Pickleball Basics – Pickleball-Specific Court Usage, Etiquette and Safety

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Good players, good etiquette

This article talks about the universal pickleball club problems of court usage/utilization, pickleball safety, and etiquette. Almost anybody starting or running a pickleball program soon encounter problems which stem from one (or both) of two underlying issues:

  1. Too many players wanting play on too few courts.
  2. Players are of very mixed skill-levels  

Basically those first two issues are pickleball court utilization issues. In addition there are third and fourth issues that sometimes causes very grave concerns, combined here for ease in writing about them):

  1. Basic etiquette and safety (plus a link to 150 pickleball excuses for every occasion)

The purpose of this article is to help people who are starting or running a pickleball club to understand a few options for addressing the first two issues, and to identify some of the “rules of behavior” that lead to good pickleball etiquette and safety. We will take ‘em in order. Remember that much of this is OMHO (In Our Humble Opinions) and you can accept or disregard as you choose. (This link to 150 pickleball excuses for every occasion seems relevant for some reason.) 

  1. Too many players wanting play on too few courts

Clubs starting up often have too few courts available or perhaps they have enough court space but limited time to use them (co-use with tennis, for instance) – which amounts to the same thing. Given the exploding popularity of pickleball almost everywhere this is a fact and no matter how you address it, IOHO, any attempted solution will annoy some people. That’s life. However, there are a few proven solutions that come close to getting good court utilization with small numbers of courts or limited time.

  1. A challenge court system is easiest. Establish one court (or two courts if you have that number of players) for beginners, another court for more advanced play. Advanced play, you’re expecting to take a rip (hit) now and then. People line up or draw numbers (also “d” below for a white-board-based method of lining up.) First four in play a game. Winners stay on for a second game and split up. Next two come in. Now only the one winner who is there for the first game stays on and three come off…the one who has won his/her second game plus the two who lost. The next three come in. As you come off, use Do a paddle rotation. Initially if you have a big group you draw numbers. First four play. Numbers 5 to infinity go in line and put their paddles in that order somewhere…by the handles in a cyclone fence along the courts, on the floor next to the courts, wherever. After the first four play their first game the next four paddles are picked up by their owners and those four go in. The original players go to the back of the line.
  2. A chair rotation is handled identically but people sit on chairs and wait….moving up the line of chairs as people come off a court. Note: in either case, after the first complete rotation of chairs or paddles, people are welcome to go BACK in line if they want to play with others in order to mix play up and to avoid having the same foursome always playing together. There can be “rules” about no foursome always playing together if that is a problem in the club.
  3. A Round Robin is a good answer to keep people moving and playing with different people. A RR is run this way: people sign up on a numbered list. They remember their number. A RR sheet corresponding to the number of people wanting to play then is constructed. Each game you look for your number and play with those folks. The next game you will play with different people. Each game it’s different. You may have a “bye”, or sit out a game, if there is an odd number. You need to have RR player sheets for EACH number of players who may be present. Generally we keep RR player sheets for 6 to 35 players in Palm Creek (AZ). You will need less in Bend with fewer available courts. Look under Organized Play for the Round Robin player sheets if you want them.
  4. A good friend who summers in Reno uses this method, called the “white-board rotation.” This is essentially a more sophisticated challenge court system. He has four courts but the concept could be used with 3, e.g. the Boys and Girls Club if there is enough room there for three. On 2 courts, players are rotated from a list taken from a dry erase board is posted next to the court. People add their name to the bottom of the list. Players come off the top as needed. Their names are erased and so on. The winners stay and split. You would leave the third court for “Aggressive Play” (he calls it “advanced court”, or “aggressive play court”). You can play there at any level but if you play there you need to be ready to take a hit. On that third court you challenge in by partners. Winners stay on and play a maximum of 2 games. By keeping the winners together you don’t water down the competition by splitting 2 good players with maybe 2 lesser players that have challenged. (We have never seen this personally but the guy who does it is another past President of our club in Palm Creek and if he says it works, it works. We really like the idea for at least three courts; it could work for two if you have enough players evenly divided.)
  1. Players are of mixed skill-levels. Lower level players don’t like playing with advanced players as they get beat up. Advanced players don’t like playing with lower level players as they don’t get good play. Both points of view are valid. Unfortunately, at some point the advanced players often simply refuse to play with “lesser” players. This is rude and IOHO it also slows learning, as one of the best ways for people to learn is to play with better players. Advanced players have the right to expect competitive games during same-skill-level periods but do NOT have the right to refuse to play when there are open-play, mixed skill-level periods. In any event, how do you address this situation, which I admit is often nasty?
    1. Provide periods for both open-play and for same-skill-level play at different times.
    2. Rate players or have them self-rate. I would STRONGLY suggest that you immediately go to skill-level ratings (2.0, 2.5, 3.0 up to 5.0) instead of “A”, “B”, “C”, or “Beginner”, “Intermediate” and “Advanced”. Follow this link for more on this subject.

Why? Because skill-level ratings have definitions. I can tell people what skills they need to possess to be a 3.0 instead of a 2.5, for instance. Consistent definitions do not exist for “Advanced”, etc., or with “A”, “B”, “C”. Here’s a little more yet on this subject.

(IOHO, the more “Advanced” players in Bend are currently playing at around a 4.0 level with only a few at 4.5. Most are not yet playing at the 3.5 level. This is typical of a new club.)

