Pickleball is a fast-growing sport in the United States, with over 8.5 million players in 2023. Despite its odd name, the friendly sport is like a cross between ping-pong and tennis.
Aside from the basic rules of the game, there are unspoken rules of etiquette that every player adheres to. Once you learn these etiquette rules, you can become a better player.
The Basics of Pickleball Court Etiquette
As you set foot on the court, you must bring your A-game — your etiquette A-game. Here are six pickleball etiquette rules for when you're on the court or the sidelines.
1. Greet the Other Players
Always begin every game by acknowledging the other players. Introduce yourself if you don't know the players. If you do know them, use an appropriate greeting to let them know you're there and are saying hi. You can offer a handshake, do a fist bump or clink your paddles together to say hello and thank them for the game. Greeting the other players is the best way to start the game on the right foot and keep it friendly.
2. Warm up and Practice Properly
Players from the same team typically warm up together for a few minutes. Warmup exercises prepare your body for the game ahead. When your body is ready for the game, you lower your risk of injury and enhance your performance. Most pickleball players warm up by stretching their muscles and practicing their strokes.
3. Understand "Stacking" and Calling the Score
"Stacking" is a pickleball doubles strategy. Instead of beginning the game in traditional positions, players on the same team line up or "stack" on the same side. After the serve, one of the players migrates to the other side. Players can stack on serves and returns, but you must understand the rules before using this strategy.
Whether you're stacking or not, every player calls the score before each serve. Calling out the score keeps everyone on the same page.
4. Observe Court Rotation Guidelines
Rotating play keeps the game moving and mixes up the players so everyone can play each other. There are two different rotation methods:
Two up/two down: If seven players or fewer are waiting to play, the winning team stays on the court but will play the next game on opposite teams. The losing team takes the bench, and two new players join in. If a player plays two consecutive games, they must sit on the bench.
Four up/four down: All players take the bench after a game, and four new players take the court. You use this rotation when eight or more players are waiting.
5. Understand Your Role as a Spectator
If you're a member of the audience, you don't want to distract the players. Here are pickleball etiquette tips for spectators:
- Encourage positive and supportive behavior.
- Respect the players' concentration during matches.
- Don't make line calls.
- Respect the phone usage and photography guidelines of the court and players.
6. Act Friendly Post-Game
You should remain friendly after a match. Here are tips for maintaining sportsmanlike behavior:
- Meet at the net to shake hands with your opponents and show appreciation.
- Discuss the match constructively.
- Only offer critique if your opponents request it.
- Clean up the court.
Play Fair and Respect Others
Check out these four tips to have a fair and fun game.
1. Avoid "Dinking" Controversies
A "dink" is a light shot that clears the net without allowing your opponent to volley it aggressively. Successfully dinking a ball requires practice, precision and patience. You must hit a dink on a bounce and ensure it clears the net and lands in the opponent's non-volley zone.
2. Handle "Out" and "In" Disputes Gracefully
You and your opponents can make "out" and "in" calls. If an opponent's ball is close to being out, give them the benefit of the doubt and call it in. Continue doing so even if your opponents do not offer the same courtesy. It's a good idea to call the ball in when you and your teammate disagree, even if the game is close.
3. Know How to Handle Accidental Body Contact
When a ball comes into contact with a player's body parts or clothes after a serve, it's a fault. If you accidentally hit your teammate or opponent with the ball, the fault is theirs, and you'd gain a point. However, avoid hitting other players intentionally to prevent injury.
4. Stay Positive and Avoid Unsportsmanlike Behavior
Pickleball is a game for casual fun. Here are some ways you can maintain sportsmanlike behavior:
- Avoid outbursts.
- Do not allow trash talk or negativity.
- Congratulate opponents on great shots.
- Play with all skill levels.
- Avoid always playing the weaker player for points.
- Don't take advantage of someone's physical limitations.
Safety First: Prevent Injuries and Accidents
As with any sport, safety comes first. Check out these tips to keep you and the other players safe.
1. Clear the Court After Play
Inspect the court after a game and remove any debris. Clearing the surface removes tripping hazards, protecting other players from injuries. Also, clean up the area around the court.
2. Be Mindful of Your Equipment and Gear
Players must keep their equipment in playable condition and control their apparel. Keep loose items, like sunglasses and hats, off the court. If any of these items fall in the non-volley zone, it's a fault. It also breaks your concentration and could cause injuries.
3. Communicate Effectively With Other Players
Communicating with your partner helps you avoid collisions. You can use simple signals like pointing to tell your partner where you want them to go. You can also say, "I've got it!" before hitting the ball to avoid colliding with your partner.
Pickleball rules remain the same, but different courts might have special rules. Here are three guidelines for special circumstances.
1. Etiquette Differences Between Outdoor and Indoor Courts
There are subtle differences between indoor and outdoor pickleball in terms of etiquette. For example, indoor courts provide a more controlled environment where you won't have to worry about sun, wind or rain. However, outdoor courts may be quieter than a packed indoor court. Plus, indoor courts are generally used for multiple sports, including basketball and volleyball, while outdoor courts may be more specifically geared toward pickleball. Discuss the elements and ensure everyone understands the areas of the court before you play indoors or outdoors.
2. Etiquette Differences in Shared and Public Courts
When sharing the court, it's vital to take breaks so other players can play. Many players choose to leave the court after a game if players of another sport are waiting to play. If you notice a stray ball in your court, finish your rally, pick it up, make eye contact with the owner and roll it back.
3. Special Considerations for Tournaments and Competitive Play
In a tournament, the winner of each match advances to the next round. Here are the different tournament formats:
Singles: Players are eliminated after one loss, and winners advance to the next round. There are three rounds.
Doubles: In doubles tournaments, teams of two play against each other. The winning team advances to the next round, eliminating the losing team. Like singles, there are three rounds.
Round robin: Each player's name goes in a pool so that the opponents are chosen at random. The winner of each game receives two points, and the loser gets one. After three games, the player or team with the most points advances to the next stage.
Consolations: These tournaments are for players or teams who lost the main tournament. All players go in a pool and play best of three. The winner is the player who won the most matches.
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The essential pickleball etiquette rules are keeping the game friendly and respecting your opponents. Pickleball is a sport for recreational play — it's about having fun!
Please comment on this post and share your personal experiences or insights about pickleball etiquette. If you want to upgrade your equipment, check out our selection of high-quality, affordable pickleball paddles and other gear.