Doubles – Poaching Guidelines
Poaching in doubles is an aggressive play that surprises and puts pressure on an opposing team. If done correctly, it can be a major factor in the outcome of doubles matches. This tip will give you the 5 guidelines for becoming successful at poaching and taking your doubles game to the next level.
- Positioning: Start by positioning yourself properly in the middle of the service box. This will put you close enough to have good attempts to poach, but not too close to make you vulnerable to lobs, or down the line passes. Make sure to not stand on the service line while attempting to poach, as this is too far from the net.
- Timing: This is perhaps the most important and challenging component of poaching. The key is to start moving towards the middle immediately as your opponent starts their swing. As your opponent’s racquet starts to drop and move forward to hit the ball, make your move to start the poach. It is a small window of time, but with practice it will start to become easier and more instinctual.
- Committing and Crossing: For a true poach, you must cross the middle (service) line, and end up on your partner’s side of the court. Often, the mistake is to take one step and reach towards the middle of the net, without actually committing and fully crossing the line. This hesitant move without full commitment will allow too many balls to get past you. Be decisive, commit and fully cross the middle line for more success in you poaches.
- Ball Placement: As you start improving your timing, the next goals is to start directing the ball to the right place in order to finish points with your poach. The placement is simple– you must hit the ball towards the net player in front of you. Avoid hitting the ball back to the baseliner as they have plenty of time to return your shot. The net player, on the other hand, has much less time to return and feels much more pressure. Another good way to remember the placement is simply to hit the ball in the same direction that you are moving.
- Switching: This is a team effort. Ideally, the poach will win the point, but it doesn’t always. In case the ball comes back, the receiving team must be prepared to continue the point. This means that once the volleyer crosses the middle line, he/she must stay on that side, and the baseliner must quickly switch to cover the open court. Communicate with your partner to plan ahead for this situation, and be responsible to switch, both when you are the volleyer and when you are the baseliner.