    1. Structure RRs by skill-level if there are enough people in a given level to warrant it.
    2. Alternatively, if you have only a couple of courts, designate one “Intermediate” and another “Advanced” (forgetting for the moment about skill-level definitions) and have people wait to get on the court they want. If you have three courts, have “A”, “B” and “C” or Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced – all this depends on how many people in the group in each level. Also see section 1 (a) above for more on this subject.
  1. Basic Etiquette and Safety on the courts

3.1 Etiquette

    1. To begin, and again IOHO, Pickleball is only a game. It is not a metaphor for life. It is not even a profession. Nobody makes much money playing pickleball. You will not eat differently tonight based on your success during a recreational pickleball match. We need to keep in mind that we are playing a GAME! Much of what follows is based on that concept.
    2. Begin each game by acknowledging the other players, introducing yourself if you don’t know them. If you do know them, tip a paddle towards them on the other side or salute or stand on your head or whatever is appropriate to let them know that you know they are there and are saying “hey”.
    3. During open play (mixed skill-levels), players play with all skill levels. No 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. In any event, can the whining. It makes you look older.
    4. 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.
    5. If YOU are the strongest player of the four, play to the weakest players in a way they can handle and learn from. 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 them shots they can use to work on those shots.
    6. At the end of each game, find something positive to say to the other team at the net. “Nice game” isn’t always appropriate if in spite of your efforts at sportsmanship you have won 11-0. But “you made some great shots!”, or “much closer than the score”, or “Wow, we were lucky today!” would be just fine. At least, “Thanks for playing with us!” is nice. NEVER leave a game without acknowledging the other team.
    7. If the ball is out, and it’s on your side, call it out. If it’s close, give the benefit to your opponent. This is hard to do when the game is close but do it anyway. If your opponent does not do it, suck it up and you do the right thing anyway when it’s your turn. (One of us is not perfect on this one, btw, but – spoilet hint – he’s working on it.)
    8. 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. Most of us are at an age that we would doubt that we can clearly see a serving violation (illegal serve, foot-fault on baseline) – it’s 44 feet away at worst and about 23 feet away at best! (C’mon…you can’t find your keys in the morning until you find your glasses, which are already on your head, but you can clearly see a tiny foot-fault violation at 44 feet? Hah!)
    9. Never ask for, or accept, line calls from spectators.
    10. If spectators continuously comment on the play itself, while this is normal and fun, ask them not to if their comments are loud, disruptive, argumentative, hostile or combative. Even if (OK, ESPECIALLY if) they are on your side!
    11. NEVER yell at, swear at, or say a hostile or sarcastic word to your partner or your opponent in anger. We repeat, NEVER! (one of us finds this almost impossible to do but we keep trying, we keep trying….)
    12. Do we need to add that, since we are playing a social game, it would be NICE if you apologized if you break wind or belch? Amazingly enough, we DID need to add this as I’ve seen people who purposely belch on courts, loud enough to strip chrome off bumpers. Many of us consider this rude. Some of us consider this funny. Respect those who are more refined, you insensitive churl! (At the moment we don’t know anybody who can break wind on demand but, associating with senior geezer-jocks as much as we do, we suspect they’ll show up at any time now.)
    13. Trash-talking, which is teasing your opponents in a fun and lighthearted way, is part of pickleball. It’s one of the things that distinguishes us from our more formal and reserved counterparts who play tennis (unless of course they are playing “Team Tennis” – in which case they are just as “bad” as we are!) 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. Do we need to say the obvious – don’t trash-talk someone’s physical or mental limitations, use racial or other politically incorrect statements (at ANY time in your life!), and etc.? Statements like “You could have got that before you lost your leg!” would NOT be considered appropriate. Among peers, “you could have got that LAST year!” might be considered appropriate. Just be careful.
    14. The corollary to the above is obvious. ALWAYS compliment people on outstanding “hero” shots or on a really great game. (Not on every point, but when it’s most appropriate, you silly goose.)
    15. Play your strongest game against better players but work on stuff you need practice on with the weaker players. We will often individually tell our partners “I’m working on (say) placement today” and they know that will mean that we’re not necessarily going to put every shot away. Saying this beforehand gives you a chance to gauge what your partner wants out of the deal. Recently Irene had a friend tell her “But I want to win this game!” when she said that and so they played a bit harder – against a comparable team, and did win, and she left the practicing for the next game.
    16. Do not take advantage of a person’s physical limitations when you play them socially. If someone cannot go back for a lob when they’re at the line because of physical limitations, for instance, why lob over their heads? It’s a cheap shot, you won’t learn anything by doing it, and you certainly will not be respected for it. Anyway, perhaps they have great hands at the line and you could learn something by hitting shots to their strength and trying to make good shots out of their returns. (It’s appropriately a different story in tournaments, believe us, but even there some limitations apply. Examples of good sportsmanship abound from tournament play. Makes people better people, yeah? And refer to “a” – it’s just a game!)
    17. At the end of a game, if you believe another player would benefit from an observation about their play, DON’T OFFER IT. Who made YOU court-captain today? Most people don’t want observations about their play and will not take it well. Even if they ask, be very cautious. See the next point.
    18. Eventually even YOU will get to the point when you are a senior player. Just teasing, but it really is that kind of a game and most of us do get there before too many years go by (thankfully, as most of us don’t have that much time!). At that point you inherit the obligation to, in fact, give advice WHEN ASKED, if you believe that the party is really sincere about wanting it. Everybody handles this differently but we believe we should, at that point, give no more than ONE piece of advice at a time. Let them work on that. Then, some other day, go on to the next thing.

