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Pickleball etiquette: 13 unwritten rules

Pickleball etiquette: 13 unwritten rules


By Jaclyn Brandt

On: 02/26/2024

etiquette

rules

Pickleball rules are the most important thing to learn, but learning how to act is also very important. Here are some of our top pickleball etiquette tips.
Pickleball rules are the most important thing to learn, but learning how to act is also very important. Here are some of our top pickleball etiquette tips.

Pickleball is a fairly new sport, which means many people are still learning the ins and outs. And although the rules are probably the most important thing to learn, learning how to act is also very important. Here are some of our top pickleball etiquette tips:

Get to know your opponent

You don’t need to learn everything about the people you are playing against, but you should be cordial: introduce yourself before you play, maybe even let them know how long you have been playing or your rating or what you love about pickleball.

Pickleball is a very social sport, so it’s OK to talk during your match. But read the room: if they do not want to chat the entire match, then keep your chatting between you and your partner. But if they do, it’s a great opportunity to meet more people who share the same hobby as you.

Learn the rules

You do not need to know everything about everything in pickleball, but you should make an effort to learn as much about the rules of pickleball as you can. No one will blame you if you do not know every detailed rule, but making an effort to learn everything you can will show your partner and opponent that you are dedicated to this sport and improving your current skill level.


Some other tips about learning the rules of pickleball:

  • Apply all rules fairly.

  • If you run into a situation not expressly covered in the rules, work with your partner and opponents to come up with a fair solution.

Respect the sport

A part of learning the rules is having respect for the game. While you may not agree with everything, you should have the respect to know that there is a reason each rule and system was put in place.

Part of the respect for the sport is also a healthy respect for your partner, your opponents, event organizers, and the officials. If an opponent calls a ball “out” that you felt was “in,” you need to discuss it with them and assume they were honest in their call. You should also respect your referees and line judges, including their calls — and at every other time.

Some other tips for respecting the game of pickleball:

  • Always introduce yourself to other players.

  • Do not use obscene language or gestures.

  • Do not talk down to, or yell at, other players.

  • If your match is officiated, make sure to thank the referee and any linespeople at the end of the game.

  • At the end of your game, meet all the other players at the net and thank them for the game.

  • If you are playing with players who need extra assistance, accommodate them in any way you can.

  • Do not call a hinder unless it affects your ability to play the ball.

Be a good partner

Pickleball can be played in singles or doubles, but the most common form is doubles (two players on each side of the court). Every time you play doubles, you will have a partner — and this could be someone you have chosen or a random stranger who showed up for open play that day.

Whether you know your partner well, are matched up with someone much better (or worse) than you, or even if you can’t stand them, you should still be the best partner you can be.

Some tips on being a good partner in pickleball:

  • Support your partner in every way you can.

  • Show respect for their skills, even if they are different than your own.

  • Do not criticize or verbally comment on their actions in a negative way.

  • Only provide feedback when they ask for it.

Be a good spectator

Respecting the sport also includes being a good spectator. Do not shout during a match (at anyone or anything), do not distract any players, and do not hold side conversations that distract any players or other spectators.

As a spectator, you should also follow the rules of the court, including sitting in their chairs or bringing your own chair, not crossing any lines they ask you not to, and warming up for your own match only when you are allowed to do so.

Call your line calls to the best of your ability

In rec pickleball, line calls will, for the most part, be your responsibility. Even if there is a referee, you may still be responsible for calling the ball “in” or “out.”

Because line calls are run by the honor system, you should always do the best you can to call the ball correctly. You should also only question your opponent’s line calls when it’s very obvious.

Here are some more tips on line calls:

  • If you call a ball “out,” make sure it was obviously and clearly out.

  • Respect your opponents’ ability to make their line calls on their side of the court.

  • It’s OK to call your own shot out when it’s clear that it’s out.

  • If you do feel the need to question a call by your opponent, be respectful and do not argue.

  • Correct any line errors your partner has made.

  • If you allow your opponent to make the line call on your side of the court, accept their answer.

  • If there is any uncertainty in a line call, always err in favor of your opponents.

Share the courts

As pickleball continues to grow, there are more and more facilities and courts being built. But you will still find there is a shortage of places to play. If you are playing on a court that is full, pay attention to the time you are playing. Cycle in and out of courts and allow those waiting a chance to play as well.

Sharing the court is not only good pickleball etiquette, but it will help you meet even more people, and they may be more likely to return the favor next time you are in their situation.


