (started a year or two ago) and, only yesterday afternoon did I realize I play most comfortably with both hands. I think it’s due to where the ball is coming as it comes back to the side of the net I am on. It took me a while to learn which I am comfortable with, and, it’s easiest for me to play with both.

    • Rebecca – that’s awesome to hear! It’s not easy to play comfortably with both hands, but what an advantageous skill. We’re rooting for you (and your lucky pickleball partners).

      – The Pickleball Crew

      • Thank you!! I’m so sorry I didn’t see this message until now. The people I have played with most frequently are quite impressed by how I play switching hands. I even surprised myself. My mom got me into the game, but she is able to play more often since she is retired. I would love to have one of those machines that throws the ball, for more practice, but, I am sure they’re expensive.

  2. I am still a beginner and taking advanced beginner classes and also belong to a group that meets 5 mornings each week where we can choose what days we are available. Last week a gentleman bluntly told me that my changing hands was a “bad habit” that I needed to stop. I informed him that my coach told me that it is legal in play and that if it works for me then being ambidextrous is a plus. I also kindly told him that there are professionals that are ambidextrous and changing hands can be advantageous in play.

    • Linda – it sounds like you’re only getting better at pickleball everyday! We’re a big fan of your commitment to the game. It sounds like the gentleman didn’t know about switching hands (or was a little jealous :P). Keep up your pickleball play – we’re cheering for you.

      – The Pickleball Crew

  3. Switching hands in pickleball gives the sport a form of evolution. In other words, two hands are better than one to bring your game to a much higher level.

  4. I’m 6 months in to playing this awesome sport and I switch hands all the time. I did that alot playing ping pong growing up and it seems more natural than to hit a true backhand with both hands. Thanks for the advice.


    • Hi Tim, congrats. We’re really excited you’ve gotten into pickleball. Also great way to put your ping pong experience to work on court :). Is there anything else you’d like us to create content on?

  5. I’m ambidextrous since I was a child and played most sports ambidextrous. I play pickleball and use my ambidextrous skills in my playing and it confuses my opponents and I tell all my partners that I am so we can communicate on the court.

    • Hi Michael, that great. Being ambidextrous is definitely an advantage in sports (including pickleball)! We think most professional athletes are basically ambidextrous (at least they’ve trained to the level where they are).

  6. I started switching hands when played tennis. I now exclusively play pickleball at a 4.0 level. I’m predominantly a righty, so I start off with my dominant hand and switch on return of serves, drives, overheads, some dinks and put aways. When I’m at the net I typically stay with my right. What I’ve learned is that I concentrate more when I hit lefty. When I’m playing a lesser opponent, I will use my left hand 90% of the time. I’ve developed my left to the point I can place down the line, put inside out spin and slice on my shots. I’ve also started to play lefty on in the duce court, covering the middle, driving then crashing. It’s a definite advantage, it is confusing to my opponents and I just have to let my partner know that I can take the middle if they have a hard to reach shot. My suggestion for anyone who is coordinated enough to try, practice as you would your right. The transition is seemless if you practice returning your paddle to center once you finish a stroke.. Also, don’t forget your natural backhand, I play that as well, mostly a slice return, always effective.

  7. I am a beginner and have been playing with both hands since day one and players have been telling me to favor one hand to get really good but I just don’t feel comfortable using only one hand. Should I focus using only one hand?

    • Great question! Curious, are you’re also ambidextrous with other things in life even if not sports?

      We think the answer is: it depends. Generally, it’s true that if you focus on one hand first, you’ll likely be able to improve your pickleball game faster. But we’re also big believers in having fun in the game. (If you really enjoy pickleball, you’ll also end up playing more and for many more years to come, which over the long-term will mean a lot more improvements to your game.) At the end of the day, unless you’re trying to go pro, we’d say pick how you want to focus (one-hand first or both hands).


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