3.2  Safety

  1. Don’t overplay your current physical condition. (“JUST ONE MORE GAME” has caused way too many accidents!)
  2. Hydrate. This means “drink water”. This means YOU. Especially in Arizona, where people don’t seem to sweat, but in other places as well. Like Bend. Like everywhere. Drink BEFORE you are thirsty. Otherwise it’s too late.
  3. If a ball comes onto your court from another court, STOP PLAY AT ONCE. Same if you hear the yell “Ball On Court!” 
  4. Stretch before and AFTER playing. We know, We know, everyone says that, we all say we do it, but we don’t. So be a trend-setter and do it.
  5. Plus, don’t just swat it back. Pick it up and toss it to the player on the other court, unless the nets are tied high enough above the ground to allow the ball to go under the net. Then swat it courteously in the direction of the opponent.
  6. If you hit a ball into another court, immediately YELL “Ball On Court!”.
  7. If a ball is going towards another court, do NOT chase it ONTO the other court. Stop, yell “Ball on Court”, and let the other people stop play and retrieve the ball.
  8. If you are crossing an active court to get onto a vacant court or to leave a court, wait until their current point is over. Ask them for permission to cross their court. Like a few of these, this is both an etiquette and a safety issue but I put it here, in safety, as it’s obviously unsafe to do otherwise.
  9. If a ball breaks, safely remove it from the court.
  10. If ANYTHING falls on the court, quickly remove it.
  11. If you see someone who displays signs of dizziness, weakness, or lack of concentration, keep an eye on them. Recommend a time-out if you think it necessary for their sake.
  12. If you see someone playing with “bad” shoes…sandals, non-court-shoes, leather soles of any kind, stop play. Bad shoes are disaster on the hoof.
  13. If you are near your partner with an overhead slam opportunity where you may hit them, stop play. Let the ball drop. Lose the point. Do NOT hit your partner. Stay conscious of where they are.
  14. If you can go back more safely for an overhead than your partner, (if their mobility is limited), YOU cover the overheads. Likewise let them cover for you if the situation is reversed.
  15. When going backwards for a lob, turn and run backwards, DON’T SHUFFLE BACKWARDS. I have seen SO-O-O many falls happen because someone shuffles instead of turning and running. This is a hard thing to do correctly, btw, and needs to be practiced.
  16. Only a few of us need to be reminded of this one, but don’t dive for balls.
  17. If someone falls on the court, all play STOPS until their needs are addressed. If you have a full-blown pickleball club you should also have a DeFib unit as well as a full-blown first-aid kit. You should also have people trained up on the DeFib and on CPR. Every year, there should be ADDITIONAL people trained up on both processes.

57 Comments

  • tom breene
    December 25, 2019

    Do not play with him. Tell him when he can be more accurate you will . If he is doing it on purpose that is poor sportsmanship and you will pass on playing with him. And i would say my eyes are more important to me than your style of play. And finally i would tell him pickle ball is no fun playing by yourself. He may like taking up SAM OR EYE sword fighting v.s. social pickeball. You got to call B.S. on bullies . Member of the Steeler Nation.

  • Geana Gordon
    February 22, 2019

    Today my shoe twisted sideways and I fell as the ball was coming toward me. My opponent claimed a point. Is that a correct rule? I thought you stopped play and did the point over. Thanks for your emphasis on ettiquette.

    • Us
      April 11, 2019

      That sounds unpleasant. We’ve sustained some pretty decent injuries that way. One of us did that one time and in slipping, their shoe slid sideways and got caught under the ragged edge of the back cyclone fence. The screams stopped all play on the 16 courts. However, that isn’t what you asked! In recreation play, of course WE would play the point over. Technically, however, your opponent is correct and in a tournament that would be the call. There are VERY few do-overs in pickleball, we’ve found. We could name several (like yours) that we would like to see offered as exceptions to the rule. Another would be medical stops. So far, no joy…we know the many reasons why the rules are not amended, just giving our two cents.

  • bob
    January 6, 2019

    although play always stops if someone is injured, 11.F. ‘The rally continues to it’s conclusion despite an injury to any of the players’.

  • Terri Leslie
    January 1, 2019

    I was searching your site, looking for information I could post regarding safety but I think my situation is complicated
    I chair our community pickleball club. In the past 7 days the same man has run over two of us ladies. Both circumstances were the same. I am at the no volley zone on the right side of the court and he is behind on the left somewhere near the baseline. A ball comes to my forehand but he runs for it, and knocked me to the ground. I end up with a concussion, black eye and so on. 7 days later sane thing happen with this same guy and another lady.
    How do I address court position and safety to the entire club.
    Thank you for our reply.

  • Dee
    December 9, 2018

    What can be done about a pickle ball Ambassador that is a bully on the court? Example : If your a fairly new player, she will not play with you. She will literally tell you ” no you go play with Lisa or Mary, (the person on the opposite side. Also, she comes in late and will change the way the game is being managed to her avenged . Example: Winners stay on, 3 people waiting to play. She comes in, now there are 4 people waiting. Two courts. She say’s ” OH NO 4 off there are people waiting”, She goes in and played the next four (4) yes the next four games. When confronted about how she gets to stay in for four games when there are now more then 8 people waiting she say’s ” oh they change it, what do you want me to do? She was told ” Sit down and let someone else play” She continued to play her forth game sat out one and got back in. This is on going with this person. She has gotten in Numerous verbal arguments with players.

  • Regina
    October 2, 2018

    So we have 2 courts in our gym we have open gym we been playing regular game for yrs, then someone a regular guy player decided to have us play this slide to next court when the court on the right is finished we move left court to the court 2 interrupting the game the walking on ur court when finishing big mess on court 1 to move to court 2 to continue to play your game. Says this help because of ppl passing the court interrupting the game. But I dont think that is fair most ppl or courtesy. But now all I want is to play a full game without sliding to another court . What I do is say let us finish the game plz. Naw u gotta slide now they asking who is for sliding there game they win more votes they all sit together. How can someone just make up rules that don’t make sense we all have rights

    • Brian G
      March 26, 2020

      Sliding allows the team sliding to get playing more quickly without so much interruption from players going back and forth across their court area. The newly organizing game often becomes complicated, even confusing, and best done close to where the new or waiting players are and not back and forth across and active game, You need to study how it goes BOTH ways. You will see why sliding is better. I too was taken aback when I was first expected to participate in sliding. Thought it was unnecessary and even rude. I was wrong – I now see the advantages for everybody.

  • Arun s
    May 20, 2018

    Listen guys I have a specific case of tagging and slamming the ball extra hard. Indoors where a lot of seniors and novices play is especially not a setting for such extreme play. There is a thirty/forty something Asian guy that is bent on hurting someone. His smug and callous attitude are easy to spot especially since he thinks he’s a quicker and better player than most. Not even close!
    Truth be known, he is a 3.5 at best but can run the ball down most of the time. There is no sophistication/maturity, if that word fits, to his game whatsoever. He has two speeds to his game, hard and harder. So for a good player to play his game to where he’ll basically run the guy off the court or move the ball around with dinks etc. will do it. Especially since the guy does not know how to dink. No patience, know what I mean. He’ll come at you from the start with hard drives. In fact anyone who can judge the ball will let the ball go, because a lot of his hits are way out of the court. We did exactly that the other night and saw a couple of sore losers, shifty eyed etc. pack up their stuff and vacate the premises, lol! Pretty bad sportsmanship on top of all else. Pretty pathetic, I think.
    What’s your opinion? Love to hear it. Cheers!

