Rover pickleball is a fun variation of doubles pickleball but instead of 4 players, it is played with 6 players.
Note: It can also be played with 5 or 7 players. With 7 players, 1 player would be extra and sit out until rotated in. The 5 and 7 player variation will be discussed at the end of this article.
First decide who will be the "Rovers" and who will be the "Kitchen Players". The Rover players starts at the baseline and only move up to play a ball. The Rover CANNOT make his/her way to the Kitchen or creep past a foot or so beyond the baseline, unless both Kitchen players are out of position to return the ball. If the Rover NEEDS to go past that point to play a ball, he/she has to retreat back to the baseline area. Rover's need to stand clear of the server, especially those servers who like to serve close to the center line.
The game starts as a normal 4 player game and the Rover's step in after the serve has has been returned. Once the serve has been returned, any one of the 3 receiving players can hit it back.
The game is played as it would normally be played with these exceptions:
1. The Kitchen Players stay at the net and the Rovers stays back and plays any lob balls. If there is a ball hit down the middle that neither of the Kitchen Players can get, the Rover plays it. If the ball is blasted down the middle, the Rover should play it.
2. The Kitchen Players get a lot of net play, including dinking. The Rover's get to try his/her third shot drop a lot, or gets to blast away at the other Rover. It’s probably a good idea if the Rover blasts the ball at the other teams Kitchen Players on occasion, only if to get the Kitchen Players accustomed to that shot.
3. Proactive Rover's can play backup and pickup any shots the Kitchen players miss.
4. The Rover's other job is remind the Kitchen players to move up, if they happen to stray into "No Man's Land". Rovers, feel free to "coach" your team. Communication is also important for all players to call a shot that might be between players.
5. One other thing. If a Kitchen Player flubs their shot, they switch places with and now become the Rover! This occurs before the next serve. (flub = any missed shot, net shot, out of bounds shot or fault). This is an added incentive for the Kitchen players to make their shots or end up in Rover's "dog house"
Note: For 7 players, if the Rover flubs their shot, they swap with the 7th player (who would be sitting out on the sideline). Either side.
This additional Rover player also works quite well with only 5 players! Decide which side might need the extra (Rover) person and play 3 against 2. Try it!