How many times have you let a return go by in doubles only
to think, "hey I should have poached on that one!" I find
that it happens to most 2.5-3.5 players several times during
a match. One reason that this happens is that players have
a tendency to let the ball come to them rather than go to
the ball. It is much easier to let the ball and your
opponent control the point especially if you are scared you
are going to jump in and make an error. But more advanced
players know that they want to do something to the ball and
dictate play. The better you are, the more confidence you
have in jumping in on that floating return. So how do you
get that confidence?
The first thing to do is make sure your technique is good
on your volley. If you can't put that high floater away it
is doing no good to get in that situation. You don't want
to be in an offensive position at the net and hitting
The next thing to do is make sure you have a practice time
set aside where you can be very aggressive at the net and
not worry so much about a few errors or letting down your
partner. You never want to try a shot in a match that you
haven't successfully executed in practice. Poaching during
practice allows you to get that feel for moving across the
court and helps you to see what balls you can comfortably
A given with poaching is communicating with your partner.
Letting your partner know what you will do will help him/her
place the serve and the move accordingly. This allows you
to concentrate on the return and hopefully sets you up for
an easier shot. Too many times players try to poach when
their partner has not given them a shot that sets it up.
It takes the communication and strategy of both players to
be a successful poacher.
After you feel like you can make some volleys off the poach,
I would start using it slowly in match play. I like to see
players try new shots and strategies whey they are up 40-0
or 40-15 in a game. This way there is a little bit of a
comfort zone to allow for errors. You don't want to try new
shots for the first time at the most critical time of the
match. After a few successful attempts you will have gained
the confidence needed to use poaching in a match.
Everyone makes errors and poaching requires quick movement
and fast hands. You'll make a few mistakes but having the
ability to poach and cover more court makes you a much more
valuable doubles partner.