    • Us
      May 20, 2018

      Hi, Arun. Thanks for your interesting post. Those folks are annoying and they are potentially dangerous, too, especially if he was to slam the ball at an older person with thinner skin and slower reflexes. We’ve seen a number of injuries result from that behavior, usually around the person “head-hunting” rather than simply doing a body shot. We don’t know if many good ways to defuse that situation. If its from the perspective of a club and he’s doing it to club members, very appropriate to have a private conversation with him. Have a couple of people attend the meeting (maybe one other) for verification of what was said later if necessary. Again, in a club environment it should be a policy that the board can vote a member out. We’ve had that policy wherever we were and have had to trot it out to stop a few situations.

      Sorry we can’t provide a real “silver bullet” for this one. It’s a problem that we don’t think can be salvaged easily.

  • Liz
    April 9, 2018

    We had a guy pounce on the Pickleball net causing it to sag. He was very frustrated because he could not hit ball over the net. Also, lots of Four-Letter words. This is a 55+ Community. We have 3 courts. How would you handle.

  • November 12, 2017

    We have an individual Pickleball Player who has been playing for 2 years. He has progressed fairly fast going from 2.5 to 3.5. Now, this is the question. Whenever he sees a new player he immediately attaches himself to them, almost always a female. Then during active play with almost every shot the new player makes he has a comment like, “You did that correctly” or “This is why you missed the shot”

    His continuous training of new people is a real distraction when we are in active play. Is there anything in the etiquette rule book that says this is discourteous Pickle Ball practice?

    Thanking you for your opinions.

    • Us
      November 12, 2017

      So this is just us talking, right? There is no right or wrong way. But we would take a paddle, sneak up behind him when he’s in the process of “coaching” during active play, and hit him hard on top of the head with the edge-guard ON…you don’t want to seriously injure him but you do want to get his attention.

      Or you could take him aside and simply ask him not to coach during active play as it slows down the game for all the other players. People who love to coach, however, are not really very good at listening to someone saying maybe they shouldn’t be coaching. So you will have to repeat either step one or two above. Good luck.

      • Keri Komark
        December 12, 2017

        Thank you for your reply concerning the individual that likes to “coach” during active play. I was not surprised to discover with your answer that “coaching” during active play is not etiquette. But what do you do when his friends support him and encourage him to continue his “coaching during active pllay? They even join in and help him “coach”?

        • Us
          January 29, 2018

          Not a problem I’ve ever experienced, thankfully. I hope you are or were able to work this out and sorry we couldn’t be of more assistance.

    • Arun s
      April 22, 2018

      Keri Komark, I feel your pain but it’s customary to accept people despite their shortcomings. Each persons personality is different. Some can be a bit overbearing in their eagerness to help people discover and enjoy the game/sport. If that’s the guy’s personality flaw, do you suppose he’s going to care or change just to make you happy or accepting of his ‘flaw’. Just ignore him and his pursuit of his happiness, whether it’s helping others or meeting female players.
      That way it’s not going to affect you, your game or enjoyment you’re looking for. The more competitive you are the less you’ll notice these other people’s flaws or have time for them. Shake it loose. Cheers!

  • Rodney
    October 29, 2017

    Our group is only a few weeks old. Mixed abilities some good some not so good. Talent is not the problem. We all play nice, with equally matched teams. Except for 2 individuals that consistently cause problems. This leads to shouting and loss of respect towards each other. For the second time one of these fellows had realized how badly he treated his opponents and left. He did not show up for awhile. When he did nothing changed. Our group found out the manager of our facility had called this fellow and asked him to return. Most of the players were very unhappy to learn that they had become the victims of his decision. Although many of us tried to appeal to this fellow, loud controversy still id the result. It seems like our love for the game has been shelved for now, as many players refuse to play with this individual or have dropped out completely. Some have appealed to the manager, but he stands by his decision. So, poor sportsmanship resides and fun and exercise has disappeared.

    • Us
      October 29, 2017

      Sorry to hear about your problems. This is a common issue but fortunately for the rest of us doesn’t usually get as severe as it has in your case. We have no real suggestions of course except to ask what kind of facility it is and who (therefore) the manager’s manager might be? Seems very unfortunate to deprive everyone of something because of the bad behavior of the few, but you already know that. Sorry we don’t have any better ideas! Maybe the rest of the gang does??? Feel free to comment, y’all!

    • Jason
      June 8, 2018

      We had continual, repeated problems with a new play. An average player who liked to make rude, nasty and insulting comments to a number of players, both seasoned and beginners. Often this resulted in loud, disturbing shouting matches between him and the person he offended. He seemed to be aware of his nonsense because when the offended would remain silent he would send them emails of apology. Eventually he hit bottom with his nonsense and seems to have come to his senses. There are still cracks but he pulls back before blurting his nonsense. He is also now going overboard with his niceness. Give it time. It may get better.

  • Angela
    September 23, 2017

    I have a question about etiquette.
    If you have one tennis court that has also been marked off for pb, if you have 4 people that get there at 7 then around 745 people walk in on the court, sit down and after we get finished playing, the people that walked in pick up their paddles and dont ask or even tell you their names and proceed to go out on the court. Is that just disrespectful of the people that have been there since 7 or is that the “normal” way yo play pickleball? I’ve ask people what the differences in tennis and pb because you would NOT ever walk on to a tennis court and when a game is over pick up your paddle and go on the court and start playing. Please answer whether it’s rude to just invite yourself in on a court and expect to play as soon as they get there and a games over or is it just being rude and disrespecful of the people that were on the court first?

