Pickleball is a fun, social, and physically challenging game that has taken the world by storm. One of the best aspects of pickleball is how friendly and welcoming the community is. Players talk about gaining a new set of friends, many of whom they would never have met without pickleball. In addition, it leads to a healthier lifestyle and is a lot of fun.
To maintain pickleball’s culture, there are some pieces of etiquette to remember and practice on the court. While pickleball is competitive, it’s also a friendly, social game. We all want more players to join the movement, so it’s essential to keep pickleball clean. Only some people practice etiquette, but keep these few items in mind for recreational and tournament play so that everyone has more fun playing the game we love.
- Calling the Score
- Calling the Ball Out
- Celebrating and Cheering
- Paddle/Ball Abuse and Swearing
- Walking behind the Court
- Hitting Someone
- Let Courts
Calling the Score
Make sure the returning team is ready before calling the score and serving. Technically, it is a fault if you do not say the score before serving. You will lose a point in a tournament for failing to call the score. Call the score loudly and clearly to avoid any confusion. Doing this is essential because there are three numbers in a pickleball score (your score, their score, and first or second serve), making it easy to forget. Call the score every time so you remember better, and correct any mistakes by stopping the point if someone calls the wrong score.
Calling the Ball Out
Call the ball out loudly and clearly when confident it is out. You could also point towards the sky to send audio and visual confirmation. Consider the ball in if you or your partner have any doubts. Giving your opponents the benefit of the doubt is fair sportsmanship, and most people will reciprocate. Similarly, if you continue playing a ball close to the line, you are playing the point and consider the ball in. You cannot hit a ball, see what happens, then call the ball out retroactively. Make your out calls as fast as possible and stop the point if the ball is out, so everything is clear.
Celebrating and Cheering
Only celebrate when your team hits a great shot to win the point. Never cheer when the other team makes a mistake. Don’t look towards your opponents when cheering, but look towards your partner and give them an encouraging word or a paddle tap. Excessive cheering can become unsportsmanlike quickly, so err on the side of cheering less and letting your pickleball game speak for itself. This advice goes for the players on the court and the fans watching and supporting their team.
Paddle/Ball Abuse and Swearing
Never hit the paddle against the ground, slam the ball in anger, or swear. In a tournament situation, these actions can cause a warning from the referee, a point penalty, or a game ejection if the infraction is bad enough. So keep your cool and let your game do the talking. Boiling over in anger never improves your pickleball. It only leads to more frustration.
Walking Behind the Court
Depending on the court layout, walking behind or next to a court during a game is sometimes unavoidable. Only walk behind or next to the court when players are between points. This will avoid distracting them or getting in the way. Pickleball is more relaxed than tennis regarding distractions, especially in recreational play. Still, moving to your court when the players have finished the rally is better.
Pickleball is a fast-paced game played at close range. Inevitably, someone gets pegged. When this happens, apologize immediately. It happens, but apologizing diffuses the situation. In addition, never aim to hit someone, especially above the waist, and never in the face. Hitting someone below the waist, especially the feet, is fair game because that is where most pickleball happens. However, it is still thoughtful to apologize and keep the game friendly.
Never celebrate winning a let-court point when the ball hits the net and rolls over. Hitting the net was not your intention, so this was luck, not skill. Instead, give a quick apology or hand signal, just like in tennis. Of course, you will take the point, but take the high road by not celebrating and keeping things classy.
Keep these few etiquette items in mind to improve your pickleball, have more fun, and maintain a competitive but positive and encouraging culture. After all, pickleball is just a game everyone plays to have a good time. Keeping some manners helps everyone have more fun and helps welcome more people into the sport.