Basic Etiquette and Safety on the courts – referenced from Pickleball Canada Pickleball is only a game. It is not a metaphor for life. Nobody makes much money playing pickleball. We need to keep in mind that we are playing a GAME! The following Etiquette and Safety guideline are based on that concept.
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 whatever is appropriate to let them know that you know they are there and are saying “hey”.
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.
If you are playing against a team where there is a significantly stronger player, play against the STRONGER player too. You will forget about who wins a given game tomorrow, but if you play against the stronger player you may learn something.
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.
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 “Thanks for playing with us!” is nice. NEVER leave a game without acknowledging the other team. We also tap the end of paddle handles.
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.
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.
Never ask for, or accept, line calls from spectators.
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 they are on your side!
NEVER yell at, swear at, or say a hostile or sarcastic word to your partner or your opponent in anger. We repeat, NEVER!
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. 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. Just be careful.
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)
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.
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.
DON’T OFFER OBSERVATIONS OR ADVICE on other player’s play. 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.
Giving 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.
IF OTHERS OFFER YOU UNSOLICITED ADVICE/OBSERVATIONS – if you don’t want it, tell them immediately that you are not interested and are just there to play the game. If you are interested, then listen and incorporate how you see fit.
Don’t overplay your current physical condition. (“JUST ONE MORE GAME” has caused way too many accidents!)
Hydrate. This means “drink water”. This means YOU. Drink BEFORE you are thirsty. Otherwise it’s too late.
If a ball comes onto your court from another court, immediately YELL “BALL” and STOP PLAY AT ONCE. Same if you hear “Ball On Court!” yelled from another court. STOP.
– Don’t just swat the ball back that rolls into your court. Pick it up and toss it to the player on the other court.– If your 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.
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.
If a ball breaks, safely remove it from the court.
If ANYTHING falls on the court, quickly remove it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Only a few of us need to be reminded of this one, but don’t dive for balls.
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.