    • Us
      September 23, 2017

      We’re tempted to simply agree with you, but then you’d ask us what to do about it all, and THEN what would we say? There are about five concurrent and sometimes interrelated problems that come up in organized pickleball play and over time we’ll talk with you about the others but this one is irritating, we agree.

      So let’s try the “male” approach and simply jump to problem-solving. Depends of course on who owns the courts. If it’s a City or a Parks and Rec. thing, work through them. If the time on the courts is “owned” by the pickleball club, work with them. But in either case get rules established about open play and challenge-court play. There are many solutions to challenge court play but informally, let’s say that ALL courts are set up to be challenge courts from, say, 7:30 to 10:00 (your mileage may vary). Thereafter the courts are only used for organized skills-based formats like Round Robins or for training, etc. But between 7 and 10, the players come in, decide which court looks competitive to them if people are already playing, and put up their two paddles. Don’t go to four-in, four-off until it gets really busy and lots of people are waiting too long, and you can have a “captain” each morning in charge of just going down the line and saying it’s four on, four off now, group. But the two that come on, the two that just lost come off. Thereafter, the two that stay on, playing together, if they win they split, each playing with one of the new people coming in, and they get one more game and then come off. If they lose they come off right away. Note that in the first case one of the two will have one two games and comes off anyway. The very first people in the morning, at 7 AM (this being you) get TWO games with all four of you, after which point rotation starts. We don’t want to get into laborious detail here, check our section under organized play for more. But it’s the type of solution that works. BTW we don’t much like the version of this where people all stick their paddles in a rack, move ’em down, and the next two (or four, if busy) go in. This sometimes “forces” a situation where either you are playing against somebody you really don’t want to play ‘cuz they’re way too good/bad, or it forces you to more or less continuously play with the same group, coming off and all going back to the end again. Anyway, just our two cents.

    • Arun s
      April 22, 2018

      I’m sorry if I missed something here. I too often see people who are just not good at talking to others. Whether that be in order to find out how the system works, especially when people get there before them or to just be friendly. I can have a problem with some of those that have no basic idea of proper etiquette. There are people who’ve been playing for over two years who still haven’t improved much and that’s ok. Here’s where I have an issue with them. Since nobody is a mind reader I’m not able to figure out why they haven’t the foggiest notion about basics. One example is how to pass the ball when it comes off the other court. I mean not a clue, period! They still expect not to hear about their lack of etiquette. I tell them when they appear to be listening, that looking the other player in the eye before attempting to pass the ball would be a start. Then they continue their ignorant habit of hitting the ball to them when their back is turned, lol! No, it’s not to be spiteful, it’s just that they are pigheaded and averse to learning anything at all, much less how to play.
      That’s the flip.side to all the positives of how Pickleball is great. It also does attract the clueless, helpless and offensively indifferent. Cheers!

  • Kathryn
    September 21, 2017

    Just found your site and really liked your advice and information – very useful. I have been playing for about 3 months and am pretty average but try very hard to improve myself and am really enjoying the game. Unfortunately, it seems nearly everyone I partner with (we all swap around but are basically about the same skill level) always tells me to “let it go” or “leave it” or “it was going out you should have left it” when a ball is coming long towards me. The thing is sometimes, but not always, they may be right and I shouldn’t play the ball. But, I also think it should be up to the person who is going to play the ball and if they do play it when it may have gone out, so what? The game just carries on! It is very off putting and often makes me question how I am playing. I want to say something but everyone gets along pretty well and I don’t want to fall out with anyone. Any suggestions please?

    • Us
      September 21, 2017

      We’ve been playing for about ten years now. And before this kind of stuff got to us. Now, not so much. AJ tries to be somewhat more accommodating. Somebody starts in on him and he just shrugs and says “maybe you’re right” and continues on doing exactly what he wants to do. Irene is more direct. People who talk to her or AJ are generally people who have played less time so why, she believes, should she listen to them tell her to let things go out? She just considers it partner communication and goes about doing what she wants anyway, which is playing pretty well mostly. Neither of us seem to tell anybody off, but AJ suggests that if it continued from a person he would say “listen, I hear you, but those are my choices to make in the heat of the moment. So just keep calling ’em and some I’ll agree with and let go and some I’ll hit anyway.” Please don’t just think you have to get along to be getting along. Your allowing people to bully you isn’t getting along and it encourages their bad behavior. But neither do you have to chew anybody out. AJ did that to a few people early on when he (thought he) was much better than he is now. Now he doesn’t at all and Irene never has, although she can be very direct. To your ultimate point, you are right. In fact, you rock. It’s only pickleball. None of us are gonna eat any differently at the end of the day whether or not we let one go out. OH, and one other things. Advise your partner “I’d appreciate it if you’d just say “bounce it” and let me know that maybe it will go out. Then I can make a decision.” Amounts to the same thing but we do that all the time with each other…”Bounce it!” makes a world of sense. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Kathryn
        September 23, 2017

        Great, thank you so much! Some good, solid advice there, I appreciate it 🙂 I will try on Monday when I next play and see how it goes!

        • Us
          September 23, 2017

          Hugs and good luck! AJ and Irene

        • Kathryn
          October 2, 2017

          Hi, just wanted to let you know that I have been more assertive (but not nasty) with the partners that keep insisting on telling me what to do when I am playing the ball coming towards me. Things have certainly improved and I am not experiencing it much at all, and if I do, I just smile and say “Yeah you may be right” and smile and move on!
          I now have another query for you if you don’t mind. Before I began playing about 3 months ago I looked on YouTube and other sites to try and find out as much as I could about the game. I always saw that every coach and video I watched said to get to the NVZ as soon as possible with your partner after the initial 2 shots. When I went to play the coach where I play never said this at all so I didn’t say anything, of course. But I did notice that most people I play with and against do not get to the NVZ. Instead we play most of the shots from the back of the court and everyone seems to be okay with this. Often the opposing team will make their shots spin making it difficult to return them especially on their serves. I mentioned it to another coach once and was told that because we are all seniors it would be very difficult and tiring to play at the net! But I find I am running around all over the court trying to return all the long shots aimed at us! Sometimes, my partner will go to the net but then says to me that I should cover the back. This doesn’t seem to work because 1. they tend to get all the shots and 2. I can’t always see where the ball is going!
          Please advise me on how best to deal with this situation as I don’t want to be the one to always question what the coach is telling us 🙂
          Thank you so much for all your help and your great site.
          Kathryn

          • Us
            October 3, 2017

            Hi, Kathryn.

