Pickleball Etiquette

Pickleball is a fun and social sport that's gaining popularity all around the world. It's a sport that's enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels, but as with any sport, certain rules and guidelines must be followed. Understanding and practicing proper pickleball etiquette is not only important for maintaining a safe and fair playing environment, but it also contributes to the overall enjoyment of the game. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the dos and don'ts of pickleball etiquette, from proper communication to good sportsmanship, so you can be a respectful and considerate player on the court.

Say the Score Loudly

Ensure that you say the score loudly and clearly before serving. Pickleball rules state that players must announce the score prior to serving, so if you are whispering or mumbling the score before your serve, your opponent may not hear it and will be unhappy because they will assume that you have served the ball without warning.

Be aware of the noise levels in the surrounding area. Indoor courts can be very noisy, so make sure you adjust your volume accordingly.

Wait Until People Are Ready Before Your Serve

Some players will try to serve the ball as quickly as possible before their opponent has had the opportunity to reset themselves after the previous point. This is considered bad etiquette. Always give your opponent time to position themselves, then announce the score clearly, and then serve. If a player is not ready, it is acceptable to raise their hand to indicate that they need some time, and the server should again wait until they are ready to resume.

With this being said, it is also bad etiquette for the player receiving the serve to take unreasonable amounts of time to position themselves after each point. The game should flow at a reasonable pace, and it is the responsibility of all players to ensure this happens.

Don’t Walk Behind Courts With a Game Active

When playing on public courts it is sometimes necessary to walk past a number of other courts to reach the court that you will be playing on. When walking to your court, it is good etiquette to stop and wait for a pause in any active game before walking behind a court. Walking behind a court can be an unwelcome distraction for anyone currently playing, and can be seen as impolite.

Conversely, if you are playing, and you see someone waiting to walk past your court, it is polite to let them cross before you start the next point.

Give the Benefit of the Doubt for Line Calls

There is a saying in tennis that says "When in doubt, call it in". This should also be applied to pickleball games. If you are not sure if a ball was in or out, give the benefit of the doubt and call it in. Remember that if the ball lands on the line itself, it is considered in. In recreational games, the point can always be replayed if necessary, so try to assume that the ball was in unless you are 100% that it was not.

Don’t Force Players to Stack

Stacking (when doubles players strictly stay on their designated side of the court for the entire game) should not be forced upon your playing partner. Always assume that you will be playing a regular game of pickleball unless stacking has been agreed to by both players. Some players get great enjoyment from playing on both sides of the court so will not have as much fun if forced to stack. It can also be quite confusing for beginners and can cause confusion with serving positions and keeping score, so it is not fair to make them play in this way without their approval.

Always Bring a Ball

Never assume that other players will bring a ball with them. Always bring your own ball, as it is better to arrive with a large selection of balls to choose from than have to borrow a ball from someone else.

Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice

We have probably all been in situations before when we notice that somebody is doing something wrong, or that they could improve their game if they listen to your advice. However, although you may have the best intentions, it can be very annoying to receive advice when they have not asked for it, especially if they are a complete stranger.

That is not to say that we should never offer any tips, but we should try to pass on any advice in the most polite way possible. It is recommended to wait until the end of the game and to always ask for permission before giving any feedback.

Don’t Lob Restricted Players

This tip does not apply to a tournament scenario, but in a recreational game, it is seen as disrespectful to continually lob the ball over players who are not very mobile. It may be very easy to win points by lobbing the ball over senior players, but it is certainly not fun for them and will result in a cheap point for you. In addition to being bad etiquette, it can also be a safety concern. Forcing restricted players to run back when it is not advisable for them can result in serious injury.

Stop Play When a Ball Comes Onto Your Court

If a stray ball rolls onto your court, it is good etiquette to stop play and return the ball to the court which it came from. Try to throw the ball directly to the player that lost it and avoid randomly throwing the ball in the general direction from which it came.

Don’t Keep the Ball Away From the Better Player

When playing double games, it is common for playing partners to have different skill levels. If you are playing a recreational game and the opponents have one player that is clearly better than the other, then do not play the ball to the weaker player for the entire game in an attempt to win. A recreational game should be fun for all players on the court so it is unfair to keep the ball away from anyone just because they are a better player than you.

It can sometimes be beneficial to test your skills against a better player, but if you find yourself avoiding them, it may be advisable to search for games against a more equal level of opponent.

There Is No “Right” Way to Play Pickleball

Some pickleball players can be very protective over what they consider to be the right way of playing the game. Usually, these players have embraced the soft game, and are resentful of players coming from a tennis background and continually driving the ball. However, there really is no right or wrong way of playing pickleball. As long as you play within the rules of the game, you are permitted to use whatever strategy is working for you.

As you gain more experience you will probably learn that the soft game has many strengths, but until then, don't let anybody tell you that you are playing the game wrong.

Meet at the Net After the Game

A game should always be concluded at the net with the pickleball equivalent of a handshake. Players will make contact with their paddles, almost like a high-five. It is customary to do this even if you are angry about losing the game. If you do not meet at the net it is considered very disrespectful.