|Best Behaviour on the Pickleball Court
Opinion by Wayne Kerr
Source: Pickleball Canada Scoop Newsletter - May 2023
Pickleball can be unpredictable. Sometimes we make amazing gets and putaways; sometimes we mess up the easiest shots. It is rare when each player on the court doesn’t make at least one great shot and conversely miss an easy one. That’s a big part of the beauty of this wacky sport. The laughter and smile quotient at every level is high.
The game of pickleball can be as simple as getting the ball back over the net or as complex as a chess match. It can be either recreational or competitive or both. In all cases there is a lot of enjoyment to be had.
The sport of pickleball has a lot of unusual rules. No volleying from inside the kitchen and the Two Bounce Rule, to name just a couple. However, listed below are a few of the unwritten rules regarding behaviour and etiquette on the pickleball court that can help make our playing experience even better whether indoors or out.
Line calls - It is easy to get caught up in a rousing game or rally. Occasionally, your opponent will call a ball out that you are pretty certain landed on or even inside the line. These things happen. Ninety-nine percent of the time it is an honest mistake. I have questioned calls and had calls I’ve made questioned. That is okay as long as once the call is confirmed, the subject is dropped. Don’t argue about a call, forget it as quickly as possible and get on with the game. *Remember if you are not certain the ball was out, then call it in.
Serving - Wait until everyone is ready before you begin a point. Call out the score loudly before you serve the ball. If the score was called incorrectly, the returner should stop play and have the server restart the point. It is proper etiquette to completely finish calling the score before serving.
Lobbing - When playing a tournament or other highly competitive match lobbing is a strategic option. However, during recreational play consider that lobbing the ball may in fact be a dangerous play against players with decreased mobility. Every year there are many injuries across Canada by people who fall while backpedaling. During a friendly match intentionally lobbing into the sun is a cheap way to cause an error. Remember we’re out there to have fun.
Free lessons - Avoid giving instruction during play, unless it has been asked for by the other player. Discussing strategy and court coverage with your partner is a good thing, but technique advice is better given after the game and only if solicited.
Interruptions - Don’t walk across the back or along the side of a court while a point is being played. Even if the ball does not come anywhere near, you may distract the players. Do interrupt play if a ball from your court flies onto another, for safety sake. Loudly call “Ball” one or more times to prevent an ankle injury or a more serious accident.
Fun and improvement - When playing in a tournament it can be a good strategy to keep the ball away from the stronger player on the other side of the net. In recreational play, however, the point is to have fun and improve. Winning each and every point of a recreational game is not of paramount importance. Those who constantly hit almost every ball at the weaker player are robbing themselves of the challenge and opportunity to practice against better competition. If you want better players to continue playing with you, keep them involved in the game.
Be a good sport - Paddle throwing, swearing and angrily stomping around the court is unattractive and only serves to erode the enjoyment of everyone involved. Everyone misses easy shots. Congratulate others when they hit a great shot or win a game. We all hit the occasional amazing shot either through skill, luck or both. This is part of the magic of this fantastic sport. Celebrate all of them. We’re all a little disappointed when we lose a game or highly contested point. Shake it off and be happy for your friend(s). Your turn will come. Besides, losing makes winning even sweeter. When your partner makes an error, or is perhaps a weaker player, words of encouragement can go a long way toward making them more comfortable. No one tries to miss or intends to pop the ball up.
Enjoy our great and quirky sport. Even though it may only be a game, without a doubt pickleball is the most fun you can have on a court!
Party on, my pickleball friends!