Pickleball Etiquette

It goes without saying that every sport comes with its own challenges surrounding what is proper etiquette and what is not. Whether its Golf, Curling, or any other single player or team sport, people new to the game of Pickleball will always need to know what is considered proper behaviour while playing.

Most formal pickleball clubs across the country create and share with their members, their own list of the do’s and don’ts about proper pickleball etiquette and Pickleball Nova Scotia has captured a number of these great suggestions in our list here below….

Don’t lob over restricted players

Starting with the most serious infraction first and for good reason. This is important not only as part of proper etiquette, but it’s more about safety than being courteous.

Most players with limited mobility aren’t going to bother even looking at a lobbed ball. But they may scowl at you instead as the ball is sailing over their head. You’ve won a free point, but at what cost? It’s no fun for the restricted player in question, and not for anyone else as well.

But it’s just not the etiquette part of this that is bad. It’s that some of these players may try to run for the ball, which can be a serious safety risk. Some older or restricted players still have that competitive flair. So while a lot of them know that they shouldn’t attempt to run backwards, some do. Although it is their choice on whether or not they run for the ball, there’s no need to tempt them with a lob.

Call out the score loudly before you serve

There are 3 different numbers to keep track of and everyone from beginners to advanced players can get confused. This is why having a constant update at the beginning of each serve is so helpful. So do everyone a favor and call out the score loudly so that things don’t get off track.

Out or In ?

If the ball is out, and it’s on your side, call it out loudly and raise your arm to indicate it is out. If it’s close, give the benefit of the doubt to your opponent. Put your arm down with palm flat or finger extended to show it is in. This is hard to do when the game is close but do it anyway. If you are unsure, it is IN! If your opponent does not do it, suck it up and do the right thing when it’s your turn!!!

If you step into the kitchen on a volley, or if your partner does, call it on yourself. Be very cautious about calling kitchen or serving faults on others – you should be watching the ball and not your opponent’s feet.

Never ask for, or accept, line calls from spectators.

Meet at the net after a game

If you’re an advanced player you obviously know about this. But for beginners, this is how you typically conclude every game. And by every game, we mean every single game. It’s considered to be extremely rude if you don’t meet at the net.

When people meet at the net they typically stick their paddles out to sort of “high five” in our own pickleball way. You don’t have to smack the paddle, but just making contact is fine. Some people will also stick the handle of their paddle out instead of the face. This is because some players don’t want to risk damaging the paddle face or the edge guard. Most people just use the paddle face, but do whatever is comfortable for you.

Wait until everyone is ready before you serve

In tournament play, if the return server is not giving a “not ready” signal, then the server can start as long as the score has been called by the official.

But in recreational play, sometimes you will see people serve when someone on the court clearly isn’t ready. It’s common for random balls to roll onto the court, or for someone to hop over to a ball and kick it out of the court. If you see someone doing this, don’t serve! It’s not against the rules to serve at this point, but it’s considered good etiquette to wait.

Congratulate opponents on amazing shots

Be sure you speak up and congratulate whoever made the shot, even if it’s your opponent and even if it means that you lost. Don’t be that guy that stays silent when an unbelievable shot is made.

Ball management

Pickleball is a crazy, fast-paced sport that you can easily lose track of things….especially the pickleballs themselves

If a ball gets caught in your side of the net, but it needs to go to your opponent, don’t weakly throw the ball back over. Make sure it reaches your opponent.

Try to have a few balls in your pocket. This keeps people from having to hunt down balls all the time.

Everyone has to hunt down balls sometimes, do your part and do it as well!

If someone goes out of their way to get a ball for you, say thanks for going through the trouble.

Don’t give people lessons on the court

Unless they want them that is. One of the great things about pickleball is that everyone wants everyone else to get better. That’s a good thing.

But there’s a line that you don’t want to cross with this. Most people who come to play recreational pickleball are just there for fun. They don’t care if they win or lose and they probably don’t even care if they improve or not. Trying to give them lessons on the court can make their experience annoying and frustrating.

Feel free to ask players if they want tips or suggestions while they play or if they would like to chat about your observations after the game. It makes a huge difference and it makes them more likely to actually listen to you. Just don’t start pointing out mistakes and offering unsolicited advice on the court – especially if it is delaying the game.

Watch the outbursts

Very few people in the pickleball world like playing with a hothead. There’s nothing worse than being partnered with someone who curses loudly or constantly smacks their paddle on their leg. There’s nothing wrong with being competitive and passionate about pickleball. In fact, it’s encouraged. But there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.

A lot of what goes into sports etiquette has to do with how your behavior affects people around you. One of the worst ways to affect everyone around you is to let your anger get out of control. It makes people feel uncomfortable and it can make your partner feel like it’s their fault. It’s just not good in general!

Try to recognize that you’re not playing for the championship game. Your behavior has an effect on the people around you and you are responsible for that!

Be aware of time used on the court

This rule is especially pertinent if you’re playing at a location that is extremely busy. If you’re on the court and you see an enormous wait line, don’t dawdle!

There’s nothing wrong with having a blast on the court while there’s a long wait line. Oftentimes long points will end in laughter and a few moments of banter.

But it’s a much different issue if you’re trying to teach someone how to serve or something similar. There’s nothing wrong with helping beginners out on the court if they have asked for your help, but when people are waiting it’s better to save that until after the game is over.

When it’s busy, certain venues will only play to 9 instead of 11. Respecting these rules also respects other people’s time. You would never want to be held up on the court either, so be aware of your pace of play while on the court.

Help out a little

Arrive in time to help set up the nets. When you are the last players on the court, take down the net.

Get to know your other players

Begin each game by acknowledging the other players, introducing yourself if you don’t know them or personally recognizing them if you do.

Open Play means Open Play

During Open Play (mixed skill-levels), players play with all skill levels without complaints. Good sportsmanship is the rule. If you are a significantly stronger player, if you have limited time available to you, and if there is an “advanced court” option, go wait there for a stronger game. Regardless, can the whining.

If you are playing against a team where there is a significantly stronger player, play against the stronger player. You will forget about who wins a given game tomorrow, but if you play against the stronger player you may learn something.

If you are the strongest player of the four, either:

  • play to each of the opponents in a way they can handle the shot and learn from the play. Sometimes you can even ask people what they are working on (e.g. drop shots, lobs, returning balls hit to their backhands, whatever) and if they tell you, hit the ball to them so they can work on those shots or
  • work on a shot that has been causing you difficulty; what a great time to practice the third shot drop!

To Bang or not To Bang?

NEVER smash a ball that is returned too high by the weaker player in social play….they will not appreciate it nor respect you for it. Instead, make a challenging return for the stronger opponent or give the weaker player another shot to try to get it down lower.

Short Snappers

If spectators continuously comment on the play itself, politely ask them to keep their comments to the spectators.

NEVER yell at, swear at, or say a hostile or sarcastic word to your partner or your opponent in anger.

Since we are playing a social game, please apologize if you break wind, belch loudly or swear (even when it is directed at yourself).

Trash-talking, which is teasing your opponents in a fun and lighthearted way, is part of pickleball. But be careful – don’t trash-talk someone who is sensitive, who you don’t know, who is a weaker player or can’t for any reason trash-talk back. Don’t trash-talk someone’s physical or mental limitations, use racial or other politically incorrect statements.

ALWAYS compliment people on outstanding “hero” shots or on a really great point during the game.

Play a strong game against better players but work on stuff you need practice on with the weaker players. Tell your partner “I’m working on deep backhand returns today” and they know that will mean that you’re not trying to put every shot away. Saying this beforehand gives you a chance to gauge what your partner wants out of the game.

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