            Thanks for entrusting us with another inquiry. BTW, we will be traveling a bit for two weeks starting tomorrow in case you have other stuff. Feel free to send it along but know we won’t be immediate in getting back to you; sorry.

            You are handling the inquiries like a PRO! Works great and it’s big fun, too, because both you and they know you aren’t gonna do anything different but you are at least considering their comments. Sounds like Marriage Encounter! And it works! Congrats to you!

            Regarding your question, really, in the long run, for various reasons, you can’t play this game from the baseline alone. Irrespective of age and mobility you have to make some move towards the kitchen line. The easiest and best way to do that is to work up to the kitchen with your partner. Stay parallel to your partner and don’t feel like you have to get there all in one piece. And as important as anything we could say, when you see your opponent getting ready to strike the ball, wherever you are, mid-court, back-court, almost at the front line, wherever, STOP! Get your feet set and assume an athletic stance (relaxed, facing the ball, paddle up) and GET THE NEXT SHOT BACK OVER THE NET, preferably with a soft drop that will allow you to move all the way up. It’s not at all unusual for my partners and I to take two or sometimes three attempts to get to the line, even though most of them and I are capable of getting there in one move. Usually. We are getting older; Irene and I are over 70 and our partners vary but some are older. So we’re certainly slower than we were but we make the effort.

            You covering the back while they move to the front is desperation. We sometimes do it if we’re playing opposite excellent lobbers who will repeatedly force us back with lobs. It’s far easier for someone about half-court back to stagger with the front court person and cover all the lobs. I don’t consider this great strategy or play but it can work if we’re desperate and they’re running our old legs off with their lobs. Otherwise don’t do it.

            The main thing is to have fun, of course. So modify our remarks with your own native good intelligence.

  • Arun s
    March 24, 2017

    Considering the sport is constantly evolving in so many ways and growing/going crazy, come up with some ideas. I’m entertaining a couple of notions, the first being paddle face modification for personal testing only. Using one of the cheaper/older paddles in your arsenal cover one side w/a clear ping pong rubber and check out its playability. Very interesting!
    The UASAPA does not have to approve if you’re testing the concept.
    The second one involves the ball but I can’t divulge any details. Let your minds wander, that’s all!
    Cheers!

    • Us
      April 13, 2017

      We can’t recommend using any approach that the USAPA doesn’t approve, no matter how interesting they are on the surface, sorry. Reason is that the paddle/ball requirements are there for good reason, among which being that we don’t want the basic nature of the sport to change. Until the USAPA does approve said changes, in any event, you won’t be able to use the paddle you’re describing in many clubs’ round-robins and other semi-competitive events, to say nothing of tournaments, where they are out entirely. Why would most people want to play with something that they could only use in certain situations and not in many others? We’d suggest that you contact Dave Jordan and review your ideas with him (his contact info is on the usapa.org site) and see what might be possible. BTW, everyone in the known free world is in the process of developing new balls, but in order to have them used in USAPA clubs (clubs that follow the USAPA guidelines) they have to submit them for testing in advance of their use. Of course you are right that anyone can experiment with anything but the game needs to be “protected” somewhat to keep it from radically evolving in too radical a direction. As former owners of a small chain of (four) racquetball clubs, we’d use that sport as an example. It’s turned, like tennis, into a power game thanks to the very bad decision to allow the super-racquets to come into being. Racquetball always was a power game somewhat, but now it’s all power and not appropriate for play within many demographics; something we’re sad to see. The above is IOMO and your mileage seems to vary, but we’re just sayin’……

  • richard w
    March 13, 2017

    Thanks for these rules and suggestions. I would add that when one player goes back for a lob, the other player should duck. Not only would they reduce the possibility of getting hit, it gives the lob returner more space to aim the shot.

    • Us
      April 13, 2017

      Yeah, maybe you’re right, Richard. In part we’d guess it depends on what kind of shot the partner usually hits in return. If the drop-back person typically hits a lob in return, the aplayer at the net would be better off to drop back a couple of steps and see what they do. In our case, we each tend to drop back and hit either overheads or dropshots, and whichever of us is at the net tends to turn and watch our partner. There is a picture on the blog of AJ hitting an overhead from back a bit and Irene ducking at the front ‘cuz she perceived that he may hit it in her general direction based on his court position. She was right to do it as we remember the situation but she (and he) won’t always do that. Thanks for the observation.

  • Paul Fernands
    March 4, 2017

    With the popularity of pickleball increasing and the lack of courts, some facilities are allowing their tennis courts to be lined for pickleball, dual purpose for lack of a better term. When both sports are being played on adjacent courts simultaneously, at least on our courts, the pickleball players are loud, brash and downright disrespectful of common courtesies and standard acceptable long standing tennis etiquette. To say the least it is annoying enough to hear the splat of the plastic ball on a wooden or composite paddle in an otherwise quiet tennis environment. Is there a standard code of behavior published by pickleball associations that tennis players can pass on to these newbies who share space on tennis courts? It would be helpfui. i’ve observed pickleball play at another location that was much quieter. Published rules of etiquette would be a much better professional reference to provide than an off the cuff comments and discussion.