Some more tips on sharing the pickleball court:

  • If you are playing socially, rotate on and off each court fairly.

  • Follow any facility or local association rules about sharing the courts.

  • If you want to play with someone who is not in line to be an opponent, do not move them up to play with you. You should instead move yourself backward.

  • Don’t adjust your score to avoid leaving the court.

  • Do not start a second game to avoid leaving the court.

  • When it’s your turn to play, make sure you are ready to play.

  • When walking to your court, if you have to cross another court that is currently being used, wait until play is stopped and then cross quickly.

Admit your faults

Just because you cause a fault does not mean other players are going to notice or call you out on it. If you step on the kitchen line, if the ball is out, if you hit the ball twice, or any other fault that you cause, you should call it a fault. It does not matter if your opponent calls it or even sees it — the honor system of pickleball is something you should take seriously, and calling your own faults is part of that.

Some more tips on calling faults in pickleball.

  • You should be watching your own feet and the feet of your partner for serving or kitchen line faults.

  • If your opponent calls a fault on you or themselves, accept those calls without argument.

  • If the ball goes out of bounds but grazes your paddle first, admit that fault to your opponent.

If you are the best or worst player, be a good person

Because pickleball has a healthy mix of all skill levels, you will find yourself playing with others who are either better than you or worse than you. In social pickleball play, it’s all about being a good teammate, a good opponent, and a good person.

Some more tips if you are the best player:

  • Do not “slam” the ball to your opponents.

  • Do not excessively hit the ball to weaker opponents.

  • Be open to playing people who aren’t as skilled as you.

Some more tips if you are the worst player:

  • Do not force better players to play with you. If you want to play with them, ask nicely.

  • Be gracious if you lose, especially if it’s by a lot.

Congratulate your opponent

Good sportsmanship is an integral part of pickleball, and that includes how you treat your opponent. You should always be celebrating yourself and your opponent, no matter who wins. If your opponent wins, congratulate them on their win. If you win, you should tell your opponent that was a good game.

This doesn’t mean you have to go out of your way to tell your opponent how amazing they are at everything they do, but you should be acknowledging their effort.

Be clear with your calls

When you are calling a ball out, you should be clear that it is a dead ball and your “out” call was to signify that.

Conversely, when you are communicating with your partner, you should be clear that is your intent. If you call “out” before the ball hits the ground, it should be as communication to your partner only — not an official “out” call.

Don’t offer advice if it wasn’t asked for

You may be the best pickleball player in the world, but unless someone specifically asks for your advice, it’s best to keep your thoughts to yourself.

Pickleball is a place for athletes of all kinds — from beginners to pros, and it takes a lot for some people to get out and do something new for the first time. Because of this, any suggestions that they are the worst player out there, or that they are not good enough, could scare them away from returning. This does not mean you intended to tell them they are not good enough, but you do not know how someone is going to perceive instructions from a stranger. It’s just best to focus on your own game and offer advice only if it is requested.

Safety needs to be the most important priority

Although pickleball is a fairly safe sport, as far as sports go, there is still some risk to players. Whether it’s a slip and fall, a muscle strain, a ball hit too hard at a player, or something else, there are many ways someone can get hurt while playing pickleball.

Although it’s not always your responsibility to make sure everyone else is being safe, it is your responsibility to make sure you are being safe. This means you should always check the state of the court before playing, avoid hitting a ball directly at an opponent, and you should not chase a ball past your ability to do so.

Keep an eye out for potential hazards and do all you can to keep everyone around you safe.

Some more tips on keeping yourself and other players safe:

  • If your ball rolls or flies into another court, let the players on that court know immediately by yelling “ball” or another warning.

  • If your ball rolls near another game but is not an immediate danger to anyone playing that game, wait until the game ends before retrieving the ball or asking the players to send it back to you.

  • If a ball is hit onto your court during a rally, immediately stop the rally. You can re-play the point once you have returned the ball.

  • If a ball is hit to your court, send it back to the correct court while making eye contact with the person you are sending it to so you know that they know it is coming to them.

    • Roll, toss, or hand it back to the team so they have a chance to collect the ball.

  • Do not throw your paddle or hit the ball too hard out of frustration or anger.

  • Learn your level of play, and do not regularly attempt to extend yourself past your physical ability.

Learning pickleball etiquette rules

Pickleball etiquette can be as important (if not more important) than being a skilled player. Getting along with other players, being a good partner, and not being that player will help you learn the sport and get you invited back in the future.

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