#17 Assign The Middle
Left and right matters – but the middle matters more.
As you know, the middle of the court is where all the action happens. But who is assigned to cover it? Well, in most cases, nobody at all.
Whether you are a net player or a back player, there are three main roles that help dominate where you hit the ball and where you should cover on the court. Let’s say you are one of the two net players at the beginning of the point. Here’s your three roles.
1. Front Player
By it’s very definition, you get to cover the front of the court. And that means the entire front of the court. If the ball is on the other half of the court it is still an area you need to go and hunt.
2. Left Player
If you are the server’s partner and you the score is love all, you will be standing on the left side of the court and you basically have more influence over the left side of the court than your partner. You will alternate each point between the left and right player as the points get started in the deuce and ad court.
3. Middle Player
This is where the secret sauce lives. Assigning the middle of the court is paramount and by far the most important of the three roles. Once you know who has ownership of the middle of the court, well, the rest seems to flow so much better.
This is most important when both players are attacking at the front of the court. The basic rule of thumb is this:
If the ball is on the left side of the court (on the other side of the net), the left player on our side owns the middle.
If the ball is on the right side of the court (on the other side of the net), the right player on our side owns the middle.
There are so many balls that are going to go right down the middle of the court and the front player is not always sure if they should go and get it.
Yes you are a front player, yes you are a left player, but most importantly, you are a MIDDLE PLAYER FIRST!
Obvious Roles – Left Side / Right Side
More Important – Ownership of the front of court
Most Important – Who Owns The Middle
Most Important – Server Backs Up
Areas Of Influence – Server’s Partner Assigned the Middle
The Front Player Has 1st Option on the Middle
Name: Middle Ball
Objective – To clearly define the assignment of the middle of the court between the partners.
- Play a set.
- Explain at the start that the net player must own the middle first. The goal is to not get beaten down the middle at all for the set because the net player is covering it so well. It’s okay to get beaten down the line – just not the middle.
- If the ball is on the left side of the court (on the other side), then the left player is automatically assigned the middle. Make it clear that the middle carries the most weight.
Variations – You can reward two points every time the front player successfully wins a point after going to control the middle of the court.
Name: Middle Ball Feedng
Objective – To let the front player know they own that part of the court first. It’s obvious they are a front player, or a left player, but less obvious they are a middle player.
- Both teams stand where they would normally start to begin a point.
- The feed is hit as a substitute for the return of serve.
- Any ball fed through the middle of the court must be hit first by the net player. Wider balls or lobs can be hit by the back player.
- Assign the middle to the net player. Let them practice (succeeding and failing) going to the middle to get the ball and not letting middle balls make it back to their partner standing further back in the court.
Variations – The net player wins wins two points when they successfully win a point in the middle, but loses two points for their team when they lose there. Everything else counts as one point. This gives a heightened awareness to the doubles team that the middle is where all the action and all the points are – and the front player is assigned to that area.
Partners should always communicate at the start of the match & assign the middle to the front player.
Keep talking in the match. Keep reminding each other the front player must own the middle of the court.
You never, ever want to get beaten down the middle of the court. Shut that area down.
The back player can say “yours” when the ball heads to the middle of the court, assigning control to the partner.
Know you are a front player, a left player, but firstly you are a middle player at the net.