    • Us
      April 13, 2017

      Oh, please, Paul. We recognize that tennis is (and has always been) a wonderful sport. However, the numbers so far favor pickleball that tennis players need to recognize that there is an entirely new sheriff in town. Eventually the pickleball players need to be accommodated and pickleball is a game that is truly a backyard game at heart, blue-collar in its roots, and th e noises that annoy you are ones that we love. There was a time, years ago, when we had to be “nice” to the overly rude tennis players. Those days are through. Now, since both games exist but pickleball is growing exponentially and tennis hardly at all, the tennis players need to get over their desires for nice, quiet play and help the picklers find some other place to play. We picklers don’t like dual-purpose striping any better than you and are just as desirous of not having to put up with your glares and snarky comments. You recognize, Paul, we aren’t talking about you in particular, as we don’t know you and appreciate that you at least took the time and trouble to write, and we certainly apologize for seeming rude, but this is far and away NOT our first rodeo when it comes to this subject and we think there needs to be a separate but equal facility provided for picklers and tennis players.. otherwise, as said, we’re going to win eventually ‘cuz of sheer numbers. Again, we respect that your mileage may vary…..

  • February 5, 2017

    Great article on Sportsmanship, AJ. I am teaching a class on it in Puerta Vallarta tomorrow to a group of women I will be teaching in the morning who haven’t been playing very long. More detailed than the tennis sportsmanship I used to teach to kids and adults. Thanks for putting this together for us!

    • Us
      April 13, 2017

      Christie, thanks for your kind comment and we apologize for not getting back sooner. We hope your class was a big success; knowing you we think it must have been! xxoo

  • SusieGrace
    January 26, 2017

    PickleBall is “the fountain of youth” and no matter what your skill level is, all players consider themselves an athlete. Somebody had a great time composing these rules of PB etiquette. I can’t choose a favorite rule as our group has faced just about every situation mentioned. These rules are hysterical and should definately be followed at all cost. What do you think about surround sound music on the court? Yes, we could boogie to the beat and go with the flow, but not everyone enjoys the added ambiance. As much as we love the golden oldies, some players just want the noise to stop even at a low volume. Most of our seniors cannot concentrate on their game or hear the score being called with their partner Twisting and Shouting and Working on Outing. What I’m asking is does music at the courts violate the rules of PB etiquette? Thanks very much

    • Us
      April 13, 2017

      Hey, Susie! Apologies for taking so long to get back….we didn’t notice this one…not much of an excuse, is it? Anyway, music is often played at courts during social times and fun tournaments, and at warm-up days before tournaments, and there’s no rule against that. But we’d suggest the music be a club decision as we wouldn’t appreciate, generally, people bringing individual boom-boxes onto the courts, know what we mean? Unless, of course, they are Dire Straits fans or fans of some other group WE love, as it’s all about us…. xo

      • Marc
        July 28, 2018

        I have this problem in the recreational group in which I play. One member insists on bringing a speaker and playing (loudly) his oldies playlist every morning. I find it distracting, and if I am playing on a court next to the speaker, it makes it difficult to hear the ball and the score being called. Several other members privately told me that they also find the music distracting, but are reluctant to say anything for fear of being a killjoy. The majority of the group, however, say that they like the music playing. I don’t mind it on special days (like when we had a July 4th party with food), but not all the time. Guess I will just have to learn to tune it out. 🙁

  • James Morgan
    January 7, 2017

    I am new to the game, about 5 mos. My first few weeks I met some great friendly people and I go back to that gym once a week to see those people and for the fun. There has never been any real organization as to who is up next, just 4 out, 4 in. Lately there has been a group join that takes full advantage of the this. Even if two of them are the losing pair they stay on the court getting two others to play. One person came in late, put her paddle down behind 7 others and claimed to be next as a game ended. You mention ‘Etiquette’, these people have been playing longer than I have but I am not sure who or what should be said without starting a brawl. FYI, some that I go to see have stopped coming, some others just not having fun. HELP.

    • Us
      January 25, 2017

      James, unfortunately the latter part of this is the one problem that doesn’t get solved until you get into real organized play (search our section on Round Robins for illustrations of those). The first part of the problem can be addressed simply by posting a rule stating that two people can only play two games and they are off. Then, of course, you have to appoint somebody willing to be the “pickleball police” and enforce this. If this is a gym owned by say a church or school or boys and girls club or some such (undoubtedly something like that, now that we think about it), then work with them and have their permission to post such a sign. You can make one easily (multiple copies) and have them laminated. It won’t work perfectly – some people are jerks – but it will help. Sorry we couldn’t give any better advice.

  • max
    October 4, 2016

    Our “club” is being divided by those who want to play competitively (go to tournaments) and those who do not. Everything was going fairly well growth and civility wise until that next level was introduced. Now, the “fun/social” players want to be equally included in all play scenarios. This is really getting tricky now that we are moving indoors for the winter and some want to practice for upcoming tournament play. There seems to be no time that tournament players can get ready, without bad feelings emerging. Granted, just because someone plays in a tournament doesn’t mean they are better than anyone else – but with out a rating system, and the “fun/social” players do not want to be rated, how do we move forward?
    Currently there is Open Play 7 days a week in our area. Is there a way to have an outsider come and rate us?

    • Us
      December 6, 2016

      Yes, we think there may be. Let us think about it. We use an outsider in Bend, Oregon for the Bend Pickleball Club but it’s somebody we groomed and trained in a manner of speaking and we are very comfortable with her doing it as she uses a series of techniques for looking at each individual skill (e.g. drops, dinks, lobs, strategy, etc.) in a short period of time. Sorta like an obstacle course with people moving from one skill-station to another. She is also a certified pickleball instructor which helps establish credibility. But how to transport that to your area, not sure. Send back a reply if you want to have more conversation about this issue at a different time. Include where you live, please. Thanks

  • September 21, 2016

    We found an email from a club member when we returned. I had to have a quiet word with him recently as his style of play has become gradually more like a contact sport and on this particular occasion he aimed the ball continuously at the top half of a player, and this guy can really fire the ball across the net extremely hard, as he was annoyed with the individual and the way he had played at a previous session.
    The man we are concerned about was already angry about something when coming into the centre and after swearing to me about the person he had issue with he, thankfully, left.

    This player has researched what I believe is called tagging, and he has read forums on the topic. The following is a cut/paste from his email.

    A definition : when I am playing aggressive pickle ball it is my intention to hit the ball at my opponent’s head and/ or body at such a speed that they are unable to get out of the way or are unable to return the ball in a controlled manner.The intention is to win the point but if my opponent is struck as a consequence so be it.

    We would be very interested in your views on the above. we are a small club of twenty members most are new to the sport. Some may not have continued having seen this style of play

    Regards

    • Us
      December 6, 2016

      The gentleman is incorrect for the most part. We have played against players who forget that people can be hurt seriously if they are hit in the head or face, especially. To some extent tagging is an OK strategy; we have no problems with people aiming at our chest, legs, etc., consider it a good tactic and do it ourselves, although neither of us hits the ball all that hard. But the head/face is off limits. We have seen people lose vision in an eye because of this. This is just pickleball, not a professional Olympic sport. And it’s such a limited way to play. If we had somebody in our club who was “head-hunting” we would ask him to go elsewhere and maybe give him his membership fees back. Not worth it to have people hurt. Safety is first.

  • Jan Hirschfeld
    September 9, 2016

    We’ be just started a club. These safety, rotation and etiquette ideas are SO useful. Many thanks for sharing

    • Us
      December 6, 2016

      Thanks! Appreciate your kind words. We probably haven’t been as useful to you recently due to major site problems. But we are getting back to even pretty soon, we think. Blessings!

  • Arun s
    July 17, 2016

    Look, all of the above things are a result of PBs exploding popularity. In time with this type of input, hopefully there will be less challenges to deal with.
    My only issue now is with the built in ‘equalizer’, I like to call it. That would be the off round ball for all practical purposes/intents.
    The bounce is often unpredictable, unlike that of a normal, round ball w/a consistent bounce under normal conditions. This flaw has been introduced, I suspect in order to pose an extra challenge.
    A stronger player competing with a weaker player could conceivably lose points he/she would have won with a round ball. That being said, the same could be true for the weaker player. So this very factor is an ‘equalizer’, in more ways than one.

  • Bob Macdonald
    February 28, 2016

    Most of the places where I play use the paddle system…either two in and two out with winners splitting. If there are more than six players waiting then its four players in and four players out. When its four in and four out, the winners are placed on one side of the table and the losers on the other. In some locations where there are enough courts players can play at any level but understand that certain courts will be the more advanced players. Games are usually played to 7 regular scoring…depending on how many people are waiting this could be extended to 11 points. When there are too many people waiting…over 8 players…then the game may be played to 7 or 11 using rally scoring…which means that teams score points on every serve rather than regular scoring where only the serving team scores points.

    • Us
      February 28, 2016

      Good comments, Bob. We, too, have used basically this exact method – who stays, who goes, reducing points, paddle system in a few cases. It certainly works. And rally scoring really speeds up the game but most of the players dislike it; we do, ourselves. Perhaps it’s ‘cuz we’re just used to “regular” scoring, not sure. It certainly does change the dynamic of the game. In some respects we think it (rally-scoring) may actually force more attention to consistent play and lead eventually to people learning to make fewer unforced errors. If this was the case in our game we’d probably learn to love it, LOL!

    • Arun s
      July 17, 2016

      Good ideas, but until and unless everyone embraces them you’ll have to be very persistent. Try telling some people anything! ‘Good Luck!
      Any system, regardless of how much good sense it makes, is only as good as everyone wants it/allows it to be, period.

  • Linda Delaney
    February 12, 2016

    Although it should be a given, it is surprising how some players will stop and chat with new people arriving during play, holding up the other 3 players. I have also seen players using a game to coach their partners delaying the game as they relay their wisdom. Both of the above delay the game, lose momentum and,in my opinion, is very rude behavior..

    • Arun s
      July 17, 2016

      Yes Linda Delaney, I’m totally on your side. Part of the problem with the type of popularity PB is seeing, too wild and haphazard. There is a very serious lack of educating people of all backgrounds and their reasons for playing etc. I’ve noticed total lack of etiquette, simple common sense stuff you would think.
      Then again ‘common sense’ has often been referred to as an ‘uncommon sense’, for this reason especially. Not everyone has it, if they’re not born with it. They have to be taught it , not common sense but rather what etiquette in sports is about and why.
      Even tapping paddle handles at the conclusion of a game is good but here’s my issue. The players on the other side who have to walk over in order to get off the court anyway while heading in your direction (let’s say bleachers) can just do the tapping off the court or in your backcourt. Rather that, than you needing to walk all the way up to the net. Basically its a waste of time when you need to clear the court asap anyway. I had to slowly explain what I meant to someone the other very busy day in order for them to blink and say ‘ya that’s a good idea actually’. Lol!

  • Maureen King
    February 10, 2016

    Nice review of safety and etiquette. It would be nice if these suggestions were followed by all. Some players just don’t recognize the need to stop play when a stray ball enters their play area.
    And when “ball on court ” is announced no attempt to stop and retrieve it and return to adjoining court is made.

    • Us
      February 12, 2016

      This is an issue that took many of us, in one club, continuously mentioning it at General Meetings, blasters, etc. until at last the culture changed. Now it’s finally ordinary for people to stop and (generally) to return the ball to the original court. Fine-tuning would have the player who is retrieving the ball also gesturing towards each side to see who on the original court wants the ball so they can return it to the person who will then be serving. But that goes a bit beyond the scope of basic safety or etiquette, doesn’t it? LOL!

    • Arun s
      August 22, 2016

      You’re right, and it’s a safety issue as well. If a ball drifts into your court, wouldn’t it be a good idea to stop rather than trip on it and fall?
      Now pick it up and pass it to the one waving at you. So many people just sweep it off their court in some unknown general direction as if it’s an inconvenience to them. Now everyone has to chase after that ball that they just as well could have run over and picked it up to begin with. Come on, please think!
      Also don’t be rude, that’s unbecoming of a sportsman or sportswoman! lol!

  • Karen Palman
    February 1, 2016

    Thanks for these rules. Very helpful. I learned some new and interesting rules to pass on.

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