When playing pickleball, proper etiquette improves the experience of the game for you and those around you. Key elements of pickleball etiquette include clearly calling out the score, waiting until players are ready before serving, giving positive comments when your opponents have great shots, and avoiding giving unsolicited tips on other players' techniques.
What to Know About Pickleball Etiquette
You may be a bit lost on the court if you are new to the game, both in terms of how to play and how to behave.
No matter your skill level, good sportsmanship is important. Everyone is equal on the pickleball court in terms of conduct, making line calls, and in knowing both the unwritten rules and the official rules of pickleball. The eight elements of pickleball etiquette below are intended to help new players acclimate to the game and avoid unintentionally causing offense or frustration.
Call out the score before you serve
In most amateur open-play situations, it’s assumed that the serving player will call out the score before each serve. This is a respectful way to ensure all players know the score and calls attention to the fact that the player is ready to serve.
It also ensures that the score is correct before advancing to the next point or confusing others who may have a different score in their head.
We recommend being clear and concise. You may become comfortable with your open play group to use some type of short-hand, local jargon, or even drop the score calling outright.
Just be courteous when new players join and clearly call out the score ahead of the next point.
Don’t serve until other players are ready
In tournament play, if the return server does not give a “not ready” signal, the server may begin as long as the official has called the score.
Recreational play does not work this way. Occasionally, however, you will see people serve when someone on the court is clearly not ready. Common pickleball etiquette may require the point to be replayed.
Another common situation is when another court’s ball rolls onto the court, or other obstructions/distractions come into play. These should be obvious events in which the server should not send the ball across the net but when in doubt, simply pause before serving.
Give opponents props on great shots
You will undoubtedly witness impressive shots from your doubles partner and opponents. From tweeners, ERNE’s, ATP’s, hard-fought rallies, and even a simple well-position put-away. (If those words and phrases are confusing, click here to learn over 55 other pickleball terms)
These should be celebrated regardless of the score!
Hustle over for a high-five. Touch paddles with your teammate. Share some encouraging praise. Pickleball is supposed to be fun and social, so celebrate the little things often.
Don’t call it out before the ball lands
Sometimes, you may be urged to call a ball out before it lands. Do not do this. Not only is it rude, but some balls have a spin on them. You cannot be 100% certain the ball will fall out until it lands and bounces.
And remember, if it’s too close to be sure, always give your opponent the benefit of the doubt.
Don’t try to give people lessons while playing
Unless the other player wants them, it’s rude to give lessons during play. Giving unsolicited lessons on the court can be both frustrating and irritating for other players, especially if they are just there to have fun.
Make sure to ask players if they would like your recommendations before giving them.
Pickleball balls are tough to keep track of. Here are a few guidelines to make ball management easier.
- In the event that a pickleball ball gets caught in your side of the net and needs to be thrown to your opponent, don’t weakly throw it back over. Ensure that your opponent receives it.
- It’s also a smart practice to keep a few balls in your pocket at all times. That’ll ensure that you and your fellow players don’t have to hunt for balls all the time.
- Thank anyone who goes out of their way to get the ball for you.
Don’t lob behind players with limited mobility
In a tournament setting, you should do whatever you can to win. In recreational play, however, lobbing the ball behind players with physical limitations is considered a bad form.
I have witnessed several seniors fall at the facilities where I play. A severe safety risk is posed by some of these players running for the ball. Most older players know they should not attempt to run backward, but some will do so anyway in response to a lob.
Meet at the net after a game
The typical way to conclude a pickleball match is to meet at the net after the game is over. People typically stick their paddles out when they meet at the net to give each other a “high five.”
Some people stick the handle of their paddle out instead of their face to avoid damaging the paddle face or edge guard.
Final Pickleball Etiquette Pro Tip
Okay, this isn’t precisely mandatory, but when you’re playing doubles, you and your partner should pick a fun pickleball team name.
Say it loud and proud and bring some camaraderie and fun